August 7, 2017

A tool to create visual aids and presentations

Visual aids are powerful tool for conveying information in a simple yet efficient manner. They are a great way to enhance a presentation and illustrate specific points, to make a presentation more interesting and entertaining.

IT related concepts commonly involve the use of flowcharts, UML, entity-relationship model or other "standard" diagrams — all of them are built-in Grapholite, and they can be naturally used to create presentations and visual aids. The same goes for designing business processes, management schemes and visualization of multiple aspects of enterprise architecture. It is worth mentioning separately the capability to draw electrical circuits, local area networks and floor plans. However, the creation of visual aids in Grapholite application is not limited to those listed.

Grapholite was designed as the flowchart editor from the beginning, and it is natural to create by using it various types of classifications or to show relationship between items, concepts, etc. So, it's quite easy to create diagrams like this:

The next picture demonstrates a very different approach to classification (from the perspective of visual representation). It uses Venn diagrams, that are also easy to draw by using Grapholite:

Training presentations often contain circulating flows (information, financial, substance). It is generally accepted to use various kinds of arrows to display them. Rectangles, ovals or other shapes are traditionally used to show process agents/participants. Adding labels and additional design elements we get a picture like the following. Grapholite is a right tool to create this kind of diagrams too:

It is actually a cycle diagram, which, as the name implies is used to display closed cycles. In order to create them in Grapholite you can use a number of tunable stencils. But don't limit yourself to these templates... Add color and imagination to get a meaningful illusration, like the one in our article about creating vector graphics. The set of arrows provided by Grapholite covers a wide range of needs, but it is not infinite. It doesn't contain highly specialized ones, like those which are used to indicate the cavalry on the battle plans in history lessons — they have only one half of the "tip". However, it is not a big problem: you can hide unnecessary parts of available arrows under any suitable shape filled with background color. For greater aesthetics, you can do other tricks, like making a copy of an arrow and shifting it slightly to get a variable width "tail". Thinking this way would help you to make advanced non-standard effects for your presentations. So, to draw plans of historical battles, as well as a lot of other stuff, one need not even resort to custom vector graphics. And you can get something like the following:

So, as you can see, Grapholite is a useful tool to create visual aids and presentations in various areas. But only you can find out how this software product is suitable to your needs. Download the application and try it yourself for free!

July 29, 2017

An infographic about Grapholite (created using Grapholite)

Creation of advanced inforgraphics is not the main use case Grapholite has been designed for, but still it's possible to create some sorts of infographics by using the application. This is facilitated by the presence of various shapes and arrows that can be used to show relationships and dependencies between information units. You can organize data in different ways, build hierarchies, use cycle diagrams and chevron arrows in your presentation. To complement the design, you can use Grapholite as a vector graphics editor.

It should be noted that the infographics created by using Grapholite is scalable to any size without loss of quality due to the fact that it's originally the vector graphics.

An example infographic created using Grapholite

Here is an example infographic that was created using Grapholite. The infographic describes Grapholite application opportunities: what operating systems does it run on, what diagram types does it support out of the box. There are also some features highlighted that distinguish the program from others. For greater clarity there were some diagrams from Grapholite's library "embedded" into the presentation, namely: sample flowchart, swimlanes, home and office floor plans.

You can click on image to enlarge

July 1, 2017

Architecture and business processes description with diagrams

The current state of engineering science allows us to say, that any enterprise (organization, team, etc) is a system in one form or another. Such system may include staff and equipment, and it is a physical, personnel, organizational, managerial, logistical (etc) system at the same time. And all those things we need some way to describe.

On the one hand such systems contain technical stuff, which we know how to describe perfectly graphically (using UML, for instance), on the other — it is desirable to describe an enterprise entirely in a similar manner. And this is the subject of the article. And of course we will show you that Grapholite is Hercules in the word of graphical representation due to the variety of opportunities, and anyone can easily use this power, since the price is affordable.

What should be described?

When you are going to make a multidimensional description of enterprise (organisation, team), you should describe its structure. And the structure of enterprise can be considered as a kind of architecture.
Following ISO/IEC/IEEE 42010:2011: Architecture is fundamental concepts or properties of a system in its environment embodied in its elements, relationships, and in the principles of its design and evolution.

How to describe the architecture?

There are various ways to make the arcitecture description: starting by using a plain text and ending with graphical representations (diagrams). The choice is limited to wishes and capabilities of the customer as a reader of these architecture representations. In the end, it should be clear to him and his staff.

The description may be multifaceted, any system can be represented from different points of view: interactional, financial, material flows, etc. According to the practice of systems analysis, we may describe it in one or multiple paradigms:
  • Enterprise as a database. It's the basis to build any corporate information system (ERP, CRM, warehouse system, etc).
  • Enterprise as relationships and relative ranks of its parts and positions (jobs).
  • Enterprise as business processes, transforming raw materials/resources/information into a final product. 

Grapholite takes in account all these paradigms and provides specific shape sets to draw:
  • abstract data model: using ER model (entity-relationship) that defines a data or information structure that can be implemented in a database;
  • database schema: using UML class diagram to show the structure and relationships between tables, views and other database entities;
  • organization structure: using organizational chart to show hierarchical structure of enterprise and its parts: departments, job positions, etc;
  • business processes: they are the most important part in the architecture description. There are several ways to represent business processes in Grapholite — by using basic flow charts, cross-functional flowcharts, event-driven process diagrams (EPC), UML or BPMN.
Let's focus in more detail on business processes mapping as the most important item.

Diagrams and notations to describe business processes

Flow charts came to the world of business from computer science. This kind of charts is well known and intuitively obvious. However, it is quite primitive and not adapted to business processes mapping. For example, the division by functional roles does not fit into the basic flowcharts. And we resort to cross-functional flowcharts.

Cross-functional flowcharts (also known as swimlanes) take into account participants responsibilities for a certain part of the process. It's very convinient! Grapholite copes with this task perfectly by drawing beautiful swimlanes as easily as basic flow charts.

IDEF0 and IDEF3 are fairly well-known methodologies. In addition to diagramming technique it contains rules how to ask questions, how to implement modeling context and so on. One of the major cons is inability to elegantly simulate the situation of timeout, when the process is either waiting for the actions of one of the participants, or continues after a regulated delay. So, the methodology is considered a bit outdated and Grapholite does'n support it as a separate set of items and frames to design standardized sheets. But it's still possible to compose IDEF diagrams using basic blocks and arrows.

ARIS eEPC (extended event driven process chain) is a powerful methodology. It is well equipped and technologically advanced and despite the fact that it is already old, the application of this technology is still sometimes found. Grapholite supports EPC diagrams out of the box.

UML was used before and is used now to describe business processes, especially since UML 2.0 came. But even now it's the choice of connoisseurs. It's mainly an IT's thing that is not easy to apply to desribe the execution and management of activities, a role model and facts that really happen in the enterprise. In any case, Grapholite supports UML diagrams the best way.

BPMN is now the most appropriate solution to describe business processes. It's a methodology and a notation entended to model buisness processes and a good alternative to competing private decisions. It's an open, public standard. It is aimed at business partners, process engineers and application developers. Grapholite supports both BPMN 1.2 and 2.0.

It should be noted that Grapholite is not a modeling tool: it neither simulates processes, nor validates diagrams. But it allows you to describe graphically every aspect of business architecture using standard and well known charts from many metodologies, expanding it with other useful built-in features. And, at the same time, it keeps simplicity. You can try it yourself to make sure!

April 4, 2017

Grapholite 3.0.0 is out

We are very pleased to announce the third major release of Grapholite software product!

A number of important features were added to make Grapholite more powerful diagram editor, a lot of improvements done to make it more convenient, faster and useful.

Grapholite is available in four editions, as before:
  • Windows 10 Desktop edition: traditional desktop application for PC
  • Windows 10 Store Application: user interface is touch- & pen- friendly and suitable for both — Tablet and Desktop PC
  • iOS Application
  • Android Application
A lists of new features and improvements is grouped by product edition in the following table:

Grapholite Edition→
New Feature↓
Windows Desktop Windows Store App
(Desktop & Tablet)
iOS (iPad) Android
Formatted text in any diagram element - + - -
Vector-based PDF export + + +
High resolution jpeg and png export (up to 30000x30000 pixels) + + +
Interactive page resizing + + + +
Convert to editable splines command. Users are now able to convert almost any built-in diagram element to editable splines. Splines can be edited using spline Boolean Operations and Shape Editor tool to create custom user-defined diagram elements. + + + +
Splines can be edited using Shape Editor Tool + + + +
Splines can be edited using Spline Boolean Operations - + - -
Updated Print Dialog now allows to select page range instead of printing the whole document + + - -
SVG import improvements + + + +
Drag & drop in the layers panel - + - -
Page margins displaying - + + +
Bug fixes and performance improvements + + + +

Download Grapholite and try new features for free!

Enjoy it and leave your comments, questions or suggesions. Your feedback is welcome!

March 23, 2017

Flowchart creation — Demo video

As we noted previously, one of the most practical ways to illustrate some cyclic process is to create a flowchart. Also, usually it's the quickest way. We have tested the speed of making a simple flowchart in Grapholite by untrained user. The entire process of diagram creation was recorded as a screencast and it took less than 9 minutes. It's a good result for the user without experience. Moreover, he spend a bit of time looking at the original chart from time to time and attempting to make the diagram nice by changing default colors and positions of elements on the canvas. Also, a lot of performed operations (as seen in the video below) were non-optimal and even redundant  it's possible to do the same stuff more efficiently, e.g. using bulk selection, etc.

So, we speeded up a procedure of entering text captions and reduced some pauses. It resulted as a 4 minutes video, which is yet so slow that you can carefully trace each singe step. Even after we added a sound track into this video, it is still boring long. That means: being more experienced in using the application you could be more productive! But four minutes is already excellent.

We have gone further in speeding up the video and got the final result  1.5 minutes long. It's too fast to achieve in real life, but it's good enough to make the following fun demo!

Note: This video it is best viewed in full screen mode.

This version is a bit fast to catch all the nuances. In oder to get detailed "true" demonstration of Grapholite on the example of this diagram, you can watch the 4-minutes version.

And don't limit yourself to just watching the demo, download Grapholite and try it for free!

March 21, 2017

Cycle Diagrams and Flowcharts

Any concept can be illustrated in different ways, using multiple types of charts. In oder to demonstrate a number of simple approaches applicable to many other subjects, we give you the following examples on the (randomly selected) topic of "Problem solving".

While problem solving process is cyclic, it is logical to represent it as a Cycle Diagram. A simple diagram of this type can be drawn by using Grapholite in a minute:
Cycle Diagram – Problem Solving in 4 Steps
Cycle Diagram – The 5 Steps of Problem Solving
Of course we are free to use another forms of presentation, we may show the developing process as a cycle, or as a "growing" arrow, etc:
Six Staged Hexagon Cycle Diagram
Yet Another Way to Show a Sequence of Steps
If you need to make your diagram more informative, you can add details. You have to get creative to present it the best way within cyclic diagram. Another practical approach is to create a Flowchart. "Practical" means pragmatical, detailed, formal and quickly implemented, as the example below:

Rational Planning Model Flowchart

Grapholite is a specialized tool to draw Flowcharts quickly. It's a practical and inexpensive solution. Also, as you can see, it is able to create a simple infographic. Ideas on this area we collect in our blog in articles labeled as examples.

Update: We have created a video demonstrating the complete process of drawing a simple flowchart. The flowchart in the example (partially) reflects one of the cycle diagrams taken from here.

March 16, 2017

Grapholite vs Visio: making the optimal choice

In the article Grapholite as alternative to Visio we've shown that Grapholite is a worthy competitor to Visio. Both applications have their pros and cons, and it's not obvious how to make the best choice. In order to facilitate this, we have created a decision making flowchart.

It represents an algorithm based on the following facts:
  • Grapholite is well designed to draw Flowcharts, UML Diagrams, various Business Diagrams.
  • Grapholite has significantly richer set of elements to create professional-looking BPMN Diagrams.
  • Visio is a winner in drawing Office Layouts, but Grapholite's Floor Plan stencils are usually enough.
  • Visio has twice as many Business Diagram types as Grapholite has, but there are workarounds:
    • Use similar diagrams. E.g. Audit Diagram is practically a regular Flowchart, although some shapes have filled-in corners. In most cases it's OK to use it as is.
    • Also it's not difficult to complete such diagrams using available shapes.
    • Draw missing shapes "manually". Don't forget that Grapholite is a vector graphics editor.
  • Visio is just a viewer on Tablet devices, Grapholite is a full-featured editor.
  • Last (but not least): Grapholite costs 5-10 times less than Visio!

Color Legend:
  •        Neutral; none of these programs has obvious advantages
  •        Grapholite is a clear favorite
  •        Visio is a clear favorite
  •        Pay attention, think twice making the decision
You can click on image to enlarge

February 27, 2017

Vector graphics editor for Desktop and Tablet devices

Although Grapholite is designed to create various types of business graphics, it also can be considered as a more general tool — vector graphics editor. It means: users are not limited to those diagrams which are presented in the application menu, it's possible to create anything as far as your imagination will suffice. And then you can export it to SVG or PDF and scale your image without quality loss.

Let's look at the following example created with Grapholite (you can click to enlarge):

Educational Diagram — Nitrogen Cycle in Nature. Created with Grapholite

Tools used to create this image:
  • Cloud Dialog Box from "Text" containers
  • Rounded Arrows from our "Cycles" stencils set, customized by size, color, stroke width, opacity, etc.
  • Lightning ArrowRectangle and Trapezium are from "Common" stencils set, but could be drawn manually
  • Shape tool (and gradient customizations) to create landscape

The next nice picture is a classical Ishikawa (Cause and Effect) Diagram:

Fishbone Diagram example created with Grapholite using just arrows and text blocks

You may think: What's a big deal... But look! Grapholite has no built-in Fishbone Diagram support. Oops...

So, this example has been drawn to give you insight how things can still be done easily. And the first one shows that you are not limited to lines, arrows and blocks, it's possible to draw sophisticated images. Vector graphics is the key. It's the basis of the Grapholite's "turbocharged" engine.

And this power is available on Tablets too. The tablet version of the application is full-featured and allows you to continue your work on the go and stay productive. You can create and edit vector images using Windows Tablet, iPad and Android devices. Try it!

And feel free to share your results with us — we are curious, how complex can be the graphics our app users draw.

February 15, 2017

Grapholite as alternative to Visio

What is the most useful flowchart software?

The answer is not obvious, because the question is ambiguous: what is meant by "the most useful"?

If we have in mind the best-known and probably the most-used diagram software, it's definitely Visio. It is all good, we all know Visio's pros, but… There are two noticable Visio's cons.

As a full-featured diagram editor Visio is available only for a desktop computer (running Windows, of course). So, if you want to edit your diagrams on the go, even correct them slighty, you shoud use your desktop, or at least a laptop, but not a tablet.

Even bypassing the issue of being not cross-platform (both additional versions of Visio — online and for iPad are just viewers, not editors), the lack of editing functionality on tablet is a significant limitation.

In fact, it is possible to run the desktop version of Visio on Windows tablet, and you can even try to edit diagrams, but it is very inconvenient — the application controls are small and not suitable for fingers. Sure, you can attach then a mouse and keyboard… but will it be the tablet after that?

If you have some prior experience and feel productive using a tablet, you'd try to choose something else. This is the case when Visio is not "the most useful".

Visio alternative for Windows Tablet, iPad and Android

We develop an alternative to Visio — the Grapholite flow charting tool, which in addition to desktop version has a handy user interface allowing you to be really productive on tablet devices running Windows, iOS or Android. Moreover, we belive that Grapholite is the most convenient among the competitors in editing diagrams and flow charts on tablets. Try it yourself and you will see the difference! And it may become the most useful flowchart and diagram software for you.

How to save money without losing opportunities

The second Visio's "drawback" — is a quite high price. At the time of this writing there are the following options:
  • Visio Professional costs $589.99
  • Standard: $299.99
  • Alternatively you can buy Pro version subscription: $15.50 per month or $13.00 per month (annual). In total, the minimal cost per year is $156.
So, if you are happy to work on the desktop PC only and you need Visio's functionality and features missing in competing products, you have no other choice but to pay this price.

But this raises the question: Are you sure those features are missing? Most likely you're going to use a small set of the following business graphics types:
  • Flowcharts: Basic flow chart, Workflow diagram, Swimlane process map, etc.
  • Business diagrams: ER, EPC, Fault Tree, SDL, TQM diagrams
  • Floor plans: for office layouts and home plans (a rich set of stencis)
  • UML: Use case, Class, Sequence diagrams, State, Activity, Deployment/component diagrams, etc.
  • BPMN diagrams
  • Computer networks, Cisco network diagrams
  • Circuits: electrical (fundamental), electronics (radio, logic gates)
  • Mind maps, Brainstorming diagrams
  • Wireframes, Mockups
  • Organization charts
  • Site maps
  • Tools to draw anything (shapes, various arrows, chevrons, etc): Sets and Venn charts, Swot analysis pictures, Planograms (POG), Circular diagrams, Cycles, and more.
All these diagrams are supported by Grapholite, and you may want to consider this tool as an alternative solution, to save money without losing opportunities.

The Grapholite price is affordable. It costs $39.99 in Microsoft Store and App Store.
Business and Team licenses also have reasonable and quite low prices comparing with Visio's. To see the most up-to-date information on Grapholite plans and prices click here.

It is necessary to emphasize: Grapholite's convenience and ease of use is roughly at the same level as Visio has, that's why it make sense to compare these products. And we're going to demonstrate it in detail later in our articles labeled as Visio alternative. Looking ahead, we say that some features are unique to these two programs. These little things make your work comfortable and diagrams professional-looking.

Of course, being the developers of Grapholite, we find it difficult to remain completely objective — we love our product. So, we invite everyone to join an open discussion: feel free to leave comments and ask questions.