INSIDE TALK - MIKE BERMAN FROM SIMPLE TO ARTISTIC, THERE'S A PROGRAM TO CREATE GREAT CHARTS

INSIDE TALK - MIKE BERMAN FROM SIMPLE TO ARTISTIC, THERE'S A PROGRAM TO CREATE GREAT CHARTS

Ever try to create flow charts using conventional charting software? It isn't easy.

Because of that, we took a look at five programs designed to take the headaches out of creating flow and organizational charts for the busy transportation executive - "allClear III" from Clear Software, "Corel Flow 2.0" from Corel Corp., "ABC Flowcharter 4.0" from Micrografx Inc., and ''Visio 4.0" and "Visio Technical 4.0" from Visio Corp.If your aim is only to create good-looking diagrams showing corporate structure or to trace the progress of a project, "allClear III" should suffice. It is easy to use and has the ability to translate your thoughts into simple diagrams using a scripting language that is easy to follow. All you have to do is follow a specific formula laid out in the software's learning guide.

The program is especially good at helping you make decisions, separating the possibilities into choices you designate and following them, hopefully, to a logical conclusion.

AND IT'S FUN TO USE

For diagrams that need the touch of an artist, "Corel Flow 2.0" should fit the bill. The CD that comes with it contains all of the shapes you'll need for effective flow charts and diagrams, and there's a bonus.

It also contains more than 2,000 symbols in what Corel calls "Smart Libraries," which can depict all sorts of people, places and things, more than 1,000 photographs that can be used as backgrounds, more than 1,000 pieces of clip art to enhance your diagrams and 90 True Type fonts. It's a lot of fun to use.

"ABC Flowcharter 4.0" can be used to create flowcharts, statistical charts and diagrams. The program contains at least 500 shapes and allows you to convert clip art and photographs to shapes. Although not as sophisticated as Corel Flow, it gets the job done and can read and analyze data from other

Windows programs.

It comes with "ABC DataAnalyzer," "ABC SnapGraphics" and the "ABC Viewer," which allow you take advantage of the power of Flowcharter without having to load another program. This reduces the possibility of compatibility problems and makes it easier to convert data to diagrams.

Micrografx also is beta-testing a suite of programs including "ABC FlowCharter 6.0," "Picture Publisher 6.0" and "Designer 6.0" for Windows 95. Next to the Corel graphics suites, this is one of the most comprehensive graphics programs to come along in a long time. We're testing it now, so stay tuned.

ADDING THE ROYAL TREATMENT

Now we come to "Visio 4.0," the Prince of Chartdom, the Duke of Diagrams and with more features than any normal person could ever need. The basic version of Visio contains more than 1,000 SmartShapes the automatically stretch to accommodate text, so there's no fear of text expanding beyond the parameters of the shapes.

It also contains "task stencils" that can be floated over your diagrams to give them a more professional look. Its big brother, "Visio Technical 4.0," features more than 2,000 SmartShapes, depicting everything from mainframe computers to tables, and 94 stencils.

The "technical" is justified by the program's ability to design technical drawings and schematics, previously only available through the use of computer-aided design - or CAD - programs. In fact, this program is so sophisticated, its publishers claim that it can "make clip art look dumb."

Both of these programs are designed to run under "Windows 95," "Windows 3.1" or "Windows NT," for which the publishers should be applauded.

The program you choose should be based on your needs. Don't buy something as feature-rich as "Corel Flow" or "Visio Technical" if all you're going to do is create simple diagrams. You really don't need to eat up 20-to-30 megabytes of hard drive space with all of these enhancements if you can get by with 10 or 15.

But, if you have become a computer junkie - like me - its a helluva lot of fun seeing what the more powerful programs can do.