Flow Charting 3. (software) (Evaluation)
by Richard O. Mann
Having drawn hundreds of system flow charts with a pencil and template in my auditing work, I found the prospect of computerizing this tedious task especially attractive. Happily, Patton and Patton's Flow Charting 3 whips up a high-quality flow chart with only a little effort on your part.
The designers exercised commendable restraint in refraining from trying to be all things to all users with Flow Charting 3. Instead, they concentrated on the essentials, added only a few frills, and produced a workmanlike product that will do the basic job for almost anyone.
A keyboard-based program, Flow Charting 3 uses function keys, Ctrl- and Altkey combinations, and some clever, effective shortcut keys to handle its specialized tasks. You won't do any freehand work in this program, since it's optimized for standard flow charting. The mouse functions seem to be an afterthought, but for a few chores such as basic cursor repositioning, your hand automatically moves to the mouse.
Flow charts use a standard symbol set: rectangles for processes, diamonds for decisions, and so on. Flow Charting 3 gives you 35 basic symbols, each coming in up to 12 sizes and shapes (tall or squat rectangles, for instance). Looking through the illustrations of each symbol in Appendix C, I couldn't imagine a flow charting function that Patton and Patton failed to include.
Once you choose your symbols, you need to connect them with lines. Simple and direct, line drawing has provisions for arrowheads, multiline connectors, and by-passes. Lines--thin, thick, hollow, and dashed--require but a moment to add.
Ten text styles--normal, bold, wide, fat, tall, Greek, subscript, superscript, micro, and title--complete your chart. You don't have a wealth of possibilities to indulge your creative urges, but you can include everything needed in a good flow chart.
Flow Charting 3 supports about 75 printers, from 9-pin dot-matrix to laser. You can print flow charts in portrait or landscape orientation, and larger charts can be spread over up to six pages.
The manual's tutorial section impressed me particularly with its detailed advice and direct approach. Upon finishing the tutorial, I felt ready to create virtually any flow chart.
With Flow Charting 3, you can quickly create a flow chart you'll be proud to present to any board of directors. And years from now, when you wonder how that program or process you designed works, you'll have a neatly printed flow chart to remind you at a glance.