When I’m not writing software reviews for Associated Content, I’m a piano teacher. While these two jobs don’t tend to have too much in common, there’s one aspect they share, and that’s my complete lack of need for diagramming tools, flow chart designers or mind-mapping software.
But that doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy taking a look at what’s out there every once in a while. So when I saw a listing for Strom, a shareware flow chart application, I decided to take a look.
First, there are a couple things about Strom that I really liked. The first is that it is available for Windows, Mac OSX and Linux. Now, I personally don’t have much use for Windows, but I realize that probably 80 percent of the people reading this article are Windows users, so it makes sense for Strom to be available for you. But I’m both a Mac and Linux user, so any time I see a piece of software available for all three major computing platforms, I’m happy. Cross-platform availability is a good thing.
I was also pleased, after trying out both the Mac and Linux versions, to see that Strom really is the same, no matter where you use it. I’ve used the Windows and Mac versions of Microsoft Office, and while there are absolutely similarities between the two, there are also vast differences, the most important being that opening a document in one version that was created in another doesn’t guarantee perfect compatibility, sadly. With Strom, that doesn’t appear to be a problem at all.
Now, all that out of the way, what is Strom? It’s advertised as Flow Chart Software, which means it’s great for creating all sorts of graphic representations, from a business plan to a mind map to an organizational chart, or even your brackets for next March’s NCAA basketball tournament pool at work!
Strom is easy to use. Simply select a shape (there are seven or eight to choose from), put it on the virtual paper, then move it to wherever you want. You can give it a color, add text to it, and lighten or darken its outline. Once you’ve added a couple more shapes, you can start connecting them, to give order and structure to your chart. But don’t worry if you realize that some of your shapes need to be moved around. Once you’ve connected two shapes, they stay connected.
When you’re done with your chart, simply save it in Strom’s own format. This is handy because if you realize later you messed up, or if at some point down the road the chart needs to be updated, you can always edit it. Or if you want a hard copy that can’t be edited, you can export it to PNG format for sharing.
And that’s pretty much it. Strom is a nice program, very simple to use, and it produces nice results. It honestly doesn’t have a lot of “extras” you might find in other, similar products, such as shadow effects or other kinds of graphics editor style image tweaking, but for simple charts and diagrams, it’s great.
However, there is onething that bugs me about Strom, and that’s its price. I mentioned earlier that Strom is shareware, and I have no problem with that. Software developers need to eat just like everyone else, and I’m not a Linux zealot who thinks all software should be free and open source. However, Strom costs 24.95 Euros, which at the moment translates into $35.00 US dollars, which I consider to be a bit excessive for the features. Comparing it to other options (some free, some not), would probably lead me to pick one of the other pieces of software, even if it meant using one for Linux and another for Mac.
Still, Strom does have its advantages, and in a work environment where different employees might be using different operating systems, having everyone able to use the same software would be a huge benefit. So, head over to the Strom website and check it out. It’s not for me, but I don’t claim to be the software “taste tester” for the world; it might be just what you’re looking for.