Fog Creek Software
Discussion Board

Data-structures drawing package

Excuse me if my question is trivial for most of use but I'd like to get some advices .. What software can I use to make a data-structures like drawing easily ? If I write a spec of my class and need to put a picture of array or linked list pointing to some other structure containing some complex nodes .. etc and etc .. Doing it in Word is a suicide and I'm sure there are lot's of applications making this kind of work a pleasure. It's not exactly UML drawing, but more a data-structures like. Make be things like MS Visio can help me ?

Thank you !

Evgeny Goldin
Friday, September 27, 2002

Yes, Visio might definitely be useful, here. It has a large number of shapes, so you should find something useful for your needs.

When you wrote "data structures", I automatically read "DB tables", but then I re-read your post. I was going to suggest MS Access relationships window, but it doesn't really help in your case.

Suravye ninto manshima taishite ("Peace favor your sword")

Paulo Caetano
Friday, September 27, 2002

Excel works better at this stuff.  Click Autoshapes and insert objects onto the spreadsheet.  Right click lets you add text.  The real problem with Word is placement on the page, which Excel cells take care of.

You can also use Powerpoint, if you need to get purdy.

I'm sure there is a better way, but for my in-house stuff, this has worked.

Contrary Mary
Friday, September 27, 2002

Visio probably isn't a bad place to start. It also has some UML bits as well (Well at least on the enterprise architect version that comes with VS 2002)
Depends if you have spend money to get hold of a copy.

Peter Ibbotson
Friday, September 27, 2002

A friend I respect recommended SmartDraw ( as much more usable than Visio at a much lower price point.

Chris Tavares
Friday, September 27, 2002

OmniGraffe ( is similar to Visio, but it's easier to use and the diagrams look better, IMHO. It's only for Mac OS X, though.

Igor K.
Friday, September 27, 2002

Graphviz is a collection of powerful open source software that lets you make diagrams like this:

It's easy to automate and include in your own programs too.

Matthew Lock
Friday, September 27, 2002

Second vote for GraphViz here, with some more details

GraphViz isn't wysiwyg - it's a compiler that takes a textual description of a chart as input, and produces charts in a variety of formats (GIF, JPG, PNG, PostScript, HPGL and a few more). The fact that it isn't wysiwyg is a huge advantage. It does have a steeper learning curve - but if you need to draw anything more than an occasional graph once every three months, it pays off immensely.

One of the problems with wysiwyg editors (of any kind; Word is probably a better example than Visio for this) is that they lure the user into a quick and dirty working style that DOES allow one to produce simple output in a short time without having learn much, but does NOT lend itself to maintenance, manipulation and that does NOT reflect the reasoning that was responsible for the output, even though it is, usually, at least as important as the output itself.

Word has styles. Poll your non-developer friends about how many of them use Word styles - my experience is that only technical writers are aware of them, and almost no other (including developers) is. I leave it as an exercise to the reader to explain why styles are useful to the extent that any professional (e.g., lawyer / doctor / journalist) not using them is wasting precious time. I also leave it as an exercise to the reader to explain why, even though styles are supported, almost no one ever uses them.

GraphViz doesn't let you go that route - it requires that you explicitly state what you want, in a compact, readable textual form, and takes it from there.

Give it a try.

Ori Berger
Saturday, September 28, 2002

Oh, many thanks for so much useful info !

Evgeny Goldin
Sunday, September 29, 2002

Regarding the "exercise" about styles:  Styles are useful to certain users, which is why they're there.  The existence of a feature does not imply that all users should use it.

Brent P. Newhall
Friday, October 4, 2002

*  Recent Topics

*  Fog Creek Home