Planning a new office, or remodeling the one you have? You probably already know you need more than Microsoft Word to help you do the layout. Mapping cubicles to available space is complicated enough. Add in planning for conference rooms, bathrooms, utility panels, and so on, and you’re looking at a project that has potential to make compiling the annual report look like a breeze.
Fortunately, we live in the future, and everything can be done with the help of software. Here are three options worth looking at when planning your office layout.
Microsoft Visio Standard
Cost: $186.83 – $249.99 for Standard; up to $600 for the Premium Edition
Operating System: Windows 7/XP/Vista
Pros: Part of the Microsoft Office series of products (although thus far not included with the Office Suite) Visio works well with Microsoft Excel, Access, PowerPoint, etc. So if you’re already running working at a Microsoft shop, you’ll probably be able to move pretty easily from one application to another. Also available in Professional and Premium editions.
Cons: The cost. Also even the Standard edition might just be more design power than you need for a basic office layout product.
Word Around the Web: Four stars (average for all versions) on CNET, four stars on Amazon.
The most insightful comes to us from one Dr. Terrence McGarty, who praises the improved graphics and compatibility with Microsoft office, but dings the product for some PowerPoint wonkiness and problems with Bluetooth add-ins.
Also, he says: “As with most Microsoft products, you must find the solutions to problems via Google.”
Cost: Free to try, $99.98 – $219.99 to buy, depending on version and whether it’s new or used.
Operating System: Windows 2000/XP/Vista/7
Pros: SmartDraw offers a variety of templates and a clip art collection including standard symbols for lighting fixtures, plumbing, HVAC, etc. Floor plans can be saved as JPEG, PDF, HTML, and AutoCAD Interchange. The product works as a standard drawing tool as well, and for other, less corporate purposes. (It includes a family tree template, for example, that might be cool for messing around after work hours are over.)
Cons: Some commenters on CNET and Amazon mentioned that is was confusing to use, and others mentioned customer service issues.
Word Around the Web: Five stars on CNET; four stars on Amazon. Also, 700 likes on Facebook.
Bryan K. Bailey wins our vote for for SmartDraw. In response to users who found the product difficult to figure out, he writes: “… every release I spend a couple of dedicated hours exploring the interface and learning the new features. Just because you didn’t take the time to learn to use a program doesn’t make it bad software! Try it on a trial, and if you like it, buy it, and learn it.”
Operating System: Web-based
Pros: You can’t beat the cost. Fine for newbies, or for spit-balling ideas.
Cons: Not for advanced users, and not nearly as professional looking as the other products we looked at. Frankly, this may be a case of “you get what you pay for.” We doubt it’d hold up for folks who are deep in the planning stages of doing a real office layout.
Word Around the Web: No reviews on Amazon or CNET. The consensus on blogs seems to be that it’s a very basic tool. Dimaks of Ctrl + Alt + Delete : “Finally, Gliffy [seemed] much more basic to me because of its very layman orientation in terms of graphic presentation and functionality. …Gliffy does not offer diagram dimensioning, which is a very basic component of every floor plan design.”