Month: March 2014

Hyperlinks in a PDF? Yes You Can! Here’s How to Do It

Purchased Image iStock_000009328843SmallWe live in a world where we’ve become accustomed to navigating to web pages with a simple mouse click. And we’ve also gotten used to saving stuff in universal PDF format to share with others. But the problem is that it isn’t easy to put those wonderful, clickable hyperlinks into PDFs. Well, it used to not be so easy. But good news! That has now changed.

How to Create Hyperlinks in a PDF in Three Easy Steps

With SmartDraw CI, you can now turn your diagram or graphic into a PDF with active hyperlinks, quickly and easily. This works with flowcharts, maps, graphs, and all of your other favorite SmartDraw diagram types.

Step 1. Insert One or More Hyperlinks

Use the Insert Hyperlink tab in SmartDraw to place the target web page or other document (located on a shared network) in your diagram. Here, we have a flowchart and want to provide a link to the purchase order form.


Step 2. Export Your File to PDF

Click the “PDF” button in the ribbon bar to export your SmartDraw diagram to PDF.

PDF button

Step 3. Voila! You Now Have a PDF Document with Active Hyperlinks!

Okay, this isn’t so much a step as a chance to just sit back and admire your work. So I lied, it only takes two steps. The PDF document now has your SmartDraw diagram, complete with active hyperlinks, as shown in the illustration below. Now, when your recipient clicks on the hyperlink, their browser will open the linked web page.

PDF with Hyperlinks

Keep This in Mind

The hyperlinked file must be in a place that your recipient can access. A web page or a file saved on a shared company network, for example. If you create a hyperlink to a document on your computer’s local hard drive, then it will only be accessible from your machine.

That’s it! I tried to keep this easy, but as always, should you have trouble just give our awesome, home-based support team a quick call.


Film and Video Production: How Wes Craven Does It (And So Do We)

Film and video production requires careful, detailed planning and management. The right tools are essential. So today, I’m going to share a few trade secrets of Wes Craven… and of ours here at SmartDraw.

Producers, directors, writers and crew members can all benefit from using diagrams such as project plans, floor plans, mind maps and org charts. While they may not sound like film and video production planning tools at first glance, using them will make everyone’s job easier and promote more effective communication with the rest of the production team.

Project charts can help plan out the entire production from pre-production to shooting to post-production. Floor plans are helpful for planning out a scene for set designers, actors and crew or map out an electrical plan for the gaffer and the lighting crew. With an org chart, you can clearly map out a complicated cast of characters or display the hierarchy of the crew. Finally, use a presentation template to import illustrations and plan out every shot.

SmartDraw has been used by independent filmmakers, corporate film and video production companies and blockbuster movie directors, like horror film legend Wes Craven (A Nightmare on Elm Street, Scream).

Not only does it include all of the diagram types mentioned above, but also dozens of handy forms like timesheets for the cast and crew, travel forms, and invoices to name just a few. Plus, you can link all of them together with hyperlinks so it’s easy to navigate between diagrams. Doing this makes it function like a mini website.

“I use SmartDraw for many things, and keep finding new uses,” said Craven. “For example, I use it for organizational charts to lay out characters and their relationships when I start to break scripts down for production. This results in a comprehensive blueprint of characters, which is extremely handy and powerful. I can bring these blueprints to staff meetings where they are used for pitches, or when I go to a studio to speak about a script.”

In addition, Craven uses SmartDraw for project planning, for making calendars laying out production schedules and travel itineraries. He even used the program’s floor planning capabilities for a major remodel of his home. Craven added, “I’m sure I’ll continue to find new uses for it, and I always recommend it to friends.”

Project Planning

SmartDraw project charts are an intuitive way to plan out every element of your film and video production. In the mind map view, you can visually lay out the tasks that need to be accomplished and figure out how they relate to each other.

Production Plan-Mind Map view

In the assignment view, you can figure out who among the production team is responsible for which tasks and monitor its progress. Assign responsibilities visually during production meetings and leave all crew members with a clear understanding of what needs to be done.

Production Plan-Assignment view

In the project view, you can set the start and end dates of assignments, edit the duration of tasks and add dependencies. For example, principal photography cannot begin for this shoot until the crew has been assembled.

Production Plan-Project view

View the entire life of the production in a timeline to give a clear scope of what has been accomplished and what lies ahead.

Production Plan-Timeline view

All tasks are managed properly and schedules and assignments are clearly communicated, using project charts.

Floor Plans

With SmartDraw floor plans you can map out a studio and coordinate the layout of your scene. By searching through the symbol libraries in the SmartPanel, you can find symbols representing cameras, lights, monitors and people to represent your actors.

All areas, walls and shooting spaces are measured so you can best plan out your shot. Camera operators, lighting crew, actors and everyone involved can know exactly what to prepare for, before the day of the shoot.


The gaffer, an electrician responsible for the lighting plan of a production, may want an electrical plan of the space in which you are going to shoot to prepare for all electrical needs and restrictions. You can create one of those with SmartDraw as well.


Org Charts

SmartDraw organizational charts can benefit your production in a number of ways. For instance, producers or directors can build an org chart of the crew so that everybody knows who’s who.

Org Chart-Film Crew

Writers and directors can get together and create an org chart of all of the characters in a film, to better understand their relationships and communicate with the actors that play them.

Org Chart-Cast



The SmartDraw presentation tool can help you develop a storyboard from the screenplay. Storyboards are visual representations of the action to be shot in a film or video. They can be helpful to the cinematographer or camera operators as they line up shots during production. It’s easy to import illustrations for each scene, lay them out in the sequence that you want and label them according to scene and shot number, location and characters involved.



There are a number of forms included with SmartDraw that could come in handy during the production cycle. Timesheets for talent and crew, invoices for rental equipment and materials purchased, checklists for each day’s schedule of shots, order forms, shipping receipts, daily expense sheets, and many more templates are available.

Timesheet     Invoice     Shotlist


SmartDraw makes it easy to gather all of these helpful visuals together, in an easy-to-manage system, using hyperlinks. For instance, just right-click on the director in the org chart, select Add Hyperlink, and navigate to the project chart where you can find the director’s assignments.

hyperlink1       hyperlink2

You can navigate from the Production Designer to the floor plan, or from the storyboard to the screenwriter, and back and forth between all of these diagrams. The result is a set of simple-to-use production tools that everyone on your team can easily access.

But don’t take my word for it. Just ask Wes. Or Freddy. Or Jason. If you dare.

Film and reels image used under Flickr creative commons license. Click here for source file.

Helping Wounded Warriors and Other Stories from the SmartDraw Mailbag

One of my favorite things to do here at SmartDraw is to read through our customer comments and questions. They generally fall into one of three categories:

  1. SmartDraw Love. Comments like “Awesome software!” and “Your software is the greatest!” Probably 90% or more of our customer mail falls into the “Love” category. We love you guys, too. Thanks.
  2. Product Questions/Technical Issues. We try to respond to each of these personally, and I’m including a few here. Hopefully they’ll help other customers who have similar questions.
  3. The Haters. Fortunately, we don’t receive many, but we do get the occasional flame. To the guy who wrote, “YOU SUCK,” what can I say? We’re human, and we probably can’t meet everyone’s expectations. I’m sorry about that, but if you could be more specific about exactly what you think we suck at, maybe there’s something we can do to help.

Occasionally we get a note that is emotionally moving. Today was one of those days. of our customers, Dave J., wrote to tell us how he’s using SmartDraw for the Wounded Warrior Workshop. I just got off the phone with Dave. It’s simply mind-blowing some of the horrific stories he told me. Stories of wounded veterans who are given the run-around by the US government instead of the benefits they’ve earned. Years and years of run-around in some cases while they go through their life’s savings. His stories literally have my heart aching for these men and women. They deserve to be treated as heroes by the country they’ve so bravely served.

I hope you’ll take a minute to go visit the Wounded Warrior Workshop site and see the good work these folks are doing to step in and help.

Okay, let’s dig a little deeper into the SmartDraw mailbag.

I’ve used the trial for about 2 hours and have completed a room layout drawing which would have taken me more than a day with other tools I’ve used. Buying SmartDraw is a no-brainer. And I haven’t even scratched the surface of all the drawing tools and templates available. Thanks for a quality product.
-Peter S.

Hey Peter, I don’t even have to be good at math to know that doing something in two hours instead of eight is saving you some serious time. Hopefully you’ll find that our other drawing tools will add to your efficiency, too. Thanks, and let us know how it goes.

Your product appears (to be) good however I cannot find the rotate button to turn an icon.
-Richard S.

Hey Richard, I’ve had that happen before, too. Here’s a little trick that should help. Sometimes when I open a new SmartDraw file the zoom level is too small for me to see the rotate tool. Adjust your zoom level to 100%, then you should be able to see the rotate button. Here’s how it looks using a start symbol in a flowchart as an example:


I hope that helps. If not, please give our product support team a call. They’ll be happy to walk you through it.

Perfect software for the non-geek, computer-savvy person like myself. Thank you!
-Elizabeth S.

Thanks, Elizabeth. As a fellow NGSP, I agree.

May I please confirm with you that if I buy a new computer (to be expected, in time) that there is no issue re-installing SmartDraw on a new computer? I am buying the Platinum Business version on the assumption that I would be free to install a copy onto a new computer if required (note: I would only ever be operating 1 license on 1 computer at a time).
-Adam T.

Yes, Adam, you are correct. Having Platinum Protection means you may reinstall SmartDraw as many times as you need. If you ever experience trouble with this, just give us a call.

Had a question… called the support line… didn’t go to India or Pakistan… and she was knowledgeable, helpful and kind. The tech made the sale!!!
-Aric R.

Thanks, Aric. We have nothing against the nice folks in India and Pakistan. But we’re proud to be an American company who believes in “in-sourcing” our jobs. Our product support team members work right here at our home office in San Diego.

I find your org chart cumbersome to use. For example, trying to shift boxes will move others. I hope CI is easier to use.
-Vincent L.

We apologize for your past experience, Vincent. While we may not have gone so far to call them cumbersome, we weren’t satisfied with their performance. That’s why we gave org charts an overhaul in SmartDraw CI. I think you’ll find these much easier to work with and loaded with cool new features. Let us know what you think.

Looking forward to learning and using the lean methodology diagram features.
-Paul R.

Oh, yeah, Paul! I’m excited for you. I’m really enjoying the Lean diagrams we’ve added in SmartDraw CI. We’re getting great feedback and reviews for our automated value stream maps. We’ll be adding more Lean-related content here on the blog and in our articles area in the coming months.

(I’m a) long-time Visio user — Smart Draw is a lot more intuitive to apply and use. Expanded libraries are excellent.
-Brent C.

That’s outstanding, Brent. We hear this frequently—and never get tired of it. I spoke last week with a former Visio user who switched to SmartDraw. His comment was, “I know I’m smart enough to learn how to use Visio, but why would I waste the time, when I can do the same things so easily with SmartDraw?”

I really enjoy using SmartDraw every day (since I started using it). I have done many presentations with it. Will keep it very close, always. Thank you!
-Jose S.

Presentations are one of my favorite SmartDraw features, Jose. I love being able to bypass PowerPoint and use the SmartDraw presentation builder, then save it on my online SmartDraw account. I can’t tell you how many times I use it for a quick one-on-one presentation on my iPad. If I were in sales, I couldn’t live without SmartDraw.

I’ve been “talking” about putting together a strategic plan for the last several months. I’m cautiously positive that this is going to make it a reality. I appreciate the 30 Day Money Back Guarantee. That is 100% the reason why I’m making this purchase right now!! I’d prefer NOT to use the guarantee…I want this to be a perfect fit! Thank you.
-Slaten V.

Strategic Planning white paper-SmartDrawI’m happy to hear that, Slaten. SmartDraw offers a lot of useful reference material if you need help or ideas to get your strategic plan finished. If you haven’t seen it already, here’s a link to our free white paper.

Was surprised / delighted to be able to import my VERY old *.vsd files!
-Robert M.

Glad you found that helpful, Robert. It’s a key reason why so many Visio users find it easy to switch to SmartDraw.

Found on internet but purchased due to the most courteous attention of a lady by the name of Sheila C. Product Specialist. Give that lady a pay rise!!
-Martin W.

Thanks, Martin. Yeah, Sheila is awesome. I’d give her a pay raise, but I’m not authorized to do that. How about I give her a new title: Totally Awesome Rockin’ Product Specialist Goddess! I don’t think I’m authorized to do that, either, so let’s just keep that between us.

Thanks Chris Dowling for wicked service! Cheers!
-Michael O.

Chris gives wicked service to everyone, not just Bostonians! And he’s a really cool guy (for a Raiders fan).

OMG… so easy! I had tried several (other diagramming programs) yesterday and was so frustrated.
-Kelly P.

Sorry about the pain, Kelly, but OMG I’m so glad you found us!

I almost missed out on using the tool as each download was causing my PC to crash, but it worked finally and I am glad it did.
-Paul W.

Hey Paul, thanks for sticking with us. I’m not sure what was up with the SmartDraw download causing your PC to crash. Occasionally there are web browser issues, especially if you’re using an older browser. For anyone having this problem, please call or email our super wicked awesome home-based support team so we can save you from frustration.

Thanks, everyone for all the great comments and questions. We love hearing from you. And our very best wishes to our wounded warriors and the great people working on their behalf.

Pony Express mailbag photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons, photographer-Brett Neilson; used under the Creative Commons license. Click here for source photo.

Construction Project Planning Simplified

Construction project planning involves varying levels of complexity. From scheduling and deadlines to project completion and everything else in between, construction project managers are virtually juggling bowling balls on a constant basis.

It’s no wonder why projects in many cases fail to meet expectations and results. According to one study, fewer than 10% of all projects are actively managed and completed on time.

With this in mind, we have simplified construction project planning and condensed it down to five easy manageable steps that any construction project manager can use. Now the busiest project manager will be able to provide a reliable estimate of when a construction project will be complete, and will have a dependable tool to manage the project meeting all deadlines.

1.     Plan as a Team for Better Results

The key to any project running on time and on budget is to plan in sufficient detail and bring the entire team into the planning process. This allows the project manager to more accurately estimate how long each step will take.

With the input of team members, it’s much easier to balance workloads and estimate timelines with greater precision.

When people are more engaged in the decision-making process, they perform better because they feel that they have a real stake in the outcome. The best way to accomplish this is to capture data and other pertinent information live with an editable mind map during your construction project planning meetings.

A mind map is a project planning tool that is designed to make the capturing of pertinent data and ideas simple. Using a mind map with your team makes it much easier to create, read and edit in real time than using a word document or spreadsheet.

construction planning - mind map

2.     Identify the Big Tasks First

Planning is only one part of the equation. You have to execute, monitor, and control the project. Ultimately, you’re responsible for its successful conclusion.

The best way to begin this process is to start by identifying the big tasks and breaking them into smaller tasks. Do this until each task can be accomplished in shorter and more manageable time frames.

Break up big, vague tasks like “site work” into a larger number of more specific tasks. This will enable you to estimate, with much greater accuracy, the time needed to complete the entire project.

construction planning - mind map - site work detail

3.     Assign Tasks and Chart the Schedule

Once you have identified all the major tasks in your construction project, the next step is to assign tasks and establish timelines with a project chart.

Convert your mind map into a table showing each task, the person or sub-contractor who will do it, the start date and how long it will take. This is called a Gantt chart. Be realistic about the workload of each person. Spread the tasks out so that a new one doesn’t begin until the previous one is complete. If the work of one person, or sub-contractor, has to be complete before a task performed by someone else can start, build this in, too. Be sure to take outside circumstances like holidays and weekends into account. A good project management software program will automatically do this for you.

construction planning - gantt chart - site work detail

4.     Estimate the Completion Date and Monitor Progress

The end date of your last task tells you when your project will be complete. Update your chart with the actual dates of completion for each task as the project progresses. This will tell you, at a glance, whether your construction project is on schedule. If it’s not, you will know precisely how far it is behind so you can make better management decisions.

5.     Follow-up, Communicate and Complete the Project

As you progress towards completion and continually use your project chart, what you will find is it has become a ‘living document.’ What that means is that updates can take place continuously and everyone on the team refers to the document regularly. Once work begins on the project, you can monitor the completion of each task and adjust the schedule accordingly. Updating and sharing your construction project plan with the entire team keeps everyone on track and accountable-both to you and the other team members.

This over-arching communication and follow-up process not only keeps your team up-to-date on the tasks at hand on your current project, but as a construction project manager you will be able to assess any bottle necks and other stumbling blocks that will allow you to better estimate the planning of future projects.

The outcome is better communication and increased team accountability, leading to projects that stay on track and get completed on time.

And the best surprise is no more surprises.

Was this information helpful to you? Is there something else you’d like to read about? Please let me know in the comments section below. And as always, thanks for reading the SmartDraw Blog.