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SmartDraw Online Edition review

SmartDraw Online Edition doesn't have the whizzy 3D features of its rivals but it's a solid technical drawing app that's good for creating floor plans.

SmartDraw Online Edition review
(Image: © SmartDraw)

Our Verdict

As a do-everything Computer Aided Design program, SmartDraw is very good and would get a much higher star rating if we were reviewing it in that context. However, in the context of interior design apps, it's a lot more limited than rival offerings: there's no 3D view, no paint patches or wallpaper designs. If you're used to 2D CAD it's a solid option, but it's not one for design novices.

For

  • Excellent selection of templates and library objects
  • Can use it to create pretty much any kind of technical drawing

Against

  • No 3D features, so you can't use it to visualize how your project will look
  • Texture support is limited to photo import

SmartDraw Online Edition isn't one of the many interior design apps you'll find online that are designed solely for room design. It's a technical drawing app that's designed to help you create everything from flow charts to emergency signage, and interior design is just one of the things it's good at. That means it's a very different proposition from dedicated interior design apps and it doesn't include some key features that you might not want to go without. But it is certainly good enough to be included on our list of the best interior design software packages in 2020.

As it's the online edition, there are no compatibility issues - it'll work on all the best home computers and laptops.

SmartDraw Online Edition review: Price

Unlike some of its rivals, SmartDraw doesn't come with a complicated pricing model: it's free to try and then it's $9.95 per month for a single user. That gives you access to its 4,500 templates, 34,000 symbols and its cloud storage support, but remember that those numbers are across every kind of design it does – it doesn't mean you're getting thousands of bedroom designs. There's a seven-day free trial you can use to see if SmartDraw is right for you.

In addition to email sharing, you can export your floor plans in various file formats: Office, Visio (2010 and earlier or 2013 and later), PDF, SVG and PNG. If you want a free program, we recommend Roomstyler 3D Home Planner.

SmartDraw Online Edition review: Design and features

Using a full-fat CAD app to redesign your front room may seem like overkill, and it probably is for beginners. However, while SmartDraw looks a little intimidating when you first launch it it's actually fairly easy to use. A big part of that is because it comes absolutely packed with templates, so instead of starting from scratch you can take one of the existing templates and edit it. There are lots to choose from, so for example under Bedroom Outlines there are templates for kids' rooms and nurseries as well as master bedrooms and bedrooms with en suites. 

When you choose a template the app will automatically select the correct part of its object library for your furniture and fixings, so for example if you choose a kitchen template then your library won't show you a bunch of bedroom furniture. The floor plans are split between commercial and residential properties and then by room type: kitchens, bathrooms, bedrooms, living areas and even basements.

SmartDraw Online Edition review

SmartDraw's templates make its learning curve a lot less steep. They're good quality and cover every conceivable kind of room (Image credit: SmartDraw)

If you're used to Microsoft Office apps you'll feel at home here: SmartDraw looks a lot like the Office Online apps with its menu bar, toolbar and sidebar and its resemblance to the Visio drawing app isn't a coincidence (SmartDraw also supports importing and exporting Visio files).

SmartDraw Online Edition review

SmartDraw doesn't have a 3D view. You can carry out basic personalization by importing images to use as object fills (Image credit: SmartDraw)

It's easy to add furniture to your plan by dragging it from the library in the sidebar, which contains room-specific items such as beds, nightstands, rugs and TVs. Once you've dragged them you can adjust their size and rotation with the mouse or trackpad.

SmartDraw Online Edition review: Results

One thing you can't do with your design is see how it'll look in three dimensions. SmartDraw is strictly for 2D designs, and that means you can draw either a top-down floor plan or a vertical elevation (but not both at the same time; you'll need to create two second documents). That latter option allows some very basic visualization, so for example if you want to try a wall covering you can import an image of your chosen texture and apply it to one of the walls, but that's about as far as it goes in the realism stakes. If you need 3D, something like Planner 5D is a good choice.

If you're looking for an app that'll show you whether a particular lamp and table combination is going to look pretty in the late evening light, or that'll give you endless wallpaper patterns to play around with, SmartDraw is not the interior design app for you. However, it's very good for jobs such as kitchen remodeling where you need to work out how to get appliances, storage and worktops into a specific space.

SmartDraw Online Edition review

We think SmartDraw is best suited to precise projects such as remodeling kitchens, where its grids and adjustments enable you to create practical layouts (Image credit: SmartDraw)

For projects like that, SmartDraw is just the ticket. It's very easy to create your space and populate it with predefined items such as cabinets, gas hobs, refrigerators and other essentials, and to resize those items to match the products you're planning to use. You can toggle the dimensions off so they don't distract you while you're moving cabinets around and turn them back on again when you're done.

Should you buy SmartDraw Online Edition?

We think SmartDraw is best considered as a powerful design app that you can also use to create floor plans rather than as an interior design app in its own right: it's been created to design pretty much anything. Interiors are part of that anything but the app isn't particularly focused on them: they're just part of its enormous template library, one of very many strings to SmartDraw's bow.

Where SmartDraw is an excellent all-round CAD app, dedicated interior design apps, like Virtual Architect, are much more focused on their specific application and as a result they tend to be much better suited to experimentation and creativity, not least because most of them make it easy to see what your designs will look like in reality. They're bouncing around in paint-splattered dungarees while SmartDraw is in a sober suit.