Review: Stencil It!
Published By: Kaetron Software Corp.
25211 Grogan's Mill Road, Suite 260
The Woodlands, Texas 77380
Phone: (800) 938-8900
Fax: (281) 298-2520
Street Price: $99
Kaetron Software Corp. claims Stencil It! v1.01c is the point-and-click graphics program for the artistically challenged. With over 600 stencils included, Stencil It! really does make graphics easy for those who need to create professional-looking business graphics with a minimum of work.
Stencil It! is a program designed specifically to help a non-artist quickly create practical business graphics without the tediousness usually associated with generic drawing programs. Stencil It! is neither a vector graphics program nor a presentation program, so it cannot compete against the likes of Canvas or PowerPoint. Stencil It! excels in creating flow charts, family trees, network diagrams, organizational diagrams and many other types of business graphics.
Included is a collection of over 600 stencils that cover most commonly-used symbols from the standard ANSI flowchart symbols to traffic symbols and even the kitchen sink. If none of these Stencils are the graphic you want, you can always create your own or modify existing Stencils.
Graphics creation is simple: drag "intelligent" stencils from the palette onto the page. A Web converter is included to quickly convert your graphics into a format suitable for use with any browser.
Unlike a conventional draw program, Stencil It! provides several types of connecting lines that automatically connect objects as they are placed. Connecting lines will automatically follow the objects they connect, even if those objects are moved. By enabling the connecting lines feature, I was able to create a ten person organizational chart in under 10 minutes.
Stencil It! took simple clip art, added intelligence and created a Stencil. A Stencil is a graphic figure, much like an ink stamper, that is used to draw a graphic figure on the page. Stencils, both predefined and self-created, can be given attributes that define how they behave. For example, if a conference table Stencil is extended, additional chairs will magically appear. When a Stencil is composed of smaller objects, each of the component objects can be given their own attributes. For instance, you create a Stencil representing a phone sitting on top of a desk. Phone and desk object attributes can be assigned so that if the Stencil is resized, the desk size changes but the phone remains its original size.
Notecards (up to 32,000 characters) can be attached to most graphic objects to provide supporting information. Stencil It! even comes with a spelling checker that has a moderately large vocabulary (although I was surprised to discover that Microsoft was in the dictionary, but not Kaetron).
Lower level sub-charting lets you embed entire drawings inside a graphics object. Complex diagrams can be reduced to a simpler high level view by including details in lower level diagrams. An organizational chart for a large company can be composed of a few departments. Double-clicking a department will then bring up a new window with the lower level view of that department. There is no practical limit to the number of levels you can have in each drawing or object.
Other noteworthy features include: a large drawing size of 220x220 inches, publish and subscribe support, and linked files. The "linked files" feature allows you to link an external document or application to a graphics object. Double-clicking the object will cause Stencil It! to open the file or launch the application.
Included with Stencil It! is the Web It! application. Web It! will convert every drawing and Notecard into a set of linked pages for use with a Web browser such as Netscape. Web It! has options to create JPEG or GIF files, to include server side or client side imagemaps, and file name convention. Appropriate use of these options will generate HTML files suitable for installation even on Unix or PC-based servers. Links to other Web sites can be easily embedded. For more advanced HTML work, you can embed your HTML code into Notecards before sending the drawing to Web It!. With Web It! almost anyone can mount a Web page on their Intranet or Internet server.
Stencil It! requires a Mac Plus or better running System 7.0 or later. Although the manual states that 4 MB of RAM is required with 1.5 MB dedicated to Stencil It!, every time I tried to install Stencil It! on my 4 MB SE/30, the installer program stated that 5 MB RAM was required. Installing the program on a Quadra800 and then copying the files to the SE/30 worked. The small 512x342 screen of the SE/30 caused some minor cosmetic difficulties with certain windows and dialog boxes but Stencil It! ran at an acceptable pace. I would recommend a IIsi or better with at least 3 MB of RAM available for Stencil It!.
The Final Word
With over 600 stencils and the ability to design your own stencils, Stencil It! is eminently suited for personal and business use. Even graphics artists may find Stencil It! useful for small jobs that don't require highly detailed graphics. At a street price of $99, it can perform virtually all of the common functions of it's competitor, Mainstay's MacFlow, at about half the price. The manual, for the most part, is well written. There are a few sections that may not be clear to a graphics program novice. Stencil It! is good as a first release version of the application and I highly recommend it. If you have doubts about its capabilities, download a demo version from their Web site.