NetZoom & NetZoomAV Solutions

Reviewed by: Thomas V. Kappel, February 2004, send e-mail
Published by: Altima Technologies Inc., go to the web site
Requires: Microsoft Visio, PowerPoint, Word, AutoCAD, SmartDraw & others
MSRP: $399.00 to $499.00 (NetZoom); $299 (NetZoomAV); all prices are for a 12 month unlimited subscription

I'm sure many of you in computers and technology today don't remember the old fashioned paper and cardboard stencils we used to use to draw shapes and objects in layouts and diagrams. The stencils were usually a thin sheet of paper or cardboard with a pattern or letters cut out of them and, using paint or ink, were used to manually draw the shape outlines onto the layout medium (paper, cloth, wood, metal, etc.) Well, like many pre-computer technologies the creation and uses for stencils have also advanced into the modern age. NetZoom and NetZoomAV are professionally designed stencil and collections for use in Microsoft Visio, Microsoft PowerPoint, Corel iGrafx and other programs which can load and use the stencil files. Separate content packages, called NetZoom Symbols, are available for AutoCAD, TurboCAD, netViz, SmartDraw and other programs which can use WMF or EMF vector graphic files.

Each NetZoom stencil is manufacturer or product specific and each stencil is covered with a number of intelligent shapes rendered from realistic drawings. NetZoom has over 50,000 intelligent shapes covering a very long list of over 1,350 manufacturers. Predominantly, these shapes are mostly for diagramming computer networks, telecommunications, wireless, power, Internet, storage and other infrastructure equipment and processes. The intelligent shapes are also supplied in multiple positional views: front, rear, card edges, modules and ready-to-configure exact shapes. Altima Technologies is constantly releasing new stencils and symbols however, in addition to all the custom stencil work the company does for end users, manufacturers and other clients.

Bye-bye ink, paper and cardboard. Today, stencils are digital files which load into diagramming software, CAD programs, presentation programs and drawing programs. The programs and stencils are used mostly in the technology arena to produce network designs, diagramming, and presentations. If you haven't used software such as Visio and are still have a hard time picturing this, imagine having a selection of manufacturer-specific shapes or objects which you can drag & drop into a diagram or layout you're creating. For example, let’s say you need to diagram a room full of computers. These could be drawn with little boxes and titles like Mary’s IBM computer, Frank’s Dell Computer and so on. Or, it could be pictures of each computer type (micro tower, mini tower, desktop case, all-in-one, Mac, CRT, LCD display, etc.) with a small picture of the hub that ties them together and the names underneath - a recognizable diagram as opposed to a simple box and line type drawing. Got the idea?

NetZoom has recently moved into the Audio/Video market with a number of stencils for Microsoft Visio. Designers, equipment manufacturers, consultants, installers, help desk managers, integrators and of course sales and marketing people can now create and produce accurate representational diagrams for education and broadcasting customers or colleagues. These sorts of diagrams have an enormous number of uses including product documentation, design or layout for residential housing video systems, business audio or video networks, security systems, lighting systems, business office layouts, factory and warehouse security layouts, classroom multimedia layouts and the hot new home automation systems.

Microsoft Visio projects which have been produced using manufacturer-specific intelligent shapes are really beautiful and professional. There’s nothing like walking into an IT network meeting with an accurate and understandable shape-filled layout or diagram. There's nothing like being able to show new home owners the layout of their security system in a way which allows them to truly understand what their getting. It is extremely impressive and much more satisfying and instructive for the client. These stencils are easy to download, certainly save on design and layout time, in addition to making documentation and prints much easier to produce. As well, with a subscription, you can request new shapes for free development.

I downloaded a free sample stencil for Visio 2000, loaded the stencil into the program (as easy as double clicking on the stencil) and immediately began dragging & dropping shapes onto the Visio page and creating a layout. It’s that easy. What more can be said?

You can download a free stencil and check it out yourself. If you've ever spent hours trying to draw and create your own intelligent shape based on a specific piece of equipment for a diagram or layout, you'll quickly realize that these stencils are incredibly inexpensive. If you need to do professional network diagram layouts or any of the other tasks described above or want to really spice up a professional sales pitch with a recognizable layout or picture, then these stencils are worth their weight in gold. NetZoom and NetZoomAV stencils help create some of the most professional and attractive presentations, layouts and diagrams I've ever seen. Highly recommended.

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