How to Draw Network Diagrams

A network diagram is a way to illustrate the relationships among components. When drawing a network diagram, you'll need three things: symbols representing those components, connecting lines, and a way to clearly label them.

SmartDraw gives you all three. It includes a large library of symbols representing servers, computers, routers and more. Labels are simple to add. It also allows you to easily and intuitively draw your network diagram.

This short video provides a quick overview of how to draw a network diagram with SmartDraw.

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Getting Started

To start drawing, open a Network Diagram template from the Template Browser.

This template will open with a set of relevant symbols and controls.

For most network diagrams, we recommend starting with the "manual" network diagram template, which will let you draw lines and easily connect new shapes at the end in a flexible way.

Network templates

Finding the Correct Device

Any network diagram template opens with a few libraries of commonly used symbols docked next to in the SmartPanel.

You can find additional devices and symbols in SmartDraw using the Search Symbols command at the top of the SmartPanel.

Clicking on Search Symbols, will open the Symbols tab with a search field. Type in the name of the device you're looking for.

Once the search is completed, the results will be organized by the libraries they're contained in. You can click on the three dots next to the library's name to either add just the symbols that match your search or the entire library.

You can also pin all the symbols found with your query using the star icon next to the search field.

This panel works like the SmartPanel and you can drag-and-drop symbols straight from this view or you can dock some of your search results for quicker access later.

Search for more network design symbols and components

Adding a Device to Your Drawing

Once a library is open, you can click on any device and stamp it or drag and drop it to the drawing area.

Add network symbols

Connecting Devices

Once you have added a network symbol to your drawing, you can add a new connected symbol by simply clicking on one of the yellow dots on the perimeter of the symbol, drawing a line, and choosing a new symbol from the auto-prompt.

Connect new network symbols

Connection Points

When you link to a device, black dots called Connection Points appear on its edges. These points show the places where the device can be linked to a line or to another device. You can adjust the positions of these connection points by selecting the symbol and clicking on "Connection Points" in the Design tab.

In the dialog that pops up you'll see your current Connection Points appear around the preview of the device. Click on a connection point and drag it to the desired position. By moving the connection points you can control where lines will link to this particular device. For example, you can show a cable linked to a specific port by connecting a line to a connection point that you have positioned on top of the port.

Connection points

Adding a Text Label to a Device

SmartDraw objects can automatically have text labels associated with them. To put a text label on a device in your drawing, double-click on the device in your drawing and simply type the label. By default, the text label will automatically go below the object.

To change the location of the text label relative to the object, open the Edit Symbol dialog box again from the library window. You can set whether your text appears below, above, or inside the object. When you choose to place text inside the object, you can set the text entry area by adjusting the four margin lines as shown below.

You can now type device names, details, descriptions inside the object for a professional look. The text label stays with the device when you move it. To edit it, simply double click on the text.

Type your device name for your network diagram

Changing the Line Shape

When you draw a line using the yellow dots at the perimeter of network symbols, you'll be drawing a segmented line by default.

The segmented line attaches itself perpendicularly to both objects, and it flows between them using the fewest possible number of segments and 90-degree turns. If you move one of the objects, the segmented line adjusts itself to remain attached and perpendicular at all times.

You can adjust the length and spacing of segments by moving the square adjustment handles located on each segment.

You can select any line connecting two shapes and change its shape using the Line Shape dropdown on the SmartPanel.

You can also use arcs or curved lines to connect your shapes. If you are using an arc, you can adjust the arc's degree of curvature with the special selection handle at its center.

Curved lines are segmented lines with rounded corners. They follow the same rules as segmented lines.

Change line shape

Using Automatic Connectors to Draw Bus Topologies

SmartDraw's automatic connector allows you to connect several computers in evenly spaced patterns. The automatic connector is great for drawing bus or linear topologies, but it may be even more useful for star networks, to automatically connect dozens of workstations to a central hub or switch without drawing all the individual connecting lines.

To use an automatic connector in your network diagram, start with the Network Diagram (Automated) template. Then use the "Add Right", "Add Left" buttons in the Network Diagram template's SmartPanel on the left.

Now when you remove or move a symbol, the rest of the arrangement will automatically heal and adjust.

Using Automatic Connectors

Creating a Custom Library of Symbols

If you imported a symbol from somewhere else or drew your own, you can create your own custom library of images.

To create a library in SmartDraw, click on the hamburger menu at the top of the docked Symbols section, and select "Add New Custom Library."

Next, name the library.

The new library will be immediately docked next to your drawing.

Add a custom library

To add a device to your new library, drag the device onto the library window until you see the add library cursor, then release the device with the mouse.

Add new symbol

Before your device is added to the library, you'll have the opportunity to give it a name and set how it will be change colors when added to a diagram.

The new device symbol will appear as a button in your library window.

Name new symbol

Importing Visio Stencils

In addition to creating one off custom symbols and custom libraries, you can also import any existing symbols you may have stored as Visio stencils.

To import Visio stencils, click on the the More tab in the SmartPanel, and select "Import Visio Stencils."

You'll be able to browse for a Visio stencil file on your desktop.

Import Visio Stencil
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