Microsoft Visio Alternatives

I had fun the other night trying to find decent alternatives that were either low cost or no cost to Microsoft Office so I thought that I would try and find a decent alternative to MS Visio Professional.

For those of you that don’t know what Visio Professional is well its a diagram tool. You can use is to create floor plans, flowcharts and use cases and to be fair its main use is probably in the corporate environment, however, I have found situations where I have needed to use Visio and ended up buying it and like all Microsoft products, it is not that cheap. At the time of writing this post, I had a quick look online and you can get MS Visio Professional for a jaw-dropping £529.99!

I think I can do better than that…. I don’t think for one minute that I am going to get a like for like alternative however for drawing a simple flowchart or case use diagram hell maybe a network map I think I can find one that fits the bill.

So what’s out there?

After doing a quick google search I was surprised to see there is quite a lot available and generally speaking they are either cloud services or stand-alone applications. So here is my shortlist, I’m not going to rank them etc…. as that is for you to decide.

Cloud Applications

Draw.io (https://www.draw.io) is a completely free diagramming service.  It’s relatively basic in what it can do however it can integrate with other cloud services like Google Drive and Dropbox. As for compatibility, Draw.io can export HTML, JPEG, PDF, PNG, PNG with transparent background, SVG, SVG with a transparent background, and XML. It can also import diagrams from Visio, LucidChart, and Gliffy.  One point of note is that Draw.io requires Java so make sure you have that installed.

Update 10/12/2018 – If you are a Nextcloud user then you can also install the Draw.io plugin so that you can create diagrams from within the Nextcloud server.

Desktop Applications

yED Graph Editor (https://www.yworks.com) is a powerful desktop application that can be used for creating high-quality diagrams.  It is freely available for Windows, Linux and Mac OS.  On looking at it, this application has you covered from drawing a family to pretty technical diagrams. You can save your diagrams to JPEG, XML or HTML, among other formats, making it easy to use to upload to websites or send on to clients. There is also a cloud-based version as well. Again this application requires Java.

LibreOffice Draw (https://www.libreoffice.org) is one of the closest open-source competitors to MS Visio Professional, in fact, If you have read my previous post-Microsoft Office Alternatives then you will already know that LibreOffice Draw comes bundled as part of the LibreOffice Suite. You can easily group different objects together and then do different actions on the group like moving the group, connecting with other groups, etc. In addition to other formats (XML format is the default). You can even get package shapes that are similar to those you find in Visio. LibreOffice Draw is free and available for Windows, Linux and MAC OS.

Dia (http://dia-installer.de) is an open source application with a similar feature set at Visio. You can create UML diagrams, flowcharts, network processes and architectures, entity relationship diagrams, etc. and there are plenty of file formats you can export your diagram too, including Microsoft Visio’s .vdx format. Dia is freely available for Windows, Linux and MAC OS.

Pencil Project (http://pencil.evolus.vn) is another opensource alternative maintained by the development community.  The aim of this application is to make diagramming as easy as possible and usable for everyone. A Firefox extension is available so that it can be used within the browser.  Even though Pencil Project is community driven, it is regularly updated with new stencils and features.  You can export your work to multiple formats and is integrated with OpenClipart.org allowing you to search the web for images to make your project stand out.  Again this is freely available on Windows, Linux and Mac OS platforms.

Conclusion

So there you go, there are numerous free alternatives to Microsoft Visio Professional. Like I said at the start of this post I’m not going to rank them. I will leave that for you to decide. I suppose I should see what is out there as an alternative to Microsoft Project. Check back soon to find out what I discovered.