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Guide: Best Free Microsoft Visio Alternatives
Talk about diagramming tools, and one of the first names that comes to mind is Microsoft Visio. With an abundance of templates, shapes, layouts and designs, Visio is a paradise for your visual modeling needs.
However, unless you work in an MNC or part of a huge team, the $ 280 price tag for the standard version or just $ 5 per user per month can make it a bit more expensive for those on a tight budget.
So if you’re looking for free alternatives to Microsoft Visio, don’t worry, we’ve got it covered for you. The following list of diagramming software and tools will help you choose the right one.back to menu ↑
Lucidchart profiles itself as a Visio alternative and is proud to be used by the teams from Cisco, Harvard University, Accenture and more. From floor plans to Android mockups, it has a ton of robust pre-made templates.
Apart from that, this online tool is extremely easy to use. It allows you to add different shapes, containers and smart connectors to create visually appealing designs. In addition, the shapes and containers change according to the type of diagram. Plus, there are a whole host of shapes and layering to choose from.
The free version of Lucidchart is limited to three active documents per user. If you’re mainly looking for personal use, the free templates and shapes should be enough. However, if you are not satisfied, you can upgrade to one of the paid versions.
Lucidchart’s basic paid plan costs $ 4 a month and offers unlimited shapes and documents. Meanwhile, the Pro User Plan costs $ 10 per month with the option to import or export Visio files. If you have a small team that often collaborates on designs, the Team Pro plan is priced a bit hefty at $ 20 a month.back to menu ↑
- Ridiculously easy to learn and use
- Huge library of templates and shapes
- Drag and drop
Creately is another powerful online tool that hides many templates behind a simple interface. Creately is available on multiple platforms and believes in keeping things simple. It has an intuitive interface with a ton of free templates and shapes. Unlike Lucidchart, this tool supports a variety of ‘fun’ templates that you can use to create community banners or for your school projects.
Unlike LucidCraft, this tool supports a variety of ‘fun’ templates.
Other than that, there is a small contextual toolbar that displays up as soon as you select an object. With tools such as shortcuts, text box creation and external links, the process becomes faster and faster.
In terms of collaboration, you can collaborate with your team members by adding their email IDs. With the free version you can add up to three employees. This limitation can of course be removed if you upgrade to the paid versions.
Like any other charting tool, Creately limits some of the features such as import Visio files and export SVG in the free plan. The personal plan starts at $ 5 a month and goes up up to $ 125 for team plans.back to menu ↑
- Tons of templates
- One click contextual toolbar
- Ready-to-use color palettes
- Let’s import you images from the web
3. Pencil project
The great thing about Pencil Project lies in the fact that it is free desktop software. For an open source project, Pencil has a pretty clean interface with all the necessary tools. Lets you create mockups for almost anything – mobiles, web pages and even conventional flow charts and diagrams.
The controls are pretty simple. Double click to rotate the elements and single click to resize them. If I were to compare it to the tools above, I would say the icons may not be that sharp or colorful. However, these are some of the tradeoffs if you are looking for a completely free charting tool.
As for the templates, the options are limited to creating wireframes, GUI, and flowcharts. You will not find fancy templates for infographics, family tree or network diagram. Export options include SVG, ODT, PDF, PNG, or a standard web page.back to menu ↑
Why Pencil Project
- Free and standalone software
- Clean interface with simple tools
- Cool collection of mobile GUI elements for smartphone mockups
Draw.io is an absolute joy of a diagramming tool. From standard diagrams and flowcharts to entity relationship diagrams and UML diagrams, you can play with many templates in this online tool.
Best of all, you don’t even have to register. Just open the site, select the templates and start working. With Draw.io you can also connect to Google Drive, Dropbox, OneDrive and even Github to export your templates. As with Pencil Project, you can export your projects in PNG, SVG, PDF, XML and a few other formats. Moreover, it also supports embedded URLs.
Draw.io redefines simplicity because it is incredibly easy to use. All you need to do is click on an element and all the necessary formatting options such as font, color and style can be accessed from the menu on the right.
Also, the collection of shapes and objects is sufficient for a free version.back to menu ↑
- Super simple interface
- Has the ability to search for shapes
- Good for small-scale work
5. yEd Graph Editor
yEd Graph Editor may not be the most stylish Visio alternative, but trust me when I say it has the right tools and elements to make your work seamless and easy.
Since it is also a desktop software, you will not find many ready-made templates. But let me tell you, it is by far one of the best free tools for creating computer network graphs, flowcharts and diagrams. In addition, it is relatively easy to work on this tool. Just drag and drop the elements.
As for the export options, yEd allows you to save your diagrams in PDF, JPEG, PNG, SWF and HTML formats.back to menu ↑
Why yEd Graph Editor
- Suitable for flow charts and network diagrams
- Tons of shapes, border types, entity relationship elements, etc.
If your charts chart more, you should give XMind a try. The great thing about XMind is that you can create a complete visually attractive mind map using keystrokes. Yes, you read that right.
This offline drawing tool supports a few handy keyboard shortcuts that allow you to create child elements, add text or move to the next element.
The library of elements and shapes is huge and available with the click of one button, along with formatting options such as font, texture, color, etc.
XMind is an open source project and therefore free to use. My only complaint is that the trial version stamps the XMind watermark on the diagrams. And to remove that, you have to subscribe to the Zen version by paying $ 27.99 every six months.back to menu ↑
- Great for assignments
- Huge library of elements and shapes
Gliffy is another good online alternative to Microsoft Visio. Gliffy has three different account options to choose from: Basic (Default), Single and Team account. The Single and Team account are paid versions, while the Basic is free to use. Here’s the catch that all of your charts are marked public. So, unless you plan on creating a data sensitive flowchart, you can give this tool a shot.
Like most diagramming tools, Gliffy includes a variety of shapes and elements. With this tool you can build anything from simple swimlanes to complex UML diagrams. It follows the usual drag and drop method. Also, the interface is neat with options to embed notes and URLs.
However, Gliffy restricts the use of some of their business forms (UML class, UML suite, etc.) for the Basic / Standard account. To create and download unlimited diagrams, you have to pay $ 7.99 per month for a single user subscription. And for teams, it comes to $ 4.99 per user.back to menu ↑
- Clean interface
- Revision History
- Change the background color
- Shared URL with contributors
8. Google Drawings
Last, but not least, we have Google Drawings. Like most Google apps and tools, we have the G advantage here – it’s free and it’s relatively easy to use.
And unlike the free versions (of paid drawing apps) that limit shapes and templates, Google Drawings offers a ton features and options.
You can play with process diagrams or try out relationship diagrams. The color schemes are customizable. In addition, you can also adjust the levels or areas of the charts to suit your needs. Since Google docs are easy to share, collaboration is surprisingly easy in Drawings.back to menu ↑
Why Google Drawings
- Free and easy to use
- Tons of templates to choose from
- Customizable colors and areas
- Automatically saved
Create powerful visualizations
They say seeing is believing and rightly so. Be it a software process or a simple infographic, unless the data is visually appealing and easy to understand, the work put into such diagrams can be lost. And at the same time, it should be easy for a user to create such diagrams without much hassle.
So, these were some of the free alternatives to Microsoft Visio. There are also some other programs such as DIA, Open Office and LibreOffice that you can try.back to menu ↑
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