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The 10 Best Free Alternatives to Microsoft Visio

Posted by Jamie on December 30, 2018

Depending on what you do for work, you either have never heard of Microsoft Visio, or you use it (or a competitor) all the time. If you’re in the former group, all you need to know is that Visio is a structured drawing application that is part of the Microsoft Office family of products.

It’s a very powerful and flexible app, with many different purposes, but its main function is to help users draw flowcharts, control diagrams, layouts, and other structured graphical ways of presenting information. Visio is terrific for creating organization charts, workflow charts, and many other kinds of charts. The app’s documents integrate smoothly into PowerPoint or other Office documents for easy sharing.

Why You Need a Visio Alternative

Because Visio is part of the Office suite, it is an expensive program. You either have to buy Microsoft Office, sign up for Microsoft’s Office 365 subscription service to use the product, or subscribe to a standalone Visio Online subscription for $5/user/month, or to the offline version for $15/user/month. In addition, there is no version of Visio for Mac OS X, so Mac users are locked out of the platform.

If you don’t have access to Vizio, if it’s out of your price range, or if you just want to try something different, there are a number of free alternatives to try. Visio alternatives are a dime a dozen online, but not every application is created equally. This article presents ten of the best alternatives to Visio, all free (or free to try) and many of which work online across all platforms.

1. Draw.io

The draw of Draw.io (get it?) is that you do not even have to create an account. Just visit the site, tell it where you want to save your diagram, and then get drawing. Aside from simplicity, Draw.io’s strength lies in its templates: There are a range of shapes and formats to choose from, including the most used flowchart shapes. Once complete, you can save your diagram to Dropbox or Google Drive or download to your device, or export as a PDF, SVG or XML file.

2. LucidChart

LucidChart boasts use by huge clients such as Ivy League Schools and Fortune 500 companies, which shows you just how robust it is as a drawing tool. You have to sign in to use it but is almost as simple as Draw.io to use once you’re in. LucidChart has the same range of shapes and drawing tools, the same layout and graph paper background, but also adds collaboration into the mix, allowing several people to work on the same file at once. LucidChart can also use Visio’s .vdx files for a little more interoperability, making it ideal if you’re taking work home.

3. OpenOffice Draw

OpenOffice is the most venerated Microsoft Office alternative, and its Draw product is a direct competitor to Visio. It shares the same UI as its parent platform and is very similar in terms of usability, function and use. OpenOffice Draw also allows you to group items together, which makes working with more complex diagrams a breeze.

4. LibreOffice Draw

LibreOffice is another free Microsoft Office-esque product. It is very similar to OpenOffice because they both used to be one product. They branched out, but still look, feel and work much the same way. LibreOffice Draw is so similar to OpenOffice Draw as to be almost indistinguishable.

5. Gliffy

Even though the name might strike you as silly, Gliffy is a great little diagramming tool. It uses HTML5 to create its work,  and operates entirely in the browser. It is compatible with all browsers, including Safari. It has a good range of tools and options, and is simple to get up to speed with. You can share read-only versions of your files on social media too. Gliffy also has an enterprise edition so if you like it, you can also use it at work.

6. Ardoq

Ardoq is a serious piece of software that has offers a free 30-day trial, as well as a paid premium version. It is very powerful, and is more geared towards architects and network designers than casual users. Despite that, it is still very easy to use and has a wide range of drawing tools and options. It has a range of templates too that can seriously upgrade your diagram. Despite its complexity, it is easy to get creating in Ardoq.

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7. Creately

Creately is another app with an annoying name but a lot of utility. While the free option is fairly limited, the personal premium is only $5 a month, so it won’t break the bank. In return, you get a feature-rich diagramming tool with hundreds of shapes, lines, colors and templates. There is a little something here for every designer. Creately is available online or via the Windows, Mac or Linux app.

8. Dia

Dia may look like something from the 1980s, but is actually a very competent free alternative to Microsoft Visio. It is also a download rather than an online tool, offering a little more freedom with how and where you use it. It is simple and very effective, with the usual range of tools and features. It is easy to navigate and will be familiar to anyone who has used Visio.Dia may look a little dated, but there is nothing wrong with the utility it offers or the diagrams it helps create.

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9. Diagramly

Oh great, another app that thinks sticking an ‘ly’ on the end of a descriptor makes a good product name. Diagramly is a very good alternative to Visio. It is fast, simple and responsive and will have you up and creating in no time. It is web-based, free and can export files in XML. Diagramly concentrates on getting you productive right away, and makes it easy to do that. It’s well worth a look, especially given the price.

10. Pencil Project

Pencil Project is quite powerful, especially for a free app. It can do the usual diagramming stuff, but can also help create UIs for products, mind maps and more. It can also integrate buttons, forms and other interactions into diagrams, adding a whole new level to your creations. Despite being free, there is a huge amount of potential in this app. Pencil Project allows you to export files as XML, HTML, PDF or SVG.

BONUS: Google Drawings

Last but certainly not least is Google Drawings. Part of Google’s alternative office suite, Drawings is aimed squarely at Visio. It works with any browser anywhere and has a range of tools, shapes and charts for you to use. It will also work with any other Google office app and allows real-time collaboration. Google Drawings can be exported into PDF, PNG, JPEG and SVG files.

2 thoughts on “The 10 Best Free Alternatives to Microsoft Visio”

Elik says:
Hi,
Does any of the above options support visio files?
in other words, if I have collected through the years specific shapes, can I re-use these in one of the above options?
Thanks

Elik

Reply
John Sloat says:
Hi there, I work at Ardoq. I’m sorry to say that we have recently switched from offering a free plan to a 30-day trial. Please feel free to remove us from this list so readers are not misinformed.

Thanks!
John Sloat

Reply

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