The 10 Best Free Alternatives to Microsoft Visio

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If you have worked for any big company anywhere, chances are that you have used Microsoft Visio or used a document created by it. It is one of the most popular enterprise applications out there and has been for years. It is used for everything from creating flow charts to swim lane diagrams, floor plans to mockups of documents and pretty much everything in-between.

If you want to use all that diagramming goodness at home but don’t have the $299 or so to pay for Visio, what are you to do? Techjunkie is here to help. Here are what we think are the ten best free alternatives to Microsoft Visio.

Draw.io

Draw.io is an online version of Visio that gets you creating your visuals in seconds. Visit the site, tell it where you want to save your diagram and then get drawing. It is literally that simple. There are a range of shapes and formats to choose from, including the most used flowchart shapes and suchlike.

Once complete, you can save your diagram to Dropbox or Google Drive or download to your device. It can be exported as a PDF, SVG or XML file too.

1.   LucidChart

LucidChart is another online diagramming alternative to Microsoft Visio. 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. Several people can create at once, which sounds painful but might work for some.

LucidChart can also use Visio files .vdx files for a little more interoperability. That makes it ideal if you’re taking work home.

2.   OpenOffice Draw

OpenOffice is the most accomplished 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. It too has shapes, lines, colors and file options.

OpenOffice Draw can also group items together which makes working with more complex diagrams a breeze. It can create flash files too!

3.   LibreOffice Draw

LibreOffice is another free Office product that is very similar to OpenOffice because they both used to be one product. They branched but look, feel and work much the same way. LibreOffice Draw is so similar to OpenOffice Draw as to be almost indistinguishable but as they are different products, deserve a separate entry.

LibreOffice Draw is a very viable free alternative to Visio as the entire office suite is a viable alternative to Microsoft Office.

4.   Gliffy

Even though I think the name is silly, Gliffy is a great little diagramming tool. It uses HTML5 to create its work and operates 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 if that’s your thing.

Gliffy also has an enterprise edition so if you like what you see, you can also use it at work.

5.   Ardoq

Ardoq is a serious piece of software that has both free and premium versions. It is very powerful, suitable more for 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 potential, it is easy to get creating in Ardoq although it does require a login.

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6.   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 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 on a Windows, Mac or Linux app.

7.   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 when 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. It just works.

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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8.   Diagramly

Oh great, another app that thinks sticking an ‘ly’ on the end of a descriptor makes a good product name. Despite that, 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. Well worth a look given the price.

9.   Pencil Project

Pencil Project is quite powerful for a free app. It can do the usual diagramming stuff but can also help create UI 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.

Google Drawings

Last but certainly not least is Google Drawings. Part of its 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 export into PDF, PNG, JPEG or SVG too.

Posted by Jamie on November 15, 2016

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