Free Alternative to Microsoft Visio

Free Alternative to Microsoft Visio

- in Geek, ITSM and ITIL
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As most of you are aware, I work as a management consultant. My job involves defining processes and I use Microsoft Visio for creating swimlanes, architectural diagrams and flowcharts. It is the tool of my choice, and my organization is happy to offer it to me.

Microsoft Visio is an expensive tool and not all companies can afford to keep copies of it lying around with its employees. It does not come with the Microsoft Office package and perhaps in the same category as Microsoft Project with its pricing. The last time I checked, it was around USD 650 for its professional version.

ms-visioI am working with a client who is not keen on Microsoft products and they insisted that I use a flowcharting tool that they could employ in the future as well for making amendments to my design.

I have never used any other flowcharting tool other than Visio and I felt like a fish out of water. Without a choice but to look for alternatives, I started to look at the cloud options rather than open source.

Here are the three tools that I evaluated and my thoughts on the matter.

1. Google Drawing
google-docs-drawingWhenever I start looking for cloud options, I start with Google. This giant has the habit of dipping its fingers into every possible pie on the internet and I was not surprised to find Google Drawing.

I was amused to find that this tool is extremely basic at best. It is neither a flowcharting tool nor a drawing tool. It offers hardly anything by means of templates, shapes, and ease of use. I was quite frustrated after playing around with it for about 30 minutes and was flabbergasted to not find swimlanes. Perhaps I was not looking in the right places, but basic things such as this must be available where you expect to find it, right?

Anyway, not a tool that I would use. I don’t believe that constant development is taking place on this tool.

2. Lucid Chart

lucidchartMy next option was Lucid Chart.

I felt home when I started using the tool. All my tools were available where Visio would usually store it. The tool was easy to use and for the slightest moment, felt that the tool was perhaps better than Visio.

May be it is but not with its licensing model. Unlike installable software, this cloud option comes with the subscription. It offers a free account as well with limited shapes and limited memory. Perhaps for somebody in high school, it might suffice, but not for professionals.

I cannot ask my client to subscribe to modify my designs at a later time. So, my search continued.

3. Draw.io

I was running out of options and was happy to find this out of the lot that I had picked from some Google searches.

Draw.io was very similar to Lucid Chart but entirely free. It was previously called as Diagramly. It seamlessly integrates with cloud storage providers such as Dropbox and Google Drive.

Usability is similar to Visio and I had no trouble finding my shapes and drawing relationships. The export tool comes with a number of options that can possibly put Visio to shame.

draw.io.drawingI was able to draw a fairly lengthy flowchart with draw.io and it came out well. Resizing and scaling were simpler than Visio and I had no trouble with any of the features that I normally use.

I like to believe that Draw.io is a fantastic substitute or alternative for Microsoft Visio and could possibly be one step better for hosting it entirely on the cloud.

Do let me know if you have checked these tools out or if there are any other tools that you would like to suggest.

1 Comment

  1. Hi Abhinav, I would also suggest Cacoo – https://cacoo.com/lang/en/visio-alternative which can import existing visio files, and have most of the flowchart and other types of diagram creations within the tool itself.

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