For drawing, preparing charts, flowcharts, one program that best suits everyone’s need is Microsoft Visio. The industry standard program lets you display complex diagrams quickly and easily. In addition, it lets you edit your diagrams if it ever requires to be changed. The program however, is expensive and not all can afford it.
We have already seen some free Microsoft Office alternatives earlier; now let us therefore take a look at some free Visio alternatives that may not be highly performant but still beat the program when it comes to price.
Microsoft Visio alternatives free
Available in more than 60 languages, DIA is a program to draw structured diagrams. With this program one can draw entity relationship diagrams, UML diagrams, flowcharts, network diagrams, and many other diagrams.
The free program has the in-built ability to load and save diagrams to a custom XML format (gzipped by default, to save space), export diagrams to a number of formats (EPS, SVG, XFIG, WMF and PNG) and print diagrams. It is also possible to add support for new shapes by writing simple XML files, using a subset of SVG to draw the shape. Apart from functioning on Windows, DIA works equally well with Mac and Linux.
The free software has most of the merits of Microsoft Office interface and includes some very useful applications for making diagrams, presentations, spreadsheets and databases. It features ‘Connectors’ between shapes, which are available in a range of line styles that facilitate building drawings such as flowchart.
Using its ‘Arrange Objects’ feature one can group, ungroup, regroup, and edit objects while grouped. Another feature rendering lets you create photorealistic images with your own texture, lighting effects, transparency and perspective. Besides, it even has the ability to import graphics from all common formats (BMP, GIF, JPEG, PNG, TIFF, and WMF) and allows creating your own art and adding it to gallery.
Inkscape is an Open Source vector graphics editor with a streamline interface that makes editing nodes, performing complex path operations, tracing bitmaps much easier. Though it does not provide all the features of the leading vector editors, its latest version offers a large portion of basic vector graphics editing capabilities.
The program supports many advanced SVG (Scalable Vector Graphics) features like markers, clones, alpha blending, etc. besides, it has the ability to import formats such as JPEG, PNG, TIFF, and others and export PNG as well as multiple vector-based formats.
Graphviz represents structural information as diagrams of abstract graphs and networks. The open-source graph visualization software includes several main graph layout programs. It takes descriptions of graphs in form of simple text language and then makes diagrams in several useful formats.
- Tabular node layouts
- Line styles
- Custom shapes
Recently, two more features were added to the program,
- Lightweight edge labels (xlabel)
- Tapered edges (as a style)
Kivio, a part of KOffice open source office suite is a free program for making diagrams and flowcharts. It has a user-interface similar to Visio but differs in a way that it allows to add a grid to the drawing plane and gives the option of splitting the pane into two drawing areas.
Other features include,
- Scriptable stencils using Python
- Support for Dia stencils
- Plugin framework for adding more functionality
Thus, we see some programs are more suitable for artistic work while others are better for technical drawings. The choice however depends on preference of the potential user.