Microsoft Visio is a 2D-object drawing application and is part of the Microsoft Office suite. It is a professional diagramming software which makes it very easy to explore and visualize complex information and processes quickly.
Microsoft Visio helps you with all of your drawing and graphing needs – from organization and flow charts – to database designs automatically imported and generated from existing database systems. It can also use UML (Unified Modeling Language) to visualize the designs. The latest version of the software is Microsoft Visio 2013 Professional.
The downside of Microsoft Visio is that it is not affordable by a home user that does not have complex diagramming needs. So, here we present the free and open source alternatives to Visio.
Dia is free and open source general-purpose diagramming software, developed originally by Alexander Larsson. It is roughly inspired by the commercial Windows program ‘Visio,’ though more geared towards informal diagrams for casual use. It can be used to draw many different kinds of diagrams.
Dia has special objects to help draw entity-relationship models, Unified Modeling Language (UML) diagrams, flowcharts, network diagrams, and simple electrical circuits. It is also possible to add support for new shapes by writing simple XML files, using a subset of Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG) to draw the shape.
It can load and save diagrams to a custom XML format (gzipped by default, to save space), can export diagrams to a number of formats, including EPS, SVG, XFIG, WMF and PNG, and can print diagrams (including ones that span multiple pages).
The latest vesion of Dia is 0.97.3.
2) LibreOffice Draw
LibreOffice Draw is a vector graphics editor and diagramming tool similar to Microsoft Visio, SmartDraw and comparable in features to early versions of CorelDRAW. It provides connectors between shapes, which are available in a range of line styles and facilitate building drawings such as flowcharts. It also includes features similar to desktop publishing software such as Scribus and Microsoft Publisher.
Draw lets you produce anything from a quick sketch to a complex plan, and gives you the means to communicate with graphics and diagrams. With a maximum page size of 300cm by 300cm, Draw is a an excellent package for producing technical drawings, general posters, and much else.
Draw can import graphics in all the commonly-used formats (including BMP, GIF, JPEG, PNG, TIFF, and WMF). Draw can also export your work to Flash (.swf) format.
The latest version of LibreOffice Draw is 5.1.3.
3) Apache OpenOffice Draw
Apache OpenOffice Draw is a vector graphics editor and is part of the Apache OpenOffice office suite. It features “connectors” between shapes, which are available in a range of line styles and facilitate building drawings such as flowchart. It also includes many features found in desktop publishing software.
Apache OpenOffice users can also install the Open Clip Art Library, which adds an extensive gallery of flags, logos, icons and banners for general presentation and drawing projects. In particular, Linux distributions Debian and Ubuntu have provided ready-to-use openclipart packages for easy download and install from their online software repositories. As of v3.4, OpenOffice draw supports importing and exporting to SVG format officially.
Available under the ApacheV2 license, Draw is open source software.
The latest version of OpenOffice Draw is 4.1.2.
4) Calligra Flow
Flow is an easy to use flowcharting and diagramming application for the Calligra Suite and has a user interface that is similar to Microsoft Visio. It is fully integrated into Calligra and can be embedded into Calligra Words.
It enables you to create network diagrams, organisation charts, flowcharts and more. It can create scriptable stencils using Python, has support for Dia stencils and contains a plugin framework for adding more functionality.
The latest version of Calligra Flow is 2.9.11.
4) yEd (Bonus)
yEd is a free of charge general-purpose diagramming program with a multi-document interface. It can be used to draw many different types of diagrams including flowcharts, network diagrams, UML diagrams, BPMN diagrams, mind maps, organization charts, and Entity Relationship diagrams. yEd also allows the use of custom vector and raster graphics as diagram elements. It can import data in various formats to generate diagrams out of it.
yEd can automatically arrange diagram elements using a variety of graph layout algorithms, including force-based layout, hierarchical layout, orthogonal layout, and tree layout. It can export diagrams to various raster and vector formats, including GIF, JPEG, PNG, EMF, BMP, PDF, EPS, and SVG. It can also export to SWF file format and HTML image maps.
The latest version of yEd is 3.15.
5) Draw.io (Bonus)
Draw.io (formerly Diagramly) is a free web based diagram drawing application for workflow, BPM, org charts, UML, ER, network diagrams. It has a very responsive and easy to use interface with the tools on the left hand column and the drawing on the right hand column.
You don’t need to signup for an account to use Draw.io. You can just visit Draw.io and start working on your diagram or mind map. When finished, save the diagram in an XML file locally on your computer. If you need to edit the diagram again, just visit Draw.io again and open your locally saved file for further editing.