While Microsoft Visio is a powerful piece of diagramming software, its price point is well beyond what the average home user is willing to spend at $180 per year. Even the online version starts at $5/month. But why pay at all when there are free and viable alternatives to Microsoft Visio available to you?
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1. Best Overall Microsoft Visio Alternative: LucidChart
If you are looking for web-based alternatives to Microsoft Visio,is the perfect choice. It provides a drag-and-drop web interface to draw any kind of diagram. LucidChart gives you an option to build your diagrams in collaboration with your team. Multiple people will be able to work with the same diagram, making it the perfect choice for small teams.
One of the great features of LucidChart is that it can export or import Microsoft Visio VDX files very easily. There are even Visual Activities to create guided tutorials and plans for users. Yet, the app is missing built-in categorization of different shapes for different areas, like networking, engineering, etc.
Premium plans start at $7.95 and include access to additional features and templates. The free version is limited to 3 editable documents, but you can always delete everything and start a new project to keep reusing documents. Premium accounts get access to numerous professional templates. The free version gives you a generous sampling of 100 templates. Overall, it’s the closest you’ll get to Visio’s features, even in the free version.
Tip: check out our guide on how to get started with Microsoft Lists.
2. Best for Small Projects: Creately
Platforms: Windows, Mac, Linux, Web
Creately is a strong Visio competitor with its premium versions. However, the free version of Creately is ideal for casual users who only need to create the occasional diagram. The utility allows you to easily create mind maps, visual notes, and workflows.
The free version is best for individual users versus teams, though real-time collaboration in workspaces is available. You are limited to 50 diagram types, three canvases (workspaces), and limited storage. (An actual amount isn’t listed on the site.) However, you can easily print your diagram, clear a workspace, and start a new project at any time.
Work on something from scratch or use templates to handle any project from engineering to employee onboarding. Creately is intuitive, easy to set up, and the free version is ample for small projects.
3. Best Simple Visio Alternative: ASCIIFlow
If you’re looking for simple and easy, ASCIIFlow is a good option. With this free online Microsoft Visio alternative, there’s no login, complicated setup, or endless menu options to learn. It’s extremely basic, but it works.
You can forget about having a vast range of shapes at your disposal or using this to map out a complex engineering project. Still, to quickly convey ideas in diagram form, this is about as efficient as you can get. The ASCII format is clear, and you can use familiar Windows shortcuts to quickly chop and change your diagrams.
While a sync to Google Drive option is available in the Legacy Infinity version, it doesn’t appear to work anymore. However, the option to copy your drawing to your clipboard to paste into Notepad or another text editor is still available.
4. Best for Creating Diagrams from Scratch: Cacoo
Cacoo offers one of the more generous free plans outside of open-source options, by giving you access to all kinds of templates and shapes. The platform also has such an easy-to-use interface, that you’ll have no trouble creating complex diagrams from scratch.
The free version includes six sheets (diagrams). Another limitation is that you can only export to PNG, but Visio imports are supported. Real-time collaboration is supported in the free version, so it works well for a small team.
Cacoo is designed for team collaboration, but you can easily use it as an individual, too. And, if you decide to upgrade, pricing is on par with the subscription version of Visio at $5/month, and all plans have a free trial with no credit card required.
Tip: looking for a project management tool? Check the best options here.
5. Best for Individual Users: yEd Graph Editor
Platforms: Windows, Mac, Linux, Web
Quite possibly the most user-friendly diagramming software out there, yED has you covered for everything from flowcharts and family trees, to more technical diagrams, like network infrastructures and process models. It’s designed mainly for individual users, though you can save and share diagrams with others.
You can set your chart to automatically lay itself out to suit whatever kind of data you’re entering. It has a decent repository of images for various types of charts and also gives you the option to import images from elsewhere. When you’re done, you can save your chart as a JPEG, XML, or HTML, among other formats, making it easy to upload to websites or send to clients.
While it used to only be available for desktop use, you can now try yEd Live, the Web version, which works the same and is free to use. There’s even ChatGPT integration. The only downside is that there aren’t any team collaboration tools.
6. Best for Google Users: Google Drawings
Usually, you hear about Docs and Sheets, but Google Drawings is a hidden treasure. Drawings work as a great free alternative to Visio, much like Docs serves as an alternative to Word. An array of shapes, lines, and callouts work well for diagramming and creating mind maps and flowcharts. You can even use it to create logos.
The clean layout helps you get started quickly. Save your projects to Google Drive or anywhere else as PDF, JPG, PNG, or SVG files.
Even if a premium version exists, you don’t need it. You still get all the same features with the free version. Plus, you can easily set up your diagrams for others to view and/or edit. Of course, it’s not an advanced diagramming tool, so it’s missing many handy templates other Microsoft Visio alternatives have.
7. Best Open Source Desktop Alternative: LibreOffice Draw
Platforms: Windows, Mac, Linux
LibreOffice Draw is the closest and biggest open-source competitor of Microsoft Visio. Draw is an all-purpose drawing, diagramming, and charting tool. It’s similar to Google Drawings but more feature-rich. Plus, it has a desktop client, so you don’t need an Internet connection to use it. You can take advantage of these LibreOffice Draw keyboard shortcuts for increased productivity.
The feature that we love in Draw is the grouping feature. You can easily group different objects together, then perform different actions in the group, like moving the group, connecting with other groups, etc. In addition to other formats (XML format is the default), you can also export your diagrams as SWF Flash files.
As an extra treat, here’s a package of shapes for Draw that are similar to those you find in Visio, making this one of the more popular alternatives to Microsoft Visio. The only downsides to Draw are that there is no online version, and you have to download the entire LibreOffice suite to use it.
Tip: learn how to change the color of the text or the background in LibreOffice.
8. Best Standalone Desktop Alternative: OpenOffice Draw
Platforms: Windows, Mac, Linux
Much like LibreOffice Draw, OpenOffice Draw is an open-source Visio alternative. But you don’t have to download the entire OpenOffice suite to use Draw. This makes it an attractive alternative to LibreOffice Draw. OpenOffice is also a free Microsoft Office competitor, with no limitations. The tools in Draw let you make quick sketches or intricate workflows. It’s also a great free flowchart maker.
Smart connectors help bring diagrams together faster, while dimension lines handle linear measurements as you work. OpenOffice Draw uses XML, so you can import your diagrams in any other tool that supports XML.
Of course, OpenOffice Draw is a desktop-only app, so you can’t collaborate with others online or use it online. You’ll have to share your diagrams by uploading them to cloud-storage services, such as Google Drive, instead.
9. Best for Advanced Custom Diagramming: Diagrams.net
Diagrams.net, formerly known as Draw.io, has a very responsive and accessible interface, with the tools in the column on the left and the drawing in the column on the right. You don’t need to sign up for an account to use the service, and from the moment you’re on the site, you’re given the option to save your work to cloud services, like Google Drive and OneDrive or your hard drive.
You’ll find no shortage of shapes to use, and they’re well-categorized. If you want something custom, try the Scratchpad option.
If you connect Diagrams.net to your Google account, it has functional real-time collaboration, letting you work on projects simultaneously with others. It’s not a complex tool, so while it’s accessible, it doesn’t offer the depth of features of some other diagramming software. It’s one of the simpler alternatives to Microsoft Visio, yet ideal for more basic projects.
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10. Best for Prototyping: Pencil Project
Platforms: Windows, Mac, Linux
Pencil Project is an open-source, free Microsoft Visio alternative that is actively maintained by the development community. Their goal for the Pencil Project is to make diagramming and prototyping as easy as possible and usable for everyone, from a newbie to an expert.
It’s regularly updated with new stencils, templates, and other features, lets you export your work to multiple formats, and has integration with OpenClipart.org, letting you instantly search the Web for images to make your projects pop.
There isn’t a Web version, and it’s not a collaborative tool. It’s best for individual users versus teams or businesses.
11. Best for Creating More Than Diagrams: Visual Paradigm Online
Visual Paradigm Online is one of the more well-rounded free alternatives to Microsoft Visio. It’s not just for creating diagrams and charts, but infographics, illustrations, photo collages, social media posts, brochures, and more. While the free plan is limited, you do still have access to a variety of templates in every category, free stock images, a selection of icons and charts, and export to PDF, JPG, and PNG.
For users who want an all-in-one tool, it’s perfect. But, those looking just for a strict Visio alternative may not like all the extras. The dashboard is cluttered, which makes it hard to find things, but once you select a template to get started, it’s a much cleaner experience.
If you need more templates, icons, charts, diagrams, and effects, you’ll want to upgrade to a premium plan, which starts at $4 per month. However, the free version is likely more than enough to serve as a decent Visio alternative.
Tip: learn how to create a mind map using Word, PowerPoint, or Excel.
12. Best for Team Management: ClickUp
ClickUp is mainly a team and project management tool, but it comes with a whiteboard feature that lets you create flowcharts, mind maps, workflows, and much more. For teams that don’t want to deal with a bunch of separate tools, ClickUp is ideal as a Microsoft Visio alternative and even a Microsoft Teams alternative.
The Web-based platform includes tasks, whiteboards, dashboards, chat, goal setting, document creation/sharing, and more. You can easily customize your view to see just the features you want. Templates also make quick work of almost any task you want to accomplish.
The highly generous free plan gives you unlimited tasks and plan members, but limits your storage, views (whiteboard is included though), and advanced reporting/tracking features. If you just want diagramming features, ClickUp may be too much, but for team management and diagramming together, it’s perfect.
13. Best for Whiteboarding: Miro
Platforms: Web, iOS, Android, macOS, Windows
Miro is the digital whiteboard you didn’t know you needed. But, once you start using it, you’ll wonder how you lived without it. All the tools you need for brainstorming, diagramming, project planning, mind mapping, and even interactive, visual meetings are at your fingertips.
Workspaces are clean and a pleasure to use. It looks almost too simple at first, but scrolling through numerous templates proves Miro is a powerhouse. You can quickly create flowcharts, customer journeys, mind maps, wireframes, and so much more. The free version even gives you access to over 2,500 templates.
Miro features a single workspace with three editable boards and five Talktracks (interactive video walkthroughs) for free. It’d be nice to have access to custom templates and the board version history, but those features are only for premium users.
14. Best for Mind Maps: Coggle
While every tool on this list lets you create mind maps, Coggle specializes in mind maps and flow charts. You don’t have a sidebar with numerous shapes and lines to choose from. Instead, right-click any shape or line to change the color, type, and even add comments. Coggle’s collaborative, too.
It’s best to stick to flowcharts and mind maps, as this platform doesn’t have the tools for most other types of diagrams. But simply clicking the “+” button lets you expand your maps and charts instantly. You can even import your own images. You won’t see a templates section, but just visit the Gallery to view public maps and use them as templates.
The major downside of Coggle is that the site only lets you sign up with a Google, Microsoft, or Apple account. If you prefer keeping accounts separate in the event of a breach, this may be a deal breaker. Also, in the free version, you only get three private diagrams, but unlimited public diagrams and even the full change history.
FYI: learn how to use Windows 11 without a Microsoft account.
Expanding Your Horizons
While Microsoft’s tools might be more well-known, they’re not your only options. In fact, you’ll often find alternatives that are cheaper or even completely free, much like the above alternatives to Microsoft Visio. If you’re looking for more Microsoft app substitutes, try these Project alternatives, PowerPoint alternatives, and SharePoint alternatives.
Image credit: Unsplash. All screenshots by Crystal Crowder.
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