Microsoft Visio is the most popular tool when it comes to Visual Modelling. Visio has a huge collection of templates, shapes, layouts, and designs which makes it the go-to tool for most people who are looking for a solid diagramming tool.
But the problem with Microsoft Visio is the pricing. It costs a whopping $280 for Standard version or $5 per month per user if you are looking to purchase in bulk for your team. Both of these pricing options are a bit high for most users. Unless you are working in a big MNC, then chances are that Visio is not an attractive option.
But, here’s the good news. Visio is not the only tool in the market. There are tons of Free Alternatives to Microsoft Visio and we have taken the time to the best of them here. Read ahead see if one of them matches your requirements.
1. Google Drawings
We are going to start the list with Google Drawings. Google has tons of free tools such as Google Sheets, Google Docs, etc and Google Drawings is one of their offerings.
Like most Google tools, Google Drawings in 100% free to use without any restrictions and is relatively simple when compared to the other tools in this list. The simple interface makes this the best fit for anyone who is starting out in diagramming or visual modeling.
The best thing about this tool is that unlike the free versions of other (paid) services, Google Drawings does not limit the shapes and templates you can use and it also offers loads of features and options.
There are multiple options such as Relationship diagrams, Timeline diagrams, Process diagrams, Cycle diagrams, etc. The color schemes are completely customizable. Given the fact that Google documents can be easily shared, you can easily collaborate with your team on Google Drawings.
Why Google Drawings
- 100% Free of cost
- Simple UI and ease of use
- Huge collection of templates
- Customizable colors and areas
- Cloud-based and hence your work gets saved automatically
Lucidchart is a solid Visio alternative that comes with a ton of robust pre-made templates from Floor Plans to Android Device Mockups. Licidchart boasts of being used by the teams at Cisco, Harvard University, Accenture, and more.
Please note that Lucidchart is a completely online tool and is extremely easy to use. You can easily add different shapes, containers, and smart connectors to make visually appealing designs. The best part about this tool is that the shapes and containers change as per the type of diagram. There are also lots of shapes and layering options to choose from.
The free version of Lucidchart only allows three active documents per user. There is also a limitation in the shapes and templates you can use as a free user. This is perfect for anyone who is looking to use this tool for personal use.
But if the free plan is not enough for you, you can always upgrade to a paid plan. The basic paid plan of Lucidchart costs $4 per month and it gives you the freedom to use unlimited shapes and documents. If you want to take it even further, the Pro user plan is priced at $10 per month and it has an option to import or export Visio files. If you have a small team then the Pro plan for teams is what you are after and it will set you back $20 per month.
- Easy to learn and use
- Huge collection of templates and shapes to choose from
- Drag and drop interface
Draw.io is one of the best diagramming tools out there at the moment. They have a delightful collection of templates such as Standard charts, Flowcharts, Entity-relationship diagrams, UML diagrams, and much more.
The one thing that I absolutely love about this tool is the fact that you don’t need an account or even register to use this awesome online tool. Simply open the site > select the template you like to start with and start working right away. Draw.io also lets you connect to online storage services such as Google Drive, Dropbox, OneDrive or even Github to export your templates. There is an option to export your projects in PNG, SVG, PDF, XML, and a few other file formats. And it also has support for embedded URLs.
When I started using Draw.io it became quite clear that the tool was built with “ease of use” in mind. When you are working on a drawing, you can simply click on an element to get all the related formatting options such as font, color, style in a clean menu format which is displayed on the right.
Considering the tool is free, the collection of shapes and objects are pretty good and should be sufficient for most users.
- No registration required.
- Simple and Minimal UI
- Decent collection of shapes and objects
- Intuitive Menu options
- Has the option to search for shapes
XMind is the perfect tool for the people who’s diagrams involve more of mapping. The thing about XMind is that you can create an entire visually stunning mind map by simply using keystrokes. That’s right.
Unlike a few other tools which we have seen so far, this is an offline drawing tool that comes with neat keyboard shortcuts to create your diagram in a matter of minutes.
There are a vast collection of elements and shapes – all available with a simple button click. There are also multiple formatting options like font, structure, color, etc.
XMind is an open-source tool and is free to use. The only downside of this tool is that the tool slaps the XMind watermark on the diagrams you create with it. And to remove the watermark, you need to shell out $27.99 (for six months) and subscribe to the Zen version.
- Handy keyboard shortcuts
- Easily accessible menu options
- Best choice to create mappings
- Good collection of elements and shapes
Creately is another powerful online diagramming tool that comes with a vast collection of templates and a simple interface. Unlike the tools which we have seen so farm, Creately is available across multiple platforms. Unlike most other tools on this market, this tool comes with a variety of ‘fun’ templates that you can use to make banners for various events and school projects.
Creately has neat little tricks under its sleeve that makes creating diagrams a lot faster. For example, there’s a tiny contextual toolbar that shows up as soon as you select an object. Added to that, there are tools like quick connectors, text box creation, external links, etc, which make the process a whole lot better in every way.
Collaboration is also ridiculously easy – all you have to do is simply the email IDs of the people you want to work with and you are golden. Note that the free version will only let you add up to three collaborators.
Just like other freemium diagramming tools, Creately limits some of the features like Visio files import and SVG export in the free plan. The personal plan starts at $5 per month and goes up to as much as $125 for team plans.
- Easily collaboration
- One-click contextual menu
- Huge templates collection
- Production ready color palettes
- Option to import images from the web
6. Pencil Project
The best thing about the Pencil Project is that it’s free and is available offline as desktop software. Pencil is a open-source project and it comes with a pretty clean interface with all the necessary tools. It allows you to create mockups for almost everything — mobiles, web pages, and even conventional flowcharts and diagrams.
The controls are very intuitive and easy to use. Simply double-click to rotate the elements and single-click to resize them. When compared to the other tools in this list, the icons may not be as sharp or colorful. But hey, it is a completely free diagramming tool!
In the templates department, the options are limited to creating wireframes, GUI, and flowcharts. There are no fancy templates for infographics, family tree or network diagram. Export options include SVG, ODT, PDF, PNG or standard web page.
Why Pencil Project
- Available offline as desktop software
- Simple and clean UI
- Mobile GUI elements for smartphone mockups
7. yED Graph Editor
yEd Graph Editor may not look like an attractive Visio alternative, but it has the right tools and elements to make your work seamless and easy.
It has the added advantage of being a desktop software but you won’t find many ready-made templates. In my experience, despite the simplicity, this is one of the best free tools for creating charts, flowcharts, and diagrams of computer networks. Working on this tool is relatively easy – simply drag and drop the elements.
As for the export options, yEd allows you to save your diagrams in PDF, JPEG, PNG, SWF, and HTML formats.
Why yEd Graph Editor
- Simple no-nonsense UI
- Perfect for flowcharts and network diagrams
- Plenty of shapes, edge types, entity relation elements, and more.
Gliffy is another great alternative to Microsoft Visio and it is an online tool. With Gliff, you have three account options to choose from – Basic (Standard), Single, and Team account. The ‘Basic’ version is free to use whereas the Single and Team account are paid. And what is the catch with the free version? All your diagrams are marked as public. So, if you do not have any sensitive information on your diagrams and charts, you can give this a shot.
Gliffy comes with a variety of shapes and elements just like other diagramming tools in this list. The tool follows the usual method of drag and drop. And also the interface is neat with options to embed notes and URLs.
With a free account, there is a limit to use few of their business shapes (UML Class, UML Sequence, etc.). For creating and downloading unlimited diagrams, you need to pay $7.99 per month for a single user plan. And for teams, it comes to $4.99 per user.
- Simple and clean UI
- Option to change background-color
- Shared URL with collaborators
Free Visio Alternatives
I hope this list of free Microsoft Visio Alternatives helped you in finding the right tool for your work. Did we miss any of your favorite tools? Do let us know in the comments below!