13 Free Alternatives to Microsoft Visio

Tired of Microsoft Visio's high costs? Try out a free Visio alternative instead.

Free Alternatives To Microsoft Visio Featured

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 $280 for the Standard version and $530 for the Pro version. 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?

1. Creately

Platforms: Windows, Mac, Linux, Browser

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. You’re limited to just 60 shapes, though you’ll still have access to templates.

Free Alternatives To Microsoft Visio Creately

There’s also a three-workspace limit. However, you can easily print your diagram, clear a workspace, and start a new project at any time. You can work on something completely from scratch or use templates to handle any project from engineering to employee onboarding.

2. LucidChart

Platforms: Windows, Mac, Linux

If you are looking for web-based alternatives to Microsoft Visio, LucidChart 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.

Best Free Alternatives To Microsoft Visio Lucid

One of the great features of LucidChart is that it can export or import Microsoft Visio vdx files very easily. One thing missing is the built-in categorization of different shapes for different areas, like networking, engineering, etc. Simply sign up for the free version to get started. Premium plans start at $7.95 and include access to additional features and templates.

3. ASCIIFlow

Platforms: Browser

If you’re looking for simple and easy, ASCIIFlow is a good option. With this online Visio alternative, there’s no login, complicated setup, or endless menu options to learn. It’s extremely basic, but it works.

Best Free Alternatives To Microsoft Visio Ascii

You can forget about having a vast range of shapes at your disposal or using this to map out a complex engineering project, but for quickly conveying 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 (Ctrl + C, Ctrl + Z and so on) to quickly chop and change your diagrams.

free-visio-alternative-asciiflow

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 works well.

4. Cacoo

Platforms: Browser

Cacoo offers one of the more generous free plans outside of open-source options by giving you access to all templates and shapes. However, you’re limited to only six sheets (diagrams). Of course, you can keep changing those six sheets, so this is best for casual users or those who tend to create many similar diagrams. Another limitation is that you can only export to PNG, but Visio imports are supported.

Free Alternatives To Microsoft Visio Cacoo

It’s 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.

5. yEd Graph Editor

Platforms: Windows, Mac, Linux

Quite possibly the most user-friendly diagramming software out there, yED has you covered for everything from flowcharts, to family trees, to more technical diagrams like network infrastructures and process models.

free-visio-alternatives-yed

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.

6. Graphviz

Platforms: Windows, Mac, Linux

For something a little alternative, you can try Graphviz, the near 30-year-old tool in which you create graphs, hierarchies, and so on using a command line utility and the robust DOT language. It takes some getting used to, but once you get the hang of it, you’ll see that it could save you time in the long run.

free-visio-alternatives-graphviz

It has a good amount of formats you can export your graph to and a number of layouts, such as hierarchical, radial, multiscale, and more. It’s particularly useful if you aren’t too fussy about pretty colors but are more concerned about entering huge amounts of data that can get instantly organized and generated.

7. Google Drawings

Platforms: Browser

Usually, you hear about Docs and Sheets, but Google Drawings is a hidden treasure. Drawings works 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.

Best Free Alternatives To Microsoft Visio Google Draw

The clean layout helps you get started quickly. Save your projects to Google Drive or save them anywhere else as a PDF, JPG, PNG, or SVG file. While not the most advanced tool, you’ll find it’s a worthy alternative for the average user.

8. 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. The feature that I love in Draw is the grouping feature.

LibreOffice Draw

You can easily group different objects together, then do different actions on 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.

9. OpenOffice Draw

Platforms: Windows, Mac, Linux

Much like LibreOffice Draw, OpenOffice Draw is an open-source Visio alternative. OpenOffice is also a free Microsoft Office competitor. Everything’s free with no limitations. The tools in Draw let you make quick sketches or intricate workflows. It’s also a great free flowchart maker.

Free Alternatives To Microsoft Visio Openoffice

Smart connectors help bring diagrams together faster, while dimension lines handle linear measurements as you work. OpenOffice Draw uses XML for a more widely accepted format, so you can use your diagrams in any other tools that support XML.

10. Dia

Platforms: Windows, Mac, Linux

Dia

Dia is an open-source program very similar to Microsoft Visio, with largely the same feature set. You can use Dia to create UML diagrams, flowcharts, network processes and architectures, entity relationship diagrams, etc. The default file format for any file created with Dia is .dia, but there are plenty of file formats you can export your diagram to, including Microsoft Visio’s .vdx format.

11. Diagrams.net

Platforms: Browser

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 Draw.io, 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.

free-visio-alternatives-draw-io

If you connect Draw.io 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.

12. Pencil Project

Platforms: Windows, Mac, Linux

free-visio-alternatives-pencil-project

Pencil Project is an open-source alternative to Microsoft Visio which is actively maintained by the development community. Their goal for Pencil Project is to make diagramming 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.

13. Visual Paradigm Online

Platforms: Browser

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 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.

Free Alternatives To Microsoft Visio Visual Paradigm Online

If you need more templates, icons, charts, diagrams, and effects, you’ll want to upgrade to a premium plan, which starts at $4/user/month. However, free is likely more than enough to serve as a decent Visio alternative.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Will I be able to import Visio files to free Visio alternatives?

Many of these Visio alternatives do support Visio files, so if you’re making the switch from Visio, make sure the free solution does support importing your existing files so that you don’t lose anything.

Alternatively, you can use the free Microsoft Visio Viewer. You can’t edit any diagrams, but you are able to view and comment on them (if someone shares a file with you).

2. Will I get all the same features as Visio?

Microsoft Visio is an advanced diagramming tool. Most free alternatives don’t offer quite as robust of a feature set, though some of these solutions are surprisingly close. You’ll usually find a few features missing. For free alternatives with a premium option as well, the premium features may include what you’re missing, such as extra templates, collaboration support, project organization, etc.

For most users, once you learn the ins and outs of free Visio alternatives, you’ll find you can do most of the same things without spending money on licensing fees.

3. Are free alternatives updated often?

That depends solely on the developer. However, all the options on this list are actively supported by their developers. If you don’t want to worry about having to install updates yourself, opt for a browser tool instead so that you always have the latest version.

4. Do I need to upgrade to the premium versions?

As you likely noticed, some of the alternatives do have premium plans available. You don’t have to upgrade to use the tool. There aren’t any time limits in the free versions. You only need to upgrade if you want to use premium features, which vary based on the tool itself. However, you can create complex diagrams for free with any of the above alternatives.

Looking for other advanced software? See our list of the best Adobe Indesign alternatives. Or how about a list of the best alternatives to Google Maps?

Images: Creately Press Kit

Crystal Crowder
Crystal Crowder

Crystal Crowder has spent over 15 years working in the tech industry, first as an IT technician and then as a writer. She works to help teach others how to get the most from their devices, systems, and apps. She stays on top of the latest trends and is always finding solutions to common tech problems.

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