Visio is a Microsoft application for drawing diagrams and visually representing information and data. You can choose from any of the available templates to create diagrams, flow charts, timelines, and other types of visual data representations.
You can customize your diagrams and charts with images, text, shapes, and add effects or backgrounds.
While Visio is a great tool, it is not free. While you can view and comment on diagrams for free, there is no way to create them for free; you will have to pay a recurring monthly fee or an expensive one-time fee upfront to use Visio.
If you’ve been looking for a free Visio alternative, you’ve come to the right place. Today, I will be showing you the 12 best Visio alternatives that are entirely free to use or which offer a free plan as well.
Let’s get into it.
Diagrams.net, formerly known as Draw.io, is a totally free alternative to Microsoft Visio for creating diagrams, flowcharts, and more.
One of the best things about Diagrams.net is that you don’t even have to create an account to start using it, unlike Visio. Just visit the web app and start creating diagrams; there is no need to give away your personal information.
Don’t worry, you can back up the diagrams you create to your device or to your external cloud storage account so you don’t lose your work.
Diagrams.net gives you the option of saving diagrams automatically to either:
- Google Drive
- Or your own device storage
You can also import files from those same sources.
When you finish creating a diagram, you can export it in a number of formats, such as JPEG, SVG, PDF, HTML, PNG, and more.
I found the Diagrams.net editor pretty simple and easy to use; it was actually pretty fun, too. You can choose between a number of backgrounds, including a blank background, a grid background, and an image background.
On the left-hand side of the screen, you will see the elements you can use. There is a wide range of general elements, advanced elements, flowchart elements, and arrows you can drag and drop into the editing area.
You can resize the elements or add text. When you add text, you can change the font, background color of the text area, size, alignment, and a lot more.
There’s a lot more you can do with Diagrams.net; you just need to play around a little and discover what it has to offer.
In addition to the web app, there is a desktop app you can download to your computer. It offers more privacy and offline access.
Here are some additional features and integrations Diagrams.net has to offer:
- Use your diagrams in your Microsoft PowerPoint presentations
- Integrate with Google Workspace, including Google Drive, Google Docs, Google Sheets, and Google Slides
- Use as a whiteboard for Confluence
Apache OpenOffice is one of the best free alternatives to Microsoft Office, and OpenOffice Draw is one of the best free alternatives to Microsoft Visio. OpenOffice, including its Draw tool, is open source, unlike Visio.
That means you can use it as long as you want, distribute copies, edit the source code, and do whatever you want with the software.
With OpenOffice Draw, you can create diagrams, flowcharts, timelines, and a lot more. There is a wide range of formatting and style options available, and you can manipulate, render, or rearrange objects in your editing screen.
There is a built-in gallery with clip art you can add to your diagrams, but you can also upload your own images or art and add them as well.
When exporting your diagrams, they will be saved in an XML-based OpenDocument format, which means you can use them in any application that supports the OpenDocument format. You can also save a flash version of your document.
The downside of OpenOffice Draw is that you need to download the software to your computer and use the desktop version; there is no online or web version to speak of.
LibreOffice Draw is another excellent alternative to Microsoft Visio that is entirely free to use. Not only is it free, but it is open source, unlike Visio, meaning you can distribute copies, analyze and edit the source code, and get help from the community of developers.
LibreOffice Draw has a number of cool features that make creating diagrams, flow charts, company charts, and other visual representations easy, even if you do not have a lot of experience with graphic design or creating diagrams.
For example, it will automatically calculate linear dimensions so the diagrams you create follow straight lines.
In addition, you can create glue points so that when you create future diagrams, the elements you add will automatically be positioned based on those glue points.
A possible downside of LibreOffice is that you have to download the software to your device, as there is no web app.
ASCIIFlow is another excellent alternative to Visio. Unlike Visio, it is entirely free to use, and you don’t even need to register for an account to use the web app!
Just open the web app and start drawing diagrams.
I will mention that ASCIIFlow is for more simplified diagrams with fewer shapes and features. However, it is free to use, and it is one of the best ways to create quick and simple diagrams or flowcharts.
You can add boxes, lines, arrows, text, and free-form shapes to the screen. You can move and change the sizes of the boxes or add text inside the boxes.
I found it incredibly simple and easy to use. Its simplicity means that it won’t be a good option for users with advanced needs, but it does allow you to quickly visualize a flow chart or create a simple tree diagram within minutes.
You can copy your drawing or diagram to your clipboard and then paste it into a text editor and save it there.
Lucidchart is a good alternative to Visio that has a totally free plan as well. The plan is forever free, but it does have some limitations (more on that later).
Using Lucidchart, you can map data flows, create business process maps, and create any other type of diagram or flowchart you need.
One of the benefits of Lucidchart is that it uses a cloud-based interface. That means you can access the editor and create and edit charts and diagrams from any browser or device.
So, what does the free plan of Lucidchart let you do and what are the limitations?
The first thing to note is that on the free plan, you can only work on three documents at a time; you can’t be working on more than three editable documents at once. You can add up to 60 elements to each document.
Even on the free plan, you get access to over 100 templates for your diagrams and flows. These templates allow you to create different diagram types for a variety of purposes, quickly.
You also get to use basic integrations, including Slack, Dropbox, Microsoft OneDrive, Microsoft Teams, Google Drive, Google Docs, Gmail, Google Sheets, Quip, and many others.
In addition, the free plan allows for basic collaboration capabilities, including the ability to follow a collaborator on a diagram, share a link to your diagram to anyone, invite collaborators via email, print and publish your diagrams, and a lot more.
In general, Lucidchart involves less of a learning curve than Visio, making it perfect for beginners as well as more advanced users.
Related: Best Lucidchart Alternatives
Visual Paradigm Online is a suite of web-based apps you can use to create diagrams, charts, infographics, and more.
Unlike Visio, it has an entirely free version. The free version of the Visual Paradigm Online Diagram Creator is pretty good; it includes 200 diagram templates, so you can create diagrams quickly for any purpose.
You can export your diagrams as JPG, PNG, or PDF files, but you can only export them as normal resolution images on the free plan. In addition to exporting them in those formats, you can also embed your files in Microsoft documents or presentations.
One of the things that makes Visual Paradigm Online such a great free alternative to Visio is that it provides a free online cloud repository for your work. You can store the diagrams you or your team members create in the cloud.
Diagrams stored in the cloud will update in real time and be synced across devices as changes are made. You can work with team members on a diagram, leave comments for team members to review, and revise the work your team members have done.
You don’t have to be a graphic designer to use Visual Paradigm Online. The linear alignment tool will ensure all of your diagrams are in a straight line, and you can create diagrams easily using drag and drop.
In addition to diagrams, you can create charts, forms, posters, infographics, and a lot more for free.
Not only does Visual Paradigm Online offer a free plan, but they make ALL of their features free for educators and educational institutions. You can join the Academic Partner Program to enjoy free access to the entire Visual Paradigm Online platform if you are using it for educational purposes.
yEd, by yWorks, is a totally free alternative to Visio for creating all types of diagrams. It has been around for a long time, and it has been downloaded hundreds of thousands of times.
It’s a powerful yet simple-to-use editor for creating diagrams, flow charts, UML diagrams, family trees, network diagrams, and a lot more. Despite being free, it has very advanced capabilities, so you can use it regardless of whether you are an individual, educator, businessperson, or anyone else who needs to create diagrams.
One of the reasons yEd is such a great Visio alternative is that it has a huge selection of icons, elements, clip art, shapes, and other objects you can quickly add to diagrams or flowcharts. Of course, you can also create and upload your own shapes and images.
The drag and drop editor makes yEd incredibly easy to use. You can also import data from Excel and other sources to quickly turn that data into diagrams.
There is a wide range of export format options available as well, including HTML, so you can easily export your diagrams for insertion into Microsoft documents, your own website, or other places.
yEd is free, even for commercial use! There are zero restrictions on using yEd for any purpose.
It is available for Windows, Mac, and Linux. The downside is that there is no online web editor, so you will need to download the software to your desktop to use it.
Despite being free, there are a lot of resources to help you get started, including video tutorials, a user’s manual, and a support forum where you can ask questions and get help from the community.
I’m actually surprised more people do not know about Google Drawings. It’s an excellent free alternative to Visio, and as long as you have a Gmail account, you can use it without creating any additional accounts.
There are dozens of shapes, arrows, call-outs, and more you can add to your drawing. You can also add a text box and customize the text by changing the font, size, alignment, etc.
Basically, it’s like writing text in Google Docs, but in a drawing.
You can drag and drop shapes or resize them, and you can do the same for text boxes. You can add text inside shapes, for example.
You are free to change the colors of your shapes or text, as well as the border colors.
If you are used to using Google Docs, Google Sheets, or Google Slides, you will find Google Drawings incredibly easy to work with. It has the same general layout as Google Docs and includes similar editing options.
Once you create a diagram or flowchart, you can download it as a PDF, PNG, JPEG, or SVG file. You can also simply keep it in your online Google account.
All of your drawings will automatically be saved to the cloud for you to access later, from any device, with your Google account.
You can make the document available offline as well. If you do that, you will be able to continue editing while offline, and changes made offline will be synced and saved once you get your internet connection back.
Google Drawings is also perfect for collaboration. Like all Google documents, you have a multitude of sharing options.
You can get a link to the document by clicking on the blue Share button in the top right corner of the screen. You can then choose to let anyone with the link access the document, or only people you specifically add.
Even if you let everyone with the link access the document, you can choose between three levels of access: viewer, editor, and commenter.
In other words, you can let people who have the link view the document only, add comments, or edit it.
All in all, Google Drawings is a great alternative to Visio for simple flowcharts and diagrams.
Dia is entirely free, unlike Visio.
I will be honest and say that the interface feels a bit outdated. Nevertheless, it is one of the few good free Visio desktop alternatives for older Windows versions, including Windows NT, Windows 98, Windows ME, and Windows 2000.
That’s if you download the older versions. The latest versions work on Windows XP to Windows 8.1.
In addition, Dia is available on Mac and Linux devices.
Despite the somewhat outdated user interface, Dia works. It has a wide selection of shapes, icons, and arrows you can add to create diagrams and charts.
There is no web version, so you will need to download the software to your device.
Again, Dia is free. However, to keep the project going, you can donate via PayPal or Bitcoin.
10. Pencil Project
Pencil Project is a free Visio alternative. Unlike Visio, it is open source, and it supports the creation of diagrams.
There is a wide selection of shapes and arrows available in Pencil Project. In addition, since the project is open source and community-driven, there are a lot of third-party shape collections on the internet that you can import into Pencil Project and use in your diagrams.
You can check the Pencil Project download archive to find some of these collections. Others can be found in various corners of the internet through a quick Google search.
In addition to all that, I liked that Pencil Project has a browser extension for finding clip art from OpenClipart.org. OpenClipart.org is a database of free clip art in the public domain that you can use for any purpose, including commercial use.
Using the browser extension, simply search for free clip art using a keyword or search phrase.
Various flowchart shapes are available as well, making creating flowcharts a breeze. Since Pencil Project introduced wire connectors to connect shapes, creating diagrams with PP is easy.
Once you create a diagram or drawing, you can export it in a variety of formats, including PNG, ODT, SVG, PDF, and more.
A cool feature of Pencil Project is the inter-page linking feature. You can link from an element to another page in the same document.
When you export the document into a web form, those links will automatically be converted into standard HTML links, so you can use them on your website.
Unlike Visio, Graphviz is not only free but open source as well. It’s a great tool for creating diagrams and visualizing information, even if it involves a bit of a learning curve at first.
There are many shapes available, as well as a wide selection of arrows you can use.
I would recommend Graphviz if you have some more technical experience or are prepared to go through a bit of a learning curve. If you want something quick, simple, and easy, there are other Visio alternatives for that.
Creately is the final Visio alternative on our list. Unlike Visio, it offers a free (although somewhat limited) plan.
Using the free plan, you can create up to three private workspaces. You can use up to sixty different elements in each workplace/diagram, including shapes, icons, lines, arrows, images, and a lot more.
The free plan does allow for collaboration! As long as the main creator of the document is online, five other collaborators can access the document as well.
Support is not available on the free plan. However, you do get access to the community support forum, where you can ask questions and get help from other users.
If you have only basic needs or only need to create diagrams once in a while, Creately is an excellent alternative to Visio. On the other hand, if you need to create a lot of diagrams, or if you need more element and icon variety, consider using one of the other Visio alternatives on this list.
There are many great Visio alternatives that are free, including many that have not made it to this list. My top recommendation would be Diagrams.net or Draw.io.
The benefit of Diagrams.net is that it does not require you to register for an account to use the web app. In addition, it has both a web and a desktop app, and it also provides a nice selection of integrations, including for the importing and exporting of documents and data.
Diagrams.net is also very intuitive and easy to use, so you won’t have to worry about a learning curve.
Benjamin Levin is a digital marketing professional with 4+ years of experience with inbound and outbound marketing. He helps small businesses reach their content creation, social media marketing, email marketing, and paid advertising goals. His hobbies include reading and traveling.