This article will help you quickly compare and evaluate the best flowchart software and other flowchart tools.
“But Ben, I’m a project manager. Why would I use flowchart software?”
Great point. Flowcharts can be great tools for project management—use them to present ideas, jumpstart your thinking, keep your flow of work or communication organized, or map a product from conception to launch. That’s why every PM should have a few graph making tools in their back pocket.
Quickly Compare & Evaluate The 10 Best Flowchart Software
Maybe you’ve got a big project pitch coming up and you need to visualize your ideas in order to share them with your client or team. Have you tried using a tree diagram maker to flesh out your ideas? An online graph maker to pitch resource-in and resource-out estimates?
Some background on flowcharts…
The first “flow process chart” was described by Frank and Lillian Gilbreth in 1921 as a way to present every detail of a project where every part of the process is dependent upon or affected by every other part.
Today, flowcharts are taught even in grade school as a way to sort ideas, brainstorm, visualize data and more.
Flowcharts continue to be a great way to visualize data. And visualizing data helps us comprehend and remember information, identify relationships and patterns, and communicate ideas from one person to another.
In this post, I’ll share with you what flowchart creators I’ve been exposed to and highlight a few of the best. I will also explain what a robust workflow diagrams software or even a simple flow chart creator can do for you. I will also answer some FAQs about flow chart software, tell you what you should look for in flowchart tool and our evaluation criteria and provide a simple online flowchart maker comparison.
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Flowchart Software Comparison Criteria
What are we looking for when we select diagram makers and flowchart tools for review? Here’s a summary of my evaluation criteria:
- User Interface (UI): Is it clean with attractive presentation tools for sharing your diagram with clients and teams? Above all, flowchart software is a visual tool, so the graphical interface is a top consideration.
- Usability: Is the graph maker easy to learn and master? Does the company offer good tech support, user support, tutorials, and training? Additionally, the best flow diagram software should come with a good stash of flow chart template options to get you started.
- Features & Functionality: In flow charting software, I looked for:
- Drag & Drop: Arrange shapes, lines, and grids intuitively with drag and drop. Even better if the flow charting software offers auto-align and auto-snap features to speed up the process.
- Lots of Graphical Elements: Any good process mapping software should supply a large variety of objects to work with. You’ll need standard options like shapes (ovals, diamonds) and connectors. The best apps also let you make your own shapes and add your own images.
- Templates: I mention this as part of overall usability. While not everyone wants templates, in general, a robust template library helps you put the tool to use immediately. The template library should have clear navigation that makes it easy to search for and visually sort through the many options. My advice is to check the template library before getting started to make sure the tool offers the type of templates you’ll need.
- Collaboration: At its most basic, collaboration features include comments. Some of the more advanced flowchart diagramming software includes some form of groupware that lets users edit simultaneously in real-time on the same diagram, which can be really useful for remote teams.
- Exporting and Presentation: Your diagrams should be easy to present, share, and export in a range of formats. Keep in mind that if you’re printing your diagrams in a large format, the software needs to support vector file exports.
- Integrations: Is it easy to connect with other tools? Any pre-built integrations?
- Value for $: How appropriate is the price for the features, capabilities, and use case? Is pricing clear, transparent and flexible in your choice of software for flow chart design?
Overviews Of The Top Flowchart Software
Here’s a brief description of each of the flowchart software solutions that are featured on this top 10 list.
1. Draw.io – Free graph maker online built around Google Drive for creating flowcharts, UML, entity relation, network diagrams and mockups
Draw.io is a free, browser-hosted app for easy, intuitive chart building online. Because it’s online (though it can be used offline too), it’s simple to boot up and get started creating on a moment’s notice. Features include drag and drop functionality, a library of available shapes, plenty of templates, importing/exporting various formats, and more.
Obviously, being free to use, Draw.io ranks highly in our evaluation criteria for value for price. Although it may seem sot of features compared to its for-pay counterparts, Draw.io is great for small teams with smaller budgets or those who might only need flowcharting software on occasion.
Draw.io integrates with many popular apps like Google Drive, Google Docs, Dropbox, Chrome, Confluence Server/Cloud, JIRA Server/Cloud, Github, Gitlab,and OneDrive.
A few cons and critiques to note: The browser version requires Chrome to work; the app could use more shapes and templates to choose from; positioning the shapes could be a bit finicky and the “snap to place” was clumsy.
Draw.io is free to use online.
2. ConceptDraw Diagram – Business graphic documentation solution with 1000s of stencils, 100s of templates, and many export options
Design custom stencils, arrange and format diagrams of any complexity using revamped side panels, format and order position tools for professional-looking flowcharts, create a dynamic chart that can change in visual appearance based on external data source files, and more.
ConceptDraw Diagram’s asset organization is superb, including organizing thousands of images in contextual groups, object formatting and more. Therefore, they scored quite highly in our Features and Functionality evaluation criteria, where graphical elements, template options, and exporting flexibility reign supreme.
Integrations listed include the ability to import and export to the Visio file format. That’s it. In fact, they have a whole section denouncing the need for further integrations. See below for more details.
While ConceptDraw Diagram considers itself;f a “toolbelt” with features like INGYRE technology, intelligent topics, smart inputs and outputs, live Objects, ConceptDraw Solutions, dashboards, and dynamic presentations, they don’t play well with third-party software outside of their own app. This is the biggest con of the program.
ConceptDraw Diagram starts at $199 and has a free 21-day trial.
3. VisualParadigm Online – Professional diagram software including a flow chart maker, UML, mind maps, charts and data analysis
VP Online Diagrams lets you drag and click to build shapes and lines into a flowchart with an alignment guide to snap everything into place. A spreadsheet-like editor tracks and interprets your data into a visual representation and the smart dashboard lets you glean valuable insights from your work.
VP Online Diagrams finds its stride between the evaluation criteria for Features and f=Functionality and that of Usability. Tutorial videos and products will help you get started running and the free version means you can experiment before you commit. They have many different diagramming and planning tools, a variety that will work well for anyone managing different teams with different requirements.
Integrations mentioned include Eclipse, VisualStudioes, and Net Bean. You can output and share diagrams via formats like PNG, JPG, GIF, SVG and PDF.
Some of the visual elements of the diagrams and the app UI could look a little nicer. Diagrams and output docs could use a bit more polish, particularly in color settings. But overall, this is not a major drawback – just something to be considered for anyone with a draw to aesthetics.
VisualParadigm online starts from $4/month and has a free version.
4. Edraw Max – Loads of professionally designed templates, plus easy exports to Visio, PDF, Word, PPT, JPEG and/or Html
The sheer number of templates, icons and shapes make Edraw a stand-out competitor in our evaluation criteria for Features & Functionality. Graphic elements aplenty and a robust templates stockpile are one of the selling features of this tool.
Integrates with the likes of PowerPoint. They also have an unconventional integration offer where OEM partners can integrate Edraw technologies with their own procust and distribute that package to customers as a sublicence. You can also export your drawings to a variety of familiar file formats, such as Visio, PDF, Word, PPT, JPEG, Html, and more.
Some more traditional app integrations would have been a nice touch, although Edraw’s communication with PowerPoint is of great value. Furthermore, some sort of eraser tool would go a long way to making Edraw feel complete.
Edraw Max starts from $8.25/month and has a free 30-day trial.
5. Creately – 50+ types of diagram templates, plus 1000s of examples. Sports plugins for Confluence, JIRA and FogBugz
Thousands of templates and shapes paired with intuitive drawing tools and precision controls make Creately a robust option for creating flowcharts and diagrams for a variety of business purposes. Their flowchart software supports lean and agile methodologies and lets you run process mapping and redesign projects with multiple teams and clients.
Create nails the category of user interface when it comes to our evaluation criteria spectrum. They have a clean, aesthetically pleasing look that is intuitive to use and navigate. The design is straight forward, collaboration and sharing is easy, and the fact that it works both offline and online is an added bonus.
Software integrations include G Suite and Atlassian Confluence. Unfortunately, one downside of the software is the lack of other easily accessible integration options.
The free version of the software allows for only up to 3 collaborators, so you will need a paid plan for larger teams. Furthermore, it can be challenging (or impossible) to organize folders or move drawing between different folders once you have set them up initially. More flexibility in organization would be welcomed.
Creately starts from $5/month and has a free demo as well as a free trial.
6. Microsoft Visio – Popular tool for making flowcharts, diagrams, org charts, floor plans, engineering designs, and more
With Visio flowcharts, multiple team members can work on diagrams at the same time. You can connect your flowcharts and diagrams to real-time data so that changes in underlying data is reflected through applied shape formatting. A web version of the software lets you work on your flowcharts anywhere, in any browser.
In the Usability and Features sections of our evaluation criteria, we stress one thing: Variety! A good flowchart app will let you pick through a library of useful diagrams and chart templates in order to cater to each unique use case. MS Visio does this well, offering charting options fitted to different needs.
Visio doesn’t have a ton of software integrations to tout but, of course, it connects with Microsoft OneDrive. Third-party integrations include: Lucidchart, The VIP Test Modeller, AxisTV, netTerrain Logical, and Digital Enterprise Suite.
MS Visio would benefit from a more seamless integration with apps like PowerPoint, Excel, Google Sheets, and Google Slides. Being able to easily import or drag-and-drop diagrams into common visual presentation tools would take this app to the next level.
Microsoft Visio starts from $6.40/user/month and has a free trial.
7. Smartdraw – Flow chart maker that runs on any device with over 70 quick-start diagram templates from flowcharts to floor plans
Pick between the desktop edition or the online edition, depending on your use case needs. They have quick-start diagram templates for over 70 different diagram types (and over 4,500 templates overall), intelligent automatic formatting, over 34,000 symbols, collaboration online or behind a firewall, draw and print architectural and engineering diagrams to scale, and more.
SmartDraw is a robust diagramming tool that speaks to all of my evaluation criteria for Features & Functionality, particularly the easy of drawing tools, many different templates to choose from, and ease of use so fair that even beginners can jump right in.
Any SmartDraw drawing can be inserted into Word, Excel, PowerPoint as well as Google Docs and Sheets. The app easily integrates with Microsoft, Google, Confluence, Jira, WordPress, Dropbox, Trello, and Box.
The app was a little finicky, some progress saving issues resulted in lost work and the software has a tendency to crash on top of that. I would recommend working in the cloud to instigate auto-saving in order to combat these issues.
Smartdraw starts from $5.95/user/month and has a free trial.
8. Lucidchart – Flow charts and complex technical diagrams you can connect with live or imported data
Over 500 templates and a drag-and-drop shapes library lets you start planning and diagramming easily with Lucidchart—or you can use an automated layout to generate a diagram from preexisting data. Provide clarity to engineers and UX/UI designers, build and share product roadmaps, gather requirements and map dependencies, and more.
In my evaluation criteria section, I mention the importance of easy collaboration in the Features &amp; Function notes. Lucidchart excels here, letting you log in and make changes online before sharing it to your team or workgroup. The stand-out presentation features are another way Lucidchart makes it easy to socialize ideas.
Lucidchart lets you import data from Excel, Zapier, Salesforce, and LinkedIn Sales Navigator. Other integrations include Google Suite of programs, Atlassian, Microsoft, Salesforce, LinkedIn Sales Navigator, Slack, AWS, Jive, Github, Bamboo HR, Quip, Zoho Connect, and many more. Access even more integration options through the Zapier app.
A few cons/critiques: Integration with come Microsoft apps and programs isn’t as smooth as it could be and often requires a bit of a time commitment. Too many images/graphics can make the software chug a bit.
Lucidchart starts at from $4.95/user/month and has a free version as well as free trials of the paid versions.
9. Gliffy – Drag and drop diagram builder with a stack of ready-made templates, plus an HTML5 editor to create larger-scale visuals
Gliffy diagram and flowchart software is a drag-and-drop based diagram building that lets you sketch and share your flowchart ideas with little to no fuss. Templates and themes are available for time-saving starting points and the ability to preserve and track changes will make sure you never lose something important.
Gliffy nails many of the requirements we have in the evaluation criteria for features and functionality: Intuitive interface, including for object importing; shapes conveniently snap to grid; revisions can be rolled back in the event of an error, and it has easy editing and sharing capabilities.
Gliffy software integrates with many other apps, including WordPress, Jira Software and Jira Service Desk, Lucidchart, Atlassian Confluence, Bitium, and Nuclino.
A broader color customization pallet would have helped the charts tell a better data story, particularly in flowcharts with a lot going on visually. Furthermore, the software was a little buggy in the Google Chrome browser. Minor complaints for an otherwise solid tool.
Gliffy starts from $4.99/user/month and has a free 14-day trial.
10. Cacoo – Collaborative diagramming to edit and share flowcharts along with your team, with revision history and comments
Edit, track changes, and collaborate on flowcharts that you design and update with easy sharing links and embed links designed to make collaboration simple and intuitive. Keep team assets organized with shared project folders, save work directly in Cacoo, monitor project status with activity notifications, and more.
Cacoo is quite easy to learn and navigate, grating it high scores in the evaluation criteria sections for usability and UX. It’s both nice to look at and intuitive to figure out, even for those who are not super tech-savvy. The wealth of available integrations makes it a cince to adapt into your regularly established workflow, too.
Integrations listed include Google Drive and Google Docs, Typetalk, AWS, Adobe Creative Cloud, Slack, Dropbox, Visio, and Box. They also offer a “suggestion box” for ideas of what app they should implement integration with in the future.
Screen space can be a minor challenge to navigate, like the clunky zoom-in function, for example. However, this is a minor critique given what else the software has to offer. A few more things you might want to watch out for include the inability to save to PDF formats and the shaky responsiveness of the software on some mobile devices.
Cacoo starts from $5/user/month and has a free 14-day trial.
The Best Flowchart Software Summary
Other Flowchart Maker Options
Here’s a few more that didn’t make the top list. If you need additional suggestions for handy process flow diagram software, check these out.
What Do You Think About These Top Flow Chart Programs?
Have you tried out any flowchart program listed above? The best flow chart creator is out there for you to discover. If you have a favorite flowchart maker, let us know in the comments below (and tell us why you like it).