Flowchart diagrams might not be one of the skill requirements for a DPM job. However, knowing how to diagram and use flowchart software will help you do your job better. But how?
One of the ways we use flowcharts is to represent process flows. As a PM, you must understand how to sequentially navigate your team’s operation during a project. Therefore, you will have questions along the way, like who do you contact after this team is done? What happens if the team is delayed? or when do we trigger the disaster recovery plan?
Although some of those questions can be answered with the project plan, it is not the same for the rest. Using a flowchart to document the decision-making situations throughout your project will make you react faster. In addition, having this flowchart as part of your documentation will help you next time you take on a similar project.
So, in the spirit of selfishness, let’s go through some tools to support your flowchart creation and make you a rockstar!
What are we looking for when we select flowchart software? Here’s a summary of the criteria I used to evaluate the options I picked.
- User Interface (UI): Is it clean with attractive presentation tools for sharing your flowchart diagram with clients and teams? Above all, flowchart software is a visual tool, so the graphical interface is a top consideration.
- Usability: Is the flowchart software easy to learn and master? Does the company offer good tech support, templates, tutorials, and training? It should feel equally easy to build an org chart, a UML diagram, and a complex flowchart.
- Integrations: Here, I look at how the software expands its functionality through third-party software. These can include pre-built integrations, one’s you have to connect through an external vendor like Zapier, and custom integrations using an API.
- Pricing: How is the pricing structure? I look at tiers, plans, starting prices, free trials, and free versions of the software. I find this information an important factor in your decision.
Ideally, we want software that is good for more than one type of diagram. Therefore, these are some of the features that should be included.
- Drag & Drop: Arrange shapes, lines, and grids intuitively with drag and drop. Even better if the flowcharting 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 feature as part of overall usability. While not everyone wants templates, in general, a robust template library helps you put the tool to immediate use. 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 flow 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.
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Whimsical is a flowchart software that lets you create flowcharts without the learning curve of a traditional design tool. Whimsical gives you the ability to create flowcharts and diagrams by connecting objects with a single click and a wide variety of keyboard shortcuts.
Whimsical is intentionally designed to allow you to move at the speed of thought and not have to waste time on styling or layouts. You don’t have to download any additional apps or extensions to use Whimsical flowcharts, as everything is available within your browser.
Whimsical flowcharts can be integrated with other Whimsical files, giving you the ability to switch between mind maps, wireframes, projects, and docs.
Whimsical has a direct integration with Github and can be embedded in Notion docs. It also supports two-factor authentication with any authenticator app.
Whimsical costs from $10/user/month.
Lucidchart is an intelligent diagramming application with data visualization and collaboration features. It’s designed to support teams and businesses as they improve and visualize processes and systems.
Lucidchart makes it easy to build any type of flowchart, including process maps, data flowcharts, BPMN diagrams, entity relationship diagrams, swimlane flowcharts, cross-functional flowcharts, and hundreds more. Users can also import data to automatically generate visuals.
Several features, like comments, tasks, sharing, revision history, and embedding, make collaboration simpler and easier for remote and hybrid teams. Its intuitive and clear interface makes navigating Lucidchart really easy. Lucidchart has a diverse set of features and capabilities, so it includes “Feature Find,” which allows users to quickly search for any feature or tool they’re looking for.
Lucidchart’s integrations include everything from Slack, Google Workspace, Asana, Atlassian, and Office365, to more industry-specific applications like Salesforce, AWS, Azure, and BambooHR. Lucidchart has a free plan available for individual users.
Paid plans start at $7.95/month with a 7-day free trial.
Miro is a collaborative online whiteboard with over 1,000 templates including mind maps, Kanban boards, Gantt charts, product wireframes, research boards, and flowcharts. It’s trusted by 99% of the Fortune 100, and used by teams at TransUnion, HP, Upwork, Cisco, Qlik, and Atkins. Miro’s visual platform is built for hybrid work, and has robust resources for continuous learning like Miro Academy, online events, and a community forum.
On a Miro board, you can build out stunning flowcharts collaboratively with a vast shape and icon library. Bonus: You can do it with built-in communication features, from notes and comments to video and reactions. Miro’s flowchart templates are great for team brainstorms, meetings and 1:1s, and product UX and design.
At The Digital Project Manager, we use Miro to map out content clusters and to visualize content workflows from start (brainstorming ideas) to finish (publishing the content on our site).
Miro has integrations with a whole suite of tools, including Zoom, Figma, Asana, Microsoft Teams, Jira, Slack, Google Drive, Box, Airtable, Notion, Azure, and Webex. Some integrations are limited to paid plans only.
Miro is free to use for unlimited members with up to 3 editable boards. Paid plans start at $8/user/month (billed annually).
- Free forever plan available
- Intuitive and easy setup
- Built-in communication features for streamlined collaboration
- Visitor/guest accounts locked to paid plans only
- Zooming can be jumpy on larger projects
- Free version does not allow high-quality export to pdf
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.
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.
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.
Microsoft Visio starts from $6.40/user/month and has a free trial.
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.
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 software integrates with many other apps, including WordPress, Jira Software and Jira Service Desk, Lucidchart, Atlassian Confluence, Bitium, and Nuclino.
Gliffy starts from $4.99/user/month and has a free 14-day trial.
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.
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.
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.
Edraw Max starts from $8.25/month and has a free 30-day trial.
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.
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.
Have you ever tried using other diagramming tools that produce static images for your software architecture and found it inadequate for anything past the most basic designs? Terrastruct is the answer to that problem—it’s a specialized flowchart software that helps you plan and document software designs through a diagramming tool in software architecture use cases.
Terrastruct takes a unique approach by letting you drag and drop to create diagrams that let you layer your models, so that viewers can go up and down levels of abstraction. It lets you define scenarios to capture how your design behaves under different conditions or edge cases.
In terms of integrations that help you make this diagramming tool work with your dev tools, Terrastruct lets you collaborate with your teammates, and integrates into your codebase. It currently offers integrations with Google Drive and Confluence (and there’s more coming soon). You can also export as a PPT to present to colleagues in Powerpoint.
If what you’re designing has any complexity and the diagrams from other tools end up either too messy or you’re forced to oversimplify, I’d definitely suggest givng Terrastruct a try.
Terrastruct is free to use for up to 10 seats.
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.
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.
Integrations mentioned include Eclipse, VisualStudioes, and Net Bean. You can output and share diagrams via formats like PNG, JPG, GIF, SVG and PDF.
VisualParadigm online starts from $4/month and has a free version.
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Flowchart Maker FAQs
Still trying to wrap your head around all things flowchart software-related? Take a read through my FAQs to help you get your bearings.
What are flowcharts good for?
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.
Related Read: What Is Mind Mapping? (+ How To Do It & Best Software)
Flowchart software is a program or app that can create a sequenced diagram, often of interconnected shapes, that outlines the flow, hierarchy, order or structure of a plan or idea.
What are the basic flowchart symbols?
The basic symbols are ovals, arrows, lines, parallelograms, rectangles, and diamonds.
Typically, an oval means a start or end point; an arrow (or line) shows a connection, relationship or pathway; a parallelogram indicates some sort of input or output; a rectangle stands for a process; and a diamond represents a decision-making moment.
There are three common types of flowcharts: Process Flowchart, Data Flowchart, and Business Process Modeling Diagram.
However, there are many different types of flowcharts, including but not limited to Swimlane Flowchart, EPC Diagram, SDL Diagram, Cross Functional Flowchart (or Deployment Flowchart), IDEF Flowchart, and Workflow Flowchart.
Some free flowchart tools (or tools with decent freemium offers) include LucidChart, Creately, Google Drawings, Gliffy, yED, OpenOffice.org Draw, Calligra Flow, and Draw.io. However, the free versions of said software might limit the number of diagrams and shapes you can create/use or limit how many users can collaborate.
Not looking for software for flow charts? Check out our other lists of top diagramming tools:
- You might want to try software that helps you build a wireframe model instead.
- Go for the essentials: pick from our list of the best Gantt chart creators.
- A step beyond flowchart software, workflow management software turns your flows into live processes that keep work moving through the pipeline of your organization.
What Do You Think?
Although I trust these are some of the best software in the market, I’m sure the best tool is still out there, waiting to be found. Let me know in the comments what you think of this list. Also, tell me if you have a favorite tool and why you like it.