After cross-referencing thousands of project management job descriptions, I found out that the most common word used is (drum roll) … plan. If this sounds like something you have to do in your job, then you might want to stick around. Before I get to the ways in which you can use flowchart software in project management plan, take a look at this quick list of what we’ll review today.
This article will help you quickly compare and evaluate the best flowchart software online.
“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.
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 the flowchart tool and our evaluation criteria, and provide a simple online flowchart maker comparison.
Flowchart Software Comparison Criteria & Key Features
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 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 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 flowchart 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 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.
- 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?
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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.
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.
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 & 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.
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 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.
Lucidchart starts at from $4.95/user/month and has a free version as well as free trials of the paid versions.
Need expert help selecting the right Project Management Software?
We’ve joined up with the software comparison platform Crozdesk.com to assist you in finding the right software. Crozdesk’s Project Management Software advisors can create a personalized shortlist of software solutions with unbiased recommendations to help you identify the solutions that best suit your business’s needs. Through our partnership you get free access to their bespoke software selection advice, removing both time and hassle from the research process.
It only takes a minute to submit your requirements and they will give you a quick call at no cost or commitment. Based on your needs you’ll receive customized software shortlists listing the best-fitting solutions from their team of software advisors (via phone or email). They can even connect you with your selected vendor choices along with community negotiated discounts. To get started, please complete the form below:
|From $8/user/month||Check out Miro|
|From $6.40/user/month||Check out Microsoft Visio|
14 days free trial
|From $4.99/user/month||Check out Gliffy|
30 days free trial
|From $8.25/user/month||Check out Edraw Max|
21 days free trial
|From $199||Check out ConceptDraw Diagram|
14 days free trial
|From $5/user/month||Check out Cacoo|
|From $14.99/month and annual plans (20% off monthly). Cancel anytime.||Check out Terrastruct|
|From $4/month||Check out VisualParadigm Online|
Free to use online
|Free||Check out Draw.io|
|From $4.95/user/month||Check out Lucidchart|
Flow Chart Program FAQ
Still trying to wrap your head around all things flowchart software-related? Take a read through my FAQ to help you get your bearings:
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.
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?
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 that needs to be (or has been) made.
Three common types of flowcharts are the Process Flowchart, Data Flowchart, and the 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 many more.
Some free flowchart tools (or tools with decent freemium offers) include LucidChart, Creately, Google Slides, 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. Some free flowcharting software options have little to no technical support, little to no cloud storage, have clunky UX, et cetera. Other free programs may only include a limited number of days free so it’s important to weigh the pros and cons of free versus paid software.
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 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).