Microsoft has never released a Mac version of Visio but the good news is there are some excellent alternatives to Visio for Mac which are both cheaper and easier to use. Here we take a closer look at the best serious professional Visio replacements on Mac in 2018 and 2017 ranging from online diagramming apps to native macOS desktop solutions. Most of these apps work on Windows too so if you’re a PC user looking for an alternative to Visio, you’ll find this of interest too.
With over one million users, SmartDraw is easily the most popular diagramming software available outside of Visio and the best equivalent to Visio for Mac users. One of the main reasons for this is that SmartDraw is the only serious professional Visio alternative on Mac that can both import and export the latest VSDX Visio file format. This is essential in order to import and export diagrams into Visio, especially if you exchange or collaborate on Visio diagrams with Windows based Visio users. Most diagramming software on Mac can only export to the older VDX format used by Visio 2010 and below which is no longer supported in the latest version of Visio 2016 (there is no Visio 2017 or 2018 yet). This creates some serious headaches if you need to send diagrams to clients or colleagues that are still stuck on Visio.
SmartDraw has been in the diagramming business for over 20 years and during that period has been downloaded more than 22 million times. It’s now relied on by some of the biggest Fortune 500 companies including GM, Tesla and FedEx indicating just how powerful it is.
For most of the that time it was a Windows only application but the launch of SmartDraw Cloud means that Mac users can finally use it as an excellent substitute for Visio. The refreshing thing is that the Cloud version of SmartDraw includes almost every feature of the Windows only SmartDraw Desktop Business Edition – which isn’t often the case when a desktop app is moved online.
Despite being entirely cloud based, SmartDraw is incredibly fast and responsive. If you’ve used SmartDraw on Windows, you’ll notice no difference in how quick you can get things done on SmartDraw on your Mac compared to on PC or desktop.
The toolset is by far the biggest of any diagramming software outside of Visio with an enormous choice of around 34,000 symbols and 4,500 templates. This is many thousands times more than you get even in Visio. Templates include everything from flowcharts and ERDs to network diagrams, UML diagrams and even crime scene reconstructions.
If you’re already a Microsoft Visio user or have to deal with Visio files on a daily basis, your main concern will be whether SmartDraw does a good job of opening Visio diagrams. In our experience, SmartDraw Cloud seems to have absolutely no problem importing and opening Visio files. It preserves the formatting perfectly when importing Visio VSD and VSDX files into SmartDraw.
Once you’ve signed-up for a free account, to import a Visio file, you simply go to the Account Menu and select Import Visio:
After importing a Visio file, you can ungroup, change fill color, resize shapes and edit the Visio diagram with SmartDraw. The only slight limitation is that you can’t import VST/VTX templates or VSS/VSX stencils into SmartDraw Cloud (although you can in the Windows desktop version).
As a test, we took a Visio file and imported it into SmartDraw to see how well it preserved the original formatting. The import worked instantly – it was fast and the formatting was exactly the same as the original.
We then tried to recreate an org chart in SmartDraw from scratch to get a feel for how easy or difficult it would be. Due to the huge selection of templates, quick snapping and Smart Buttons such as the “Add Assistant” and “Add co-manager” buttons, it is extremely fast and easy to create diagrams in SmartDraw. Visio of course also has templates but in general, they are harder to use and manipulate than in SmartDraw. You can watch what happened here when we imported a Visio file into SmartDraw and created an org chart from scratch.
Crucially for professionals, SmartDraw allows you to export to both Microsoft Visio VSD and VSDX format. Just go to the Export button and choose whether you want to export to “Visio 2010 or Earlier” (VSD format) or “Visio 2013 Or Later” (VSDX format).
SmartDraw is the only online professional alternative to Visio that can export to VSDX format which is essential for users working alongside Visio based colleagues or clients. Without this ability, you won’t be able to interchange files with Visio users on Visio 2013 and above.
Like importing, exporting Visio files works extremely well with no loss of formatting or glitches when files are opened in Microsoft Visio.
There are over 70 different categories of SmartDraw templates which is the most we’ve seen in any equivalent to Visio on Mac. SmartDraw has templates for just about any diagramming need including CAD, flowcharts, org charts, mind maps, brainstorming charts, decision charts, floor plans, landscape designs, decision trees, cause and effect diagrams, family trees and even templates for recreating crime scenes.
Especially when compared to Visio, the choice of templates, the automated way the templates work and both the quality and choice of symbols is genuinely impressive. Even if you don’t want to stick exactly to the templates, they provide lots of inspiration with which to work with.
Within each template, there is what SmartDraw calls the SmartPanel which contains thousands of high quality symbols, images and clip art to work with. One of the biggest gripes with Visio is that many of the objects and images are quite dated and generic and SmartDraw certainly provides more modern and eye-catching illustrations than Microsoft’s product.
If you can’t find the symbol or object you need in the template you’ve chosen, you can also search for and import symbols from other templates too. There are however around 34,000 symbols in SmartDraw so unless you need something very specific, you’ll probably find it.
Probably the most striking thing about SmartDraw is the relative ease at which it allows you to create diagrams compared to the complexity of Microsoft Visio. SmartDraw does this through the combination of a simplified, clear interface and automated templates which do a lot of the hard work for you.
The really clever thing about SmartDraw is the way it automatically adjusts and revises diagrams when you make changes to branches and objects. For example, if you delete a branch in Visio, there’s a gap where it used to be and you need to manually plug that hole or re-balance the entire diagram which can be very tedious and time-consuming.
SmartDraw on the other hand automatically closes any branch gaps and re-adjusts or re-balances the diagram so that it still flows and looks professional. This is definitely time saving when drawing highly complex and technical diagrams such as electrical circuits and engineering documents.
Just drag a symbol into a connection and SmartDraw automatically re-balances the diagram and even rotates symbols into circuits so that they snap into place. Removing symbols is equally painless – just remove them and the line reconnects instantly.
Infographic creation is something that Visio definitely lacks (although arguably it’s not really designed for that anyway) but when it comes to Visualization of diagrams, SmartDraw offers a huge choice of infographic templates. These include population templates, world map templates, process/cycle templates and many more.
The same goes for chart templates. You’ll find there’s everything from basic pie chart and bar chart templates to 3D charts and Relative Value charts for calculating ROI. SmartDraw is regularly updated with new infographics, reports and presentation slide templates to keep presentations fresh too.
You can easily export infographics and indeed any diagram made in SmartDraw to Microsoft Office although only in image format – you can’t dynamically edit them in Office (see more on Office export options later).
Although it can’t do 3D CAD design, SmartDraw can easily extend to the needs of 2D CAD designers too with plenty of engineering templates to create electrical wiring plans, industrial designs and architectural blueprints. It can also import files in AutoCAD DXF format and as a user friendly 2D CAD design tool, it’s an excellent choice as it’s so easy to use.
There are many other nice touches to SmartDraw that make it easy to use and easy on the eye.
Image quality for example is a lot better than comparable online diagramming software. SmartDraw offers the best image quality we’ve seen in a Cloud diagramming software because it uses vector graphics rather than bitmap.
Due to the higher demands of vector graphic rendering, almost all online diagramming software relies on rasterized bitmap graphics which are fuzzy and pixellated when you zoom in on them. Vector graphics however store graphics as lines and curves and thus are smooth and crisp no matter how much you zoom in. SmartDraw is the only cloud diagramming software that uses vector graphics which gives it a significant advantage over other online diagramming tools, most of which use bitmap based graphics.
The result is that SmartDraw images look extremely crisp, especially when adding graphics and illustrations such as this Landscape Design:
A nice usability touch in SmartDraw is that when you save a file, a thumbnail of the diagram is created in your saved diagrams folder so you can visually browse through diagrams rather than having to scroll through file name. This is very useful if like most designers, you have multiple projects on the go at once.
Another handy feature is that previous versions of diagrams are saved so you can roll-back to a previous version if you later realize you’ve made a mistake. This is similar to the way Microsoft Office allows you to view document histories and restore older versions of documents or enables you to see who edited it. Just right-click on any document in the document thumbnail browser and select View History.
Everything created in SmartDraw is saved in the Cloud which makes it very easy to share and collaborate on diagrams with colleagues. However you can also choose to save diagrams or export Visio files to online storage services such as Google Drive, G Suite, Microsoft OneDrive and Dropbox.
To use Google Drive with SmartDraw for example, you simply need to sign-in with your Google account details – you don’t even need to create a SmartDraw account. To use G Suite however, you need to download the G Suite plugin from the G Suite marketplace.
One of the significant advantages of SmartDraw vs Visio is the ability to share files very easily with non SmartDraw users too. Microsoft has now also made it possible for anyone to view MS Visio diagrams with Visio Online (for Windows users only) but with SmartDraw it’s easier.
You can easily generate a URL that allows anyone to view a diagram in SmartDraw and customize what kind of restrictions you want to put on it. The recipient can instantly view SmartDraw diagrams on their Mac and even observe updates when someone updates the original file.
SmartDraw is constantly being updated and most recently has added new third party product integration. In the latest updates to SmartDraw, support for Confluence, Confluence Cloud, Jira and Trello have been added.
For enterprise and corporate environments that use Confluence, SmartDraw now has an add-on in the Confluence marketplace that integrates SmartDraw into your Confluence workflow. You don’t actually need a SmartDraw license to use the add-ons, only if you need to import existing diagrams from your SmartDraw account.
In Confluence for example, if you don’t have a license, you can create SmartDraw diagrams directly in Confluence or Confluence Cloud. If you do have a SmartDraw license, you can link your SmartDraw account to Confluence and export them from in one click from within the main interface.
A SmartDraw license also entitles you to import from other sources such as GoogleDrive, Dropbox and OneDrive plus import files directly from Visio and Gliffy (see more on Gliffy later).
The add-on also adds a useful Insert SmartDraw Diagram macro to the context menu within Confluence so that you can easily draw and add diagrams to tasks without leaving Confluence.
Initially, Confluence support in SmartDraw was just for Confluence Cloud but there’s now SmartDraw apps for both Confluence and Jira. Like with Confluence, once you’ve installed the Jira add-on , you can conveniently either add or edit SmartDraw diagrams from within Jira.
Any diagrams you create in Jira or stored as attachments in Jira – not your SmartDraw account – and can be edited by anyone in Jira that you grant permissions to. In this way, you can effectively enjoy all the benefits of SmartDraw without ever leaving Jira or accessing the SmartDraw app itself.
Integration has also been extended as a Power-Up to Trello. Simply click on the Power-Ups link in Trello and select SmartDraw.
You can then access SmartDraw from any Trello card from the Power-Ups options on the right hand side and start creating diagrams such as Floor Plans, Org Charts and Flowcharts directly within Trello.
WordPress users can even use a SmartDraw WordPress plugin to publish complex interactive SmartDraw diagrams to their blog via a simple shortcode.
When it comes to Cloud apps, security is always a concern which is why any reputable online service should be SOC compliant. SmartDraw is SOC 2 Type II compliant which means it has passed an independent audit by the AICPA Service Organization Control Reports (formerly the SAS 70 Reports). This means that SmartDraw has been found by a service accounting firm to implement strong internal controls on protection of client data.The initial release of SmartDraw Cloud was lacking support for different languages and especially Asian character support but the software has now been updated so you can create templates in more than 100 languages. This isn’t common in a lot of diagramming software due to the complexities of supporting foreign characters and right-to-left languages such as Arabic.
In SmartDraw, all User Interface elements and buttons are translated to the language of your choice including languages such as Icelandic, Urdu and Hindi. What’s neat is that you can switch UI translations on and off in real time whenever you need them.
Although you’ll probably mainly be working in one language, it does make it easier when sharing with non-English speaking colleagues or clients or if you need to add foreign language elements to a diagram.
Similarly, working with complex symbols has been improved in SmartDraw so that you can now un-group and edit components of complex symbols to make working with technical documents much easier.
Overall, SmartDraw is an incredibly powerful diagramming tool that offers just as much power as Visio but is far easier to use.
SmartDraw isn’t perfect however and there are some drawbacks to it compared to Visio. One notable absence in SmartDraw compared to Visio is the Fit To Drawing button which conveniently auto-sizes drawings in Visio.
In addition, the Microsoft Office Export feature in SmartDraw is quite basic too. Although there are buttons to export to Word, PowerPoint and Excel, the reality is that it only exports to Office in PDF, SVG or PNG format – you can’t actually edit it dynamically in Office after it’s been imported.
In the Windows desktop version however, you can export SmartDraw files and embed them in Office documents which you can then edit using SmartDraw by right-clicking. Note that you can also export to Office by using the Export for Office menu item under the Export button:
In terms of pricing, there’s no up front cost to SmartDraw like there is with the desktop version of Visio and there’s only one version.
All features are included in one package for one price with SmartDraw Cloud compared to Microsoft Visio which now confusingly comes in three different versions. Microsoft now offers Visio Standard, Visio Pro and a Visio Online Office 365 compatible version of Visio. The standalone desktop version of Visio Standard costs $299 and Visio Professional $589.99 up front. The Office 365 version of Visio (now confusingly marketed as Visio Online Plan 2 by Microsoft) costs $15.00 per user/month annually or $18.00 per user/month monthly.
The other issue with MS Visio is that Microsoft tends to change it’s product features, distribution model and pricing policy frequently.
Until recently, SmartDraw cost $14.95 per month but it’s now been reduced to $9.95 per user per month which is extremely good value for money when compared to other diagramming software on the market at this level.
You get it for almost half price too if you subscribe to a team plan. For example, a license for 5 users costs $29.95 per month working out at just $5.95 per user per month. If you use it with 10 or more users, it’s $49.95 per month which works out at $4.95 per user per month.
For large enterprises, the savings are even more significant compared to Microsoft Visio. If you buy an annual license for a team of 50 users for example, SmartDraw works out considerably cheaper at $59.90 per user (a total of $2,995) compared to $156 for Microsoft Visio (a total of $7,800) for a comparable license. Even for Windows users, SmartDraw represents a very competitive deal and is definitely worth considering switching to from Visio.
It’s also worth highlighting that there are no upgrade fees with SmartDraw like there is with MS Visio and no extra costs for premium support which is included in team plans. If you’re also a PC user and have already bought the $297 Windows version of SmartDraw 2016 Business Edition, you also get SmartDraw Cloud for free for one year.
SmartDraw Enterprise plans now include administrative controls for Site Licenses although some of the benefits of this are only applicable to Windows desktop users. This means that IT admins have full control over who can access SmartDraw and which documents they can access including those stored in the Cloud.
This makes it easier for admins to retain access to documents and user accounts if employees leave an organization and allows them to prevent certain sensitive documents from being uploaded to the Cloud although this latter feature is only really relevant for Windows desktop users at the moment, not Mac users. Admins can also consolidate accounts and trial under one account.
An extra bonus is that SmartDraw Customer support is free via email or phone (Monday – Friday: 6 AM to 5 PM PST) and is provided at SmartDraw’s HQ in San Diego rather than offshore in India like with Microsoft Visio.
In comparison, support for Microsoft Visio is very poor and anyone that’s ever struggled with Microsoft’s outsourced customer support can vouch for how important direct customer support is if you’re facing a major problem or issue with a critical project. In general, if you’re deploying SmartDraw in a corporate environment, you should find that you have to spend less time and resources on in house IT support than you would deploying Microsoft Visio.
Overall, there is no reason that you would feel limited with SmartDraw compared to using Visio. SmartDraw can do basically everything Visio can but more easily and cheaper.
Imports and exports both VSD and VSDX Visio files
PDF, PNG, SVG export
Thousands of templates, shapes and objects
Easier and quicker to use compared to Microsoft Visio
Uses high quality vector graphics instead of bitmap
Works in your browser on any device including Mac, iPad and iPhone
Integrated with Google Drive, G Suite, Microsoft OneDrive
Integrated with Jira, Confluence and Trello for diagramming in-app
Includes almost all the functionality, features and quality of the PC Windows desktop version
Team and Enterprise discounts offer the best value for money for any Visio like software on Mac
No native desktop client
No work offline support
No support for Visio VST or VTX templates
Some minor differences between online & Windows desktop version
Price: Individuals $9.95/month. Teams start at $5.95/month. Free Trial
Platform: Cloud – Mac, Windows, Mobile
Lucidchart is the major rival to SmartDraw as an online professional Visio alternative for Mac and an excellent cloud based diagramming software. Although it hasn’t been around half as long as SmartDraw for desktop, it was one of the first advanced diagramming tools to be completely cloud based.
Lucidchart claims to now have more than 8 million users and is used by some of the biggest corporations around such as Netflix, NASA and Comcast. Like SmartDraw, it works in any web browser and is therefore suitable for both Mac and PC users.
While it’s not quite as slick as SmartDraw and doesn’t come close to it in terms of templates, objects or vector graphic quality, it imports and exports Visio VDX and VSDX files and the Pro and Team versions even import Visio stencils too.
However, it should be noted that Lucidchart cannot export to the newer VSDX format used in Visio 2013 and above. It can only export to Visio’s older VDX format used in Visio 2010 and lower. For many users dealing with clients and colleagues running the latest version of Visio, this will pose a real problem as almost all Visio users are now on at least Visio 2013 or above.
Lucidchart was actually the first web based diagramming app that allowed users to import Visio files. You can import Visio files for editing in Lucidchart in VDX, VSD and VSDX format meaning you can import files from Visio 2003, 2007, 2010, 2013 and 2016.
To import a Visio file, simply log in to your Lucidchart account and click File > Import Diagram on your Documents page. Then select the Visio file you want to import from your Mac’s hard drive and the document will open in Lucidchart.
Exporting to Visio is also easy enough. Just open your Lucidchart document, select File > Download As and Choose Visio (VDX) to export the file in Visio’s VDX format. As mentioned earlier, there’s no VSDX export support yet.
Generally importing Visio files into Lucidchart works flawlessly with no loss of data. The same applies to the Visio export tool – files exported to Microsoft Visio import almost exactly as they appear in Lucidchart with a few minor exceptions.
For example Lucidchart swim lanes sometimes aren’t imported correctly into Visio and appear as shapes. In addition, any comments made in Lucidchart are lost when imported into Visio.
In general however, switching or sharing files with Visio is surprisingly painless and you can watch our experiences importing and exporting Visio files into Lucidchart.
Lucidchart also imports OmniGraffle and Gliffy diagrams (see more on these apps further down) and supports PNG, JPG and SVG files too. You can export your final diagrams into most major image formats including PDF.
A big plus to Lucidchart for some users is that if you want to work offline on your Mac without an internet connection, there is a free Google Chrome plugin for Lucidchart which syncs changes as soon as you go online again. This is useful if you want to create or edit diagrams on your Mac desktop when there’s no internet coverage or just want to cut out distractions from the online world.
Lucidchart offers some useful team collaboration features. One is an embedded chat window which provides real time chat with team members which makes it easier to work on diagrams with colleagues. Visio has caught up a little bit in this area by integrating Skype for Business into Visio Online (more on this later) but they’re still separate applications and it’s not as seamless as Lucidchart.
Lucidchart diagrams include a useful revision history feature which allows you to go back to recent previous versions of a document. Revisions are named by the date and time you saved them and you can restore to a previous version with a single click. This is really useful if you make mistakes or decide you want to roll-back to a cleaner version of your diagrams.
A recent addition to Lucidchart is Data Linking. Data Linking allows you to build dynamic diagrams by linking them to data dynamically in Google Sheets. This is far more efficient and convenient than having to manually go into diagrams and shapes and update them manually not to mention it reduces the chances of human error in your data.
So for example, if you’re creating an office floor plan, you can update a Google Sheet with employee data and their seating positions and your floor plan in Lucidchart will pull the data and update automatically.
Of course Visio can do this with Microsoft Office documents but for those that use Google Sheets instead, Lucidchart offers a big advantage. Although Lucidchart can’t data link with Office documents, this is a very nice innovation that’s easy to use and time saving.
Although it can’t compare with SmartDraw’s choice of over 4,500 templates, Lucidchart still has a pretty big choice of templates and shapes, including popular ones like Cisco libraries and VMWare stencils. There are also plenty of stencils for network diagrams or for creating schemas.
If you need to extend the templates with specific Visio stencils however, you can also import Visio stencils in VSS or VSX format into Lucidchart (although Visio templates in VST or VTX format are not supported). Again though, this option is only included in the Pro and Team versions of Lucidchart.
To do this, you just open a document and click on More Shapes from the left-hand toolbox. Then select the Import button and select the stencil from your Mac. Once imported, Lucidchart creates a new library in your toolbox with the shapes from the stencil. You can drag and drop these just like any other Lucidchart shape although you may sometimes experience minor formatting issues with imported Visio templates.
To clarify which Lucidchart plans support which Visio formats, refer to the table below but in a nutshell, those needing a serious Visio alternative need either the Lucidchart Pro, Team or Enterprise plans. The Basic plan costs only $4.95 but is definitely not suitable as an alternative to Visio, not least because you can’t import or export Visio files with it and are limited to just 100MB of storage. With Pro, Team and Enterprise plans you can import and export as many Visio files as you want with the exception that there’s no VSDX export support in Lucidchart.
If you need to view or edit Visio documents on the move, there’s also a free LucidChart mobile app for iOS that allows you to edit and collaborate on diagrams, although it can be a bit slow at retrieving your designs from the web. Lucidchart is one of the only Visio alternatives we’ve tried that has its own native iOS app for iPhone or iPad.
The iOS app syncs with the web app so that you can continue where you left off whichever one you were working on last. The Lucidchart iOS app has recently been revamped to be quicker with a much better interface and new features and you can read more about Luidchart’s mobile app in our full review of Lucidchart for iPad.
The interface for Lucidchart went through a significant update in 2017 to make it more intuitive and easier to find features such as Feature Find which allows you to search and access features more easily.
There’s also a new full screen mode which cuts out any sidebar noise and allows you to focus on the details of your diagram. Other improvements include some updated themes, a Custom Shapes library to create your own customized shapes and easier to access sharing options.
One of things we like about Lucidchart is that as long as you are on a Team version or above, it includes free add-ons and or plugins for integration with other business software platforms. Some cheaper online diagramming software tools charge for integration with other apps such Google, Microsoft and Atlassian software but Lucidchart includes it for free.
Lucidchart is fully integrated with Google products such as Google Drive, G-Suite and Google Docs. This means that you can open Visio files uploaded to Google Drive or Docs for example and export diagrams to them directly. There’s also of course the Lucidchart Google Chrome extension mentioned earlier too that allows you to work offline.
Microsoft Office integration is particularly good in Lucidchart. For Office 365 users, the latest version of Lucidchart now features closer ntegration with Microsoft Office. Lucidchart has also launched add-ons for Microsoft Word, PowerPoint and Excel that make it easy to edit and create Lucidchart flowcharts or diagrams directly in Office documents.
All you need to do is open PowerPoint, Word or Excel and go to Insert > My Add-ins and then search for Lucidchart and install the add-in. You then simply either login to Lucidchart or open a new Lucidchart account to create or insert a diagram. This includes dynamic diagrams, flowcharts, and wireframes. You can also download the Lucidchart add-in from the Microsoft Store.
If you’re already using Atlassian products then Lucidchart is also very well integrated with Atlassian software. There are Lucidchart plugins for JIRA and Confluence Cloud and Confluence Server which conveniently allow you to create, edit and embed diagrams within Confluence and easily attach them to JIRA tasks.
You can even use a presentation mode in JIRA to attach slide decks to tasks. In 2016, Lucidchart also added HipChat integration. HipChat users can use the “/lucidchart” command in any HipChat room to create and share diagrams. You’ll then see a link in the HipChat room that anyone in your team can edit.
Lucidchart has responded to popular demand by also integrating Lucidchart with popular productivity tool Slack which means Slack users can use the “/lucidchart” command to instantly create and share diagrams. It also plans to add notifications so that other Slack users will be notified when others comment, edit and share their diagrams.
Other recently added features due to feedback from users include a presentation mode that converts diagrams into slides and @mentioning in comments to make collaboration easier.
Third party apps that Lucidchart is integrated with include Box, Dropbox, Jive and Amazon Web Services (AWS). The AWS import tool is particularly good as it imports your AWS network or makes it easy to map out an AWS network if you’re moving to the cloud. Lucidchart can detect and read your AWS infrastructure (but doesn’t actually touch it) and allows you to isolate certain parts of your AWS infrastructure if you don’t want Lucidchart to read it. To help with AWS PCI compliance, Lucidchart makes it easy to update the diagram in just a few clicks.
You can also sign into Lucidchart via other services such as your Google and Yahoo account, With some Lucidhart add-ons, there are also on-premise versions that can be deployed directly on a corporate server behind a firewall rather than via the web such as Lucidchart OnPrem for Confluence Server.
Lucidchart also includes a useful Timeline Shape Library in an attempt to help you manage projects timelines while creating diagrams in Lucidchart. This allows you to visually display past events, future plans and helps you to manage the completion of a project. However it’s still a very basic project management tool and we recommend reading our guide to the Best Alternatives To Microsoft Project For Mac if you’re interested in using a PM tool alongside a diagramming software.
Lucidchart has also implemented Entity Relationship Diagram (ERD) enhancements that allow you to export your ERD to the DBMS of your choice and UML Sequence Markup which allows you to create and edit sequence diagrams by adding text.
While diagramming can be a very dry business, Lucidchart also recognizes that there are many users that just want to spice up a presentation or create something a bit more light hearted for readers and users. There are some fun pop-culture flowcharts templates such as Which Game of Thrones House Do You Belong To?
Regarding the security of your connections and work in Lucidchart, it also supports SAMIL and SSO for secure user authentication and it also supports Okta, Ping, ADFS, OneLogin, Shibboleth and Centrify. Enterprise subscriptions give you much greater control over the deployment of Lucidchart and security such as domain-level security features and OKTA provisioning sync.
There are of course some drawbacks to Lucidchart compared to Visio. The biggest is obviously the lack of export support for VSDX files. This will rule out Lucidchart as a serious alternative to Visio on Mac for many users as it makes it very difficult to work with other people using the latest version of Visio.
Another drawback is that there is no equivalent to the Visio format painter button in Lucidchart. This is very useful in Visio to copy-format one shape identically with another and although Lucidchart doesn’t have exactly the same tool, it does have a ‘duplicate shape’ button which is a reasonable substitute.
There are some more minor annoyances too such as the lack of colors or shades for swimlanes, there’s no automatic numbering or renumbering of shapes and steps in a diagram and no Gantt chart templates. Currently, Lucidchart does not support many languages either (nothing close to the hundreds of languages available in SmartDraw) but it is available in English, Dutch, French, German, Portuguese and Spanish.
Finally although it’s really convenient that you can share files created in Lucidchart with anyone via a link, it’s a little bit annoying for the recipient that they must create a Lucidchart account in order to view it.
Pricing for Lucidchart depends on your exact needs although as highlighted earlier only the Pro, Team and Enterprise versions are suitable as Visio alternatives as they are the only ones that import and export Visio files and offer a full library of professional shapes.
The free Basic Personal license doesn’t import or export Visio files is limited to 100MB of storage. The Pro plan costs $8.95 per month and is suitable for individuals but if you’re working in a team of 3 or more people, you’re far better going for the Lucidchart Team Plan which works out cheaper at $6.70 per user per month.
Whichever option you choose, if you pay annually in advance you save up to 17% than paying monthly. All plans also allow you to share diagrams with whoever you want but Team Plans allow team members to collaborate with a full set of premium features.
If after trying Lucidchart you decide not to upgrade, you can still access your documents and diagrams in your free account.
If after trying the Team version, you decide to use Lucidchart across your entire company, or if you need to deploy a Visio alternative across a large corporation, you can upgrade to the Enterprise Plan which offers advantages such as document retention and account provisioning. There are several other advantages to the Enterprise version for administrators too shown in the table below:
On an end user level however, there are fewer advantages to upgrading to Enterprise except auto-provisioning and a better level of customer support:
There is also special pricing for nonprofits and educational institutions.
Imports VSD, VSDX and Visio stencils (Pro, Team & Enterprise versions)
Exports to VSD format
Integrated with Google Drive and Microsoft Office
Data Linking with Google Sheets
JIRA, Confluence and BOX Support
AWS infrastructure mapping
Easy to pick-up and learn
PNG, PDF, and JPEG import/export
Chrome plugin to work offline
Does not support export to Visio VSDX format
Some formatting issues depending on complexity of Visio files imported
No support for Visio VST and VTX templates
Limited templates and object compared to SmartDraw
No Gantt chart templates
Only a few foreign languages support – no right to left language support
Price: Individual $9.95/month. Teams start at $6.70/month paid annually. Free Trial.
Platform: Cloud – Mac, Windows, Mobile
If cloud based apps are not your thing, OmniGraffle Pro is the closest thing to a native desktop alternative to MS Visio. OmniGraffle is designed specifically for Mac and produces highly professional results for everything from website wireframes, electrical systems and prototypes to family trees and maps of software classes.
Omni Group have a solid track record with productivity software on Mac with the excellent project management software OmniPlan.
In fact diagrams produced in OmniGraffle look noticeable better than those in Visio because like SmartDraw, OmniGraffle uses high quality vector graphics. In reality, OmniGraffle isn’t just an alternative to Visio, it’s also a far more artistic design tool that really feels like it belongs on an Apple product.
It’s important to be aware from the start that the Standard version of OmniGraffle won’t suffice if you want a serious alternative to Visio. OmniGraffle Standard costs $99.99 but you have to upgrade to the Pro version for an added $99.99 to import and export Visio files.
It’s also important to understand that like Lucidchart, OmniGraffle can only export to Visio VDX format – it can’t export to VSDX format used by Visio 2013 and above. If you need to work with Visio clients or customers, you’re therefore better off going with SmartDraw or ConceptDraw Pro which can export to the latest Visio formats.
It can however export to most major image formats and even Photoshop PSD format which you don’t often get in diagramming software.
When it comes to importing Visio files however, OmniGraffle Pro opens all Visio formats including VSDX, VSD, VDX files and Visio stencil files in VST, VTX, VSX and VSS format. Once it’s installed on your Mac, OmniGraffle automatically detects Visio files so that if you double click on them, they will automatically open in OmniGraffle. Alternatively, you can drag any Visio file to the OmniGraffle icon in your dock and it will open.
Note that when you import a Visio file, it will be automatically converted into OmniGraffle’s .graffle format. but you can export it back to Visio VDX format (also known as XML) at any time.
Import support in general is excellent in the latest version of OmniGraffle with SVG vector graphics now supported too whereas previously, they were converted into lower quality Bitmap images.
OmniGraffle has a very clear, organized and user friendly interface that’s easier to get to grips with than Microsoft Visio. This makes OmniGraffle considerably easier and more straightforward to use than Visio on Windows but without sacrificing power and features.
Although OmniGraffle lacks the automated diagramming features in SmartDraw, it does make it easy to rearrange diagrams in a few clicks. For example, it’s often the case that you want to change the layout of a diagram without having to manually change the direction of every swimlane, connector and object. OmniGraffle makes it very easy to change the direction and format of diagrams via the Diagram Layout Switcher.
Like Visio, you can easily group and ungroup items in OmniGraffle too.
OmniGraffle doesn’t include many stencils or templates and certainly nothing like the tens of thousands you get in SmartDraw.
However on the plus side OmniGraffle has a dedicated following of users that have created repositories of free OmniGraffle Stencils although the best resources such as Graffletopia cost an extra $24 per year (but is well worth it if you’re going to be using OmniGraffle a lot).
The latest version of OmniGraffle (version 7) has been updated with new Artboard Layers which speed up your workflow by making it easier to organize and setup exportable elements and objects.
Another nice touch is if you’re planning to create a really bid diagram, OmniGraffle also allows you to use an infinite canvas to remove width and height restrictions.
Finally, you can now also convert text to shapes/Bézier-handled objects and the sidebar navigation has been improved with a Unified Sidebar to make it easier to switch between canvasses and work with groups.
OmniGraffle is the only Visio alternative we’ve seen that fully utilizes Touch Bars on new MacBook Pros. Although this definitely takes some getting used to at first, when you’ve got the hang of it it does make it quicker to add objects, change colors and rotate objects than via the Touchpad or mouse.
If you’re someone who likes to use hotkeys, Keyboard Shortcuts are now supported by OmniGraffle for those that like to keep their workflow as fast and smooth as possible.
Apart from Lucidchart, OmniGraffle is the only diagramming software for Mac that has a decent native iPad app. OmniGraffle for iOS can also open Visio files and stencils. Simply tap and hold the Visio attachment in your email, in iCloud or any other app and then select “Open in OmniGraffle”.
The iPad app syncs diagrams created on your Mac via OmniGraffle’s free OmniPresence service or Omni Sync Server and you can also use iCloud.
The iPad app allows you to drag and drop layers, objects and photos from your iPad. You can even drag entire canvases and drop them in other apps and use an Apple Pencil with it.
The main drawback is that OmniGraffle for iOS costs extra although it is quite powerful and not just a web version of the desktop app. The Standard version is $49 and the Pro version (which you need for Visio file support) is $99.99 but you can try it for free.
There are some drawbacks to OmniGraffle. Arguably the biggest drawback is the lack of VSDX file export if you’re intending to work alongside other Visio users. Professional Visio users will also notice that OmniGraffle doesn’t offer the fine tuning precision of shapes and objects that Visio does. The iPad app can also be unstable at times and it’s important to save work regularly in case of crashes.
Finally, in terms of price OmniGraffle Pro and OmniGraffle Pro for iPad are both quite expensive compared to the other Visio alternatives featured here. Both will set you back $199.99 each and you’ll have upgrade costs on top of that when major updates are released.
The best thing is to try it first before deciding whether it’s for you. OmniGraffle has recently changed the free trial policy so you can now try OmniGraffle free for 14 days from the Mac App Store. Even after 14 days if you decide not to upgrade, you can keep the Standard version of OmniGraffle as a free desktop Visio viewer.
If you do decide to purchase the Standard or the Professional version, you simply upgrade in-app. The Pro features are unlocked when you go to the OmniGraffle Menu and select In-App Purchase to upgrade to Pro.
Overall, OmniGraffle is a very powerful diagramming and design tool. It does require a lot more learning than online tools like SmartDraw and Lucidchart however and the lack of VSDX export support is a problem. If you’re working in a small Mac only environment and you want a desktop Visio alternative, OmniGraffle is definitely worth checking out.
Imports all types of Visio files
Native desktop Mac app – designed specifically for macOS
Suitable for technical and artistic diagrams
One-off payment – no subscription model
Works with WACOM Tablets
Excellent iPad app that works with Apple Pencil
No Visio VSDX export support
Not as precise as Visio for fine control
Limited number of stencils included
Requires upgrading to Pro to import and export Visio files and stencils
No free updates
iOS version costs extra
Price: Mac $199.99, iOS $199.99
Platform: Mac, iOS
ConceptDraw Pro is the only professional diagramming cross platform desktop alternative to Visio on Mac that works on both Mac and Windows PCs. If you work regularly on both Mac and PC and want a desktop app, ConceptDraw could be a more suitable solution for you than OmniGraffle, SmartDraw or Lucidchart.
Along with SmartDraw, one of the biggest selling points of ConceptDraw Pro is that it’s the only app that can export to Visio VSDX format.
ConceptDraw Pro can import Visio files including VSD and VDX (Visio 2007-2010 format) and Microsoft’s newer open XML file format VSDX used in Visio 2013 and above.
You can also import both VSSX and VSS Visio stencil files into ConceptDraw Pro. The import process for all Visio files is quick, easy and the resulting stencils very accurately reproduced in ConceptDraw Pro as you can see from the stencils below.
You can also export diagrams to Microsoft Office and Evernote among other formats.
ConceptDraw Pro has many of the features found in Microsoft Visio such as Snap To Grid, Layers and Connection Tools although they are located in different places on the interface which can take some getting used to at first.
You can see where most of the most common Visio tools are found on ConceptDraw Pro for Mac here, many of which can be accessed with keyboard shortcuts to speed-up your workflow:
ConceptDraw Pro has hundreds of templates to get you going divided into different areas such as landscaping, engineering, management, science, flowcharts etc. Within each category there are plenty of subsets of templates to make things easier for you.
One difference between ConceptDraw Pro and Visio is that it also allows you to create presentations and slideshows.
To enhance both presentations and diagrams, ConceptDraw Solution Park provides a rich resource of high quality vector graphics, audiovisual clips, additional templates and tutorials. For example, say you’re designing a new interface for macOS, you’ll find lots of high quality design elements and app icons to illustrate it with.
ConceptDraw Pro for Mac costs $199 which allows you to use one license on both Mac and PC. You can also try a 21 day free trial by signing up for a ConceptDraw account. Minor updates are free although you’ll probably have to pay an upgrade fee for major version updates.
If you want to see more of what ConceptDraw Pro can do, check out these samples of diagrams and charts created with it.
Native Mac desktop app (also for PC)
Imports and Exports Visio files and stencils including VSDX
Lots of useful templates
Excellent for creating presentations
High quality vector images in ConceptDraw Solution Park
Quite hard to learn at first
May cost more for major updates
No automated diagramming features
Not available in many languages
Platform: Mac, Windows
As we made clear in the introduction, SmartDraw, Lucidchart, Omnigraffle Pro and ConceptDraw Pro are the closest thing to Visio in terms of power and features. There’s a lot of information to absorb here however and so before continuing, you can see how they compare side-by-side in the comparison table below.
Open & Edit Visio Files (VSD/VSDX/VDX)
Export To Visio (VSD/VDX)
Support For Visio Templates (VSS/VST/VTX)
Integration With Google Apps
Microsoft OneDrive Support
Google Docs/Drive Support
Symbols & Clipart
Work Offline On Mac
Windows Desktop App
Sharing/Real Time Collaboration
5 Team license
10 Team license
3 Team license
10 Team license
Apart from this top four, there is also lots of other less advanced diagramming software out there, some of which can import Visio files and in a few cases, even export them too. Although these tools can’t compete with Visio as a professional solution, they are very good for either quick and fast diagramming or specific niches in diagramming and design.
Here’s a selection of other more basic alternatives to Visio that you can use on macOS.
If you mainly use Visio for UX design or wireframing, then you should consider Sketch as an alternative. Sketch is made for UX designers that need to make striking, elegant interfaces and wireframes. If you need an alternative to Visio that features Photoshop like elements and powerful graphic design tools, Sketch may be a better option for you.
Sketch is used by some of the largest corporations out there such as Google, Facebook and Apple so it’s clearly a very capable and trusted digital design tool.
Sketch feels like a mix between Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop with touches of Microsoft Visio although it leans heavily towards the graphic design focus of Adobe’s products than the technical diagramming features of Visio.
One of the best things about Sketch is that new features are frequently added by users. While you sometimes have to wait months or even years for Microsoft or Adobe to add features to their products, the Sketch user community are already hard at work creating them. Sketch has an enthusiastic userbase that develops extensions to enhance the functionality of Sketch such as a Bitmap compressor, Sketch Measure tool and Dummy Content Generator.
Sketch also features a separate Sketch Mirror app which allows you to preview designs on iPhone and iPad. Sketch Mirror conveniently scales your designs up and down to fit the resolution of your iOS device and zoom in on specific pixels. Sometimes connecting to Sketch from this app isn’t always reliable but when it does work, it’s a very effective tool to catch problems on iOS now rather than later.
Sketch costs $99 per year which is very reasonable for a Mac vector drawing application with all the features of Sketch. There are also special prices available for organizations that buy in bulk and students can get 50% off the full price of Sketch. You can also download a free trial of Sketch for Mac to try it for yourself.
Excellent for UX design and wireframes
Includes both vector graphic and graphic design tools
Designed specifically for Mac
UX focused – lacks the professional diagramming tools of Visio
Some bugs and instability
Price: $99/year. Free Trial
Axure RP works on both Mac and PC and has become a popular Visio alternative for wireframes, interactive prototypes and documentation. Azure RP is used by many Fortune 100 companies and unlike Sketch, it is aimed more at the high-end industrial designer market.
If you’re working with a web development team, Axure RP is definitely better than Visio though when it comes to creating wireframes and prototypes for web designs. Axure RP uses widgets which you can drag and drop into the canvas to add common webpage elements such as contact forms, tables, menus etc. For an industrial design and diagramming application so powerful, this makes it surprisingly easy to use.
The team collaboration features in Axure RP are excellent and you can easily export in HTML to DropBox to share with users that don’t have Axure installed.
Azure has recently revamped the Azure iPhone and iPad app with a much better interface and integration with Azure Share Enterprise which is the on-premise version of its cloud hosting service. The Azure app allows you to view and demo Axure RP prototypes as well as securely access your Axure RP projects.
In terms of cost, Azure doesn’t come cheap compared to the other apps featured here. You can choose to buy either a Professional perpetual or subscription license for $495 (or $29 per user/month) for $895 ($49 per user/month) for a Team License. There’s also an Enterprise License for large corporations from $99 per user/month.
Although many Mac users don’t want to get locked into a subscription, the advantage is that you don’t have to pay for version upgrades. With the perpetual license, there are no further upgrade or subscription fees with Axure RP – once you own the license, there’s nothing else to pay for but you will need to pay for new versions when they are released.
Excellent for industrial prototypes
Easy to collaborate with web designers and developers
Simple drag and drop widgets
Heavily focused on prototypes than diagramming
Lacks a lot of the tools found in Visio
Pricing: Starts at $495 or $29/user/month. Free Trial.
Platforms: Mac, Windows, Mobile
If all of the above are out of your price range, MyDraw (formerly known as Nevron Draw) is a real bargain basement desktop budget alternative to Visio on Mac that can not only import Visio VSDX files, but export them as well.
MyDraw used to be available as part of the budget Microsoft Office alternative Nevron Office ($29) but has since been released as a standalone product and marketed as a cheaper alternative to Visio. For $69, you’re obviously not going to get anything close to Visio but MyDraw is about as cheap as it gets for a standalone basic desktop Visio like program on Macs.
If the interface looks familiar, that’s because it’s heavily inspired by Microsoft Office’s Ribbon UI used in all MS Office products.
The interface has definitely been improved a lot since the switch from Nevron Draw to MyDraw though and since it looks a lot like an Office product, it’s easy to navigate and find things.
Most importantly for Visio users, MyDraw can import, edit and export Visio VSDX files. VSDX export is rare in a product this cheap and inevitably the formatting sometimes gets a bit messed up when you export VSDX files from MyDraw. In fact Visio file format support is excellent in MyDraw including the older VDX format and VSSX stencils too.
MyDraw will also import family tree diagrams in GEDCOM format used in genealogy software on Mac. You can export your files to PDF, AutoCAD (DXF) and as high resolution images.
MyDraw features a very large number of shapes and objects to choose from, it has a powerful formula based engine similar to Visio and there are automatic layout algorithms to speed things up when creating diagrams.
MyDraw is generally very easy to use for a diagramming software with plenty of free templates and is ideal for Visio designers that want to create simple mind maps, network diagrams, floor plans, fish bone diagrams, work flows, UML diagrams and electrical diagrams.
However for anything more complex such as industrial design, MyDraw isn’t suitable as a replacement for Visio. GUI support is also considerably more limited and there are very few templates for software, hardware or UX designers.
For $69, MyDraw generally represents good value for money if you’re looking for a basic desktop alternative to Visio or an app that can open, edit and export Visio files and stencils without being tied to a monthly subscription model.
Imports, edits and exports VSDX files
Imports Visio VSSX stencils
Microsoft Office style Ribbon interface
Lots of shapes and templates
Desktop client for Mac and Windows
Too limited for professional Visio designers
Feels quite Windows inspired than macOS
Platforms: Desktop – Mac, Windows
Edraw Max is a relative newcomer to diagramming software and marketed as a cheaper alternative to Visio but with a strikingly similar interface. There are a lot of similarities between Edraw and MyDraw, most notably that they’re both desktop apps plus they can both import and export Visio files. EDraw however also support high quality vector graphics allowing you to create some truly eye catching diagrams.
It’s immediately evident that the Edraw Max UI is very closely modeled on Microsoft Visio’s interface – so close in fact that it’s actually hard to distinguish the difference at first glance.
Like MyDraw, the ribbon interface at the top for example is almost identical to that used in Microsoft Office.
There are only around 200 templates in Edraw Max but there’s enough there for basic flowcharts, org charts and brainstorming.
Using Edraw Max is pretty straightforward and follows the a standard diagramming interface. Just click “New” to start a new project and select a template from the list available. The most commonly used shapes and symbols will appear in the left hand margin and you can drag and drop them onto the main canvas.
You can snap and connect shapes or objects easily and there’s enough to create basic Visio diagrams. Like MyDraw, you both import and export to Visio but Edraw even supports VDX as well as VSDX files. Like MyDraw however, the exported results aren’t always great and may involve some manual adjustment depending on the complexity of the diagram.
In general though, Edraw Max seems better suited to mind maps, flowcharts and infographics than the technical demands of very complex Visio diagrams. While it can be used for simple Visio diagrams, it may feel lightweight to anyone who’s used Microsoft Visio for professional use.
Licensing for Edraw Max is divided into three types. A Perpetual License costs $179 with no upgrade costs for 3 years. A Lifetime License costs $245 with no upgrade costs and a Subscription costs $99 per year. There’s a fully functional free trial and there is also a 30% discount for educators and students.
Easy to use
Visio Export tool (including VSDX)
Familiar Microsoft Office inspired interface
Visio exports may have formatting problems
Not suitable for complex Visio projects
Windows style interface
Pricing: Starts at $179 for 3 year license or $99 per year. Free Trial.
Platforms: Desktop – Mac, Windows
Creately is an excellent fast and cost effective alternative to Visio. Creately is a lot simpler than Visio and may feel a bit lightweight compared to it but you can create some pretty impressive diagrams, flowcharts and process flows with it.
Creately can import Visio files, there are thousands of templates to choose from, shared project libraries and neat touches like a useful Google Image search tool and auto snapping of objects connectors.
For team collaboration in enterprise environments, Creately also integrates with Confluence, Jira and the G Suite Marketplace.
Something else that makes Creately stand out from the competition is the fact that it has has a Mac desktop client. The desktop app allows you to draw offline and sync any changes when you go online again.
Apart from the ease of use compared to Visio, the other big advantage is the price. At just $5 a month or $49 per year for individual users, Creately is a very low cost diagramming software.
The best thing to do is sign-up for Creately and you can create up to 5 diagrams for free before deciding whether it’s for you.
Very easy to use
Imports Visio files
Automated snapping of objects and connectors
No Visio export
Price: Free for up to 5 diagrams then starts at $5/month or $25/month for teams.
Platforms: Mac, Windows, Linux, iOS, Android.
Draw.io has come a long way since it first hit the web and is now one of the few free for individuals Cloud based diagramming software that not only imports Visio files and exports them too including VSDX files. It’s also one of the few online diagramming apps that also allows you to work offline on your Mac desktop via an extension for Google Chrome.
Although Draw.io can’t compare to Visio in terms of features and power, it’s still a remarkably easy to use, fast and impressive diagramming tool.
Draw.io doesn’t try to sell itself to you – as soon as you visit the Draw.io site it takes you straight into the main editor. This is quick, fast and no frills diagramming but it instantly gives you powerful options like the ability to import Visio VSD/VSDX files and competitor formats such as Lucidchart and Gliffy.
Draw.io is very hot on integration with online services such as Dropbox, OneDrive, Google Drive Trello and even Github (making it a good choice for software developers).
It’s also available in many different languages including Arabic and other right-to-left languages which isn’t common is free diagramming software.
One of the biggest things that makes Draw.io stand out from the rest is that it can export to Visio VSDX format. This is rare in a free diagramming software although it should be noted that the VSDX export tool is in beta and doesn’t always work well. However, considering it costs nothing to use, this is a big plus in favor of Draw.io.
The other attractive thing about Draw.io are the Chrome extensions. There are two Chrome browser extensions – one that allows you to work offline on your desktop and another which adds Draw.io to Chrome for quicker diagramming.
The offline browser extension is a real bonus meaning you don’t need an internet connection or data plan to use it. However you can only open and save diagrams that are saved on your Mac – you can’t access your Cloud saved diagrams in Google Drive, Dropbox, Github etc.
There are also no templates with the Chrome desktop extension either so if you need one, you’ll have to start one online first, save it in on your Mac and then upload it to the desktop extension.
The other Draw.io Chrome extension does not have these limitations and makes it easier to launch the app in Chrome but it does of course require an internet connection.
There are few downsides to Draw.io although it won’t be enough for Visio power users. There are little more than 70 templates and the objects are both basic and limited in choice.
The biggest plus is that Draw.io is completely free to use for individuals with no limitations (at least for now anyway). Unlike a lot of diagramming software, there’s no free use limitations even when it comes to Visio importing or exporting.
For individuals or students looking for an alternative to Visio, Draw.io is an excellent basic, free alternative to Visio. If you’re a business and want to use it in a team, you’ll need to connect to Confluence Server which starts at $10 for 10 users which is still extremely good value for money.
Completely free to use for individuals with no limits
Visio import and export support including VSDX files
Integration with lots of online services
Quick to start and easy to get going
Chrome extension allows you to work offline too
Very limited objects and templates
VSDX export not always accurate (still in beta)
Quite basic compared to Visio
Teams must pay for connections to Confluence
No Cloud integration with Chrome desktop extension
Pricing: Free for individuals. Teams start at $10 per month
Platforms: Mac, Windows, Linux
Like Draw.io, Gliffy is another incredibly easy to use team focused Cloud diagramming software that’s ideal for collaborating on UML, network diagrams, org charts.
Gliffy can import Visio files although it can’t export them but it does export to SVG format which can be opened in Visio (although it’s no substitute for native VSD or VSDX Visio format).
Gliffy does however have a Chrome extension which allows you to create diagrams offline too and unlike Draw.io, it also syncs with online storage solutions such as Google Drive and Dropbox directly from your desktop.
Gliffy is based on HTML5 which means it feels extremely fast and responsive even though it’s all hosted online. It uses a drag-and-drop interface which makes it easy to add objects and connectors to your diagrams.
If you’re looking for an online diagramming tool built with the demands of teams in mind, Gliffy is an excellent choice with full revision histories for diagrams, private sharing and all users can leave comments on diagrams.
If you want to share diagrams with a non Gliffy user, it generates a simple URL which can be shared on social media and other channels so anyone can view the diagram. There are also Gliffy plugins for Confluence and Jira.
Gliffy also allows you to export diagrams to Google Docs, presentations, web pages and most major image formats.
Unlike many free diagramming tools, there’s a good choice of real objects to illustrate diagrams with although there aren’t many templates to choose from.
If you just want a quick and easy online diagramming software that imports Visio files, allows you to diagram offline and is suitable for teams, Gliffy is worth checking out.
Imports Visio files
Excellent for team colloboration
Lots of real objects to choose from
Fast, responsive interface
Works offline with Chrome extension
No Visio export
Embedding requires Team subscription or above
Not many templates
Pricing: $7.99/month for individuals. Teams start at $4.99 per user/month. Free for students and 50% off for academic institutions.
Platforms: Mac, Windows, Linux, Mobile
Cacoo is a relatively new online diagramming tool with a fresh, clean interface which makes it attractive and easy to use. Cacoo can import but not export Visio files and there’s a generous selection of over 900 templates including for Flowcharts, Network Diagrams and Org Charts.
Cacoo allows team members to comment on diagrams, chat in-app and export to SVG, PNG, PPT and PDF.
The best way to experience Cacoo is to sign-up for a free account which allows you to create up to 6 diagrams for free before you have to subscribe.Pros:
Lots of templates
No Visio export
Pricing: Individuals $4.95/month for up to 1000 diagrams. Team starts at $15/month for up to 3 users.
Platforms: Mac, Windows, Linux
If you mainly use Visio for creating flowcharts then Textografo is a data input based online flowchart software with a clean, minimalist interface. Textografo takes a data input approach to diagramming by automating diagrams based on the data you feed it. Instead of drawing diagrams, you describe it using hashtags and instructions in the left hand margin and Textografo draws it.
Textografo is designed specifically with business processes in mind particularly those in Process Analysis, Business Operations, Software Development, Sales & Marketing and Customer Service roles.
Textografo doesn’t cater for all diagram formats but consists of a Flowchart Maker, Mindmap Maker, Decision Tree Maker, Organizational Chart Maker (see here for more on Org Chart Software for Mac) and a Sitemap Maker.
Textografo removes the need to constantly align, resize and connect elements and objects in flowcharts by automating much of the process for you via syntax. For example, instead of dragging and dropping elements onto flowcharts, you type descriptions of processes and how they should link in the left hand margin. So for example, if you type “#decision” a decision box will appear in the diagram.
It feels a bit more like programming a flowchart than traditional dragging and dropping (although you can do that too) but once you get used to it, it’s a surprisingly easy and effective way to draw flowcharts. You can also manually change the layout and color scheme of the flowchart via template buttons across the top of the interface.
You can use Textografo free for 7 days before you have to purchase a plan. Textografo Essentials is the basic version of Textografo and costs $4 per month but is limited to 5 private diagrams and 50 shapes per diagram. Textografo Premium costs $8 per month and allows unlimited diagrams and shapes plus exporting to PDF, revision history, customer support and removes Textografo branding from diagrams.
Textografo claims that by automating diagrams, it’s the fastest diagramming software on the market. You can how Textografo claims it is 40% quicker than Visio below.
Although most of the Visio alternatives reviewed here are suitable for everything from individuals to enterprises, there are a few diagram drawing software which are squarely aimed at the needs of large enterprises. These obviously come with a much bigger price tag but here’s an overview of the most notable ones available to Mac users.
If you use Visio primarily for mind mapping, then look no further than XMind. XMind is focused specifically on helping you brainstorm and map out ideas especially for business plans. XMind has a desktop app for both Mac and PC so you can work offline but it can also be used online.
A nice touch is that XMind allows you to quickly note down ideas and inspiration that suddenly spring to mind which you can then drag and drop into your mind maps. Another good idea is that it also includes a timer to help focus your mind while putting ideas down. There’s even a day and night mode to help you focus depending on the time of day.
XMind offers four eye catching ways to visualize data, Fishbone, Matrix, Timeline and Org Chart if you want to map out an organizational structure.XMind would be ideal to use alongside a project management tool and also includes the Gantt chart views common to project management apps. XMind can export mind maps to Evernote format so you can share them with other Evernote users that may not have XMind installed. XMind also exports to PDF and Microsoft Office formats but it doesn’t support Visio files.
For visual communication and mind mapping, XMind is a clean and highly focused way to plan your business ideas. You can use a limited version of XMind for free but to remove limits such as exporting, gantt charts and pretty much everything else, you need to upgrade to XMind Plus ($79) or XMInd Pro ($99). There are educational discounts and a 30 day money back guarantee.
Ardoq is a slightly different Cloud based alternative to Visio tool which takes information you throw at it and then automatically generates Visio like flowcharts and diagrams.
You can’t actually create designs manually in Ardoq as it automatically translates complex data into useful flowcharts and diagrams.
Ardoq is mainly designed for project managers that want to visualize complex workflows and systems so that they can get a better overview of knock-on effects and the interconnections between process flows.
Ardoq calculates dependencies and can provide estimates of project timelines and completion dates.
The main advantage of Ardoq over Visio is that it means less time sketching flowcharts and process flows as it generates them for you. Diagrams then automatically update and change as you update the data that powers them such as via an Excel sheet or any other tool that has an API.
Although Ardoq doesn’t allow much manual adjustment of diagrams, there are templates that you can customize and there’s a plugin editor which you can customize.
The main drawback to Arqoq is the price. At $999 per month, it’s not exactly cheap and by far the most expensive alternative to Visio featured here but if manual drawing isn’t your thing, Ardoq may be worth it for your company.
Automates diagrams – no manual drawing required
Extracts data from Excel and other APIs to create diagrams
Not much manual control
Very expensive enterprise only solution
Price: $999 per month
Platforms: Mac and PC
Visual Paradigm is another enterprise development and software suite that can be used as a Visio alternative. It’s strictly aimed at those looking for an Enterprise solution to UML design and is used mainly by software engineers, system analysts, business analysts and system architects.
You can import Visio designs and Visio stencils into Visual Paradigm but it’s only for enterprise level object oriented UML design.
Note that Visual Paradigm requires Java to work however and we don’t advise installing Java on Mac for various reasons so only go for Visual Paradigm if you really have to.
Price: $1999 Enterprise but cheaper plans available with less features
Platform: Mac and PC (Java)
Another enterprise level technical solution to edit VSD and VSDX files on Mac is Aspose provides file format APIs that allow you to open and edit a wide number of formats on Mac including Visio. Aspose allows Mac users to manipulate Microsoft Visio files in .Net or Java although again, like Visual Paradigm it’s Java based and so it’s not ideal for Mac users.
Price: Starts at $2999
Platforms: Mac and PC (Java)
When Will Visio Be Released For Mac?
Microsoft released Visio 2010, Visio 2013 and Visio 2016 for PC only and it has never been available for Mac. There were hopes that Visio would finally be made available to Mac users in the release of Office 2016 for Mac but it wasn’t and there doesn’t seem to be any plans for a Visio 2017 or Visio 2018 for Mac either.
There therefore seems little chance of Visio being released on Mac by Microsoft anytime soon although there are signs that it could launch a fully functional version of Visio online that Mac users would be able to use via a browser.
Initially Visio Online was designed as a replacement for Visio Services (also known as Visio Web Access) as a way for non Visio Windows users to view Visio files. Now however, if you have a commercial Office 365 subscription which means a Business, Enterprise or Government subscription, Visio Online allows you to both view and do basic editing of Visio files in any browser although it’s nowhere near as powerful as the desktop version of Visio.
Microsoft Visio online enables commercial Office 365 users that receive VSD, VSDX and VSDM files in their Outlook.com, Exchange.com or Hotmail account to instantly view and edit Visio files online even if they don’t have a Visio license or Visio installed.
Microsoft has clearly taken inspiration from easy to use online diagramming tools such as SmartDraw and Lucidchart and applied it to Visio Online as it’s much easier to use than the desktop version of Visio.
The complexity of diagrams possible depends on what kind of Office 365 subscription you have but all versions of Visio Online include standard Visio templates and symbols.
There are multiple shape palettes, you can drag and drop shapes, use smart guides to help you connect shapes, pick colors etc.
Anything created within Visio Online can be instantly shared with others and allows you to grant editing access to recipients.
Users can also leave comments for other users in diagrams and Visio Online is also integrated with Skype for Business for Mac so that stakeholders can discuss diagrams with others.
However Visio Online lacks things such as shape data, you can’t edit hyperlinks in diagrams and there are annoying glitches like session timeouts if if you leave the browser tab idle for more than a few minutes.
It’s possible that at some stage, Microsoft may make Visio Online a fully fledged version of Visio that all Mac users can use in a browser. Currently though, it is intrinsically linked with the desktop version of Visio for advanced editing and therefore not a serious option for Mac users.
SmartDraw, Lucidchart, OmniGraffle and ConceptDraw Pro still remain the best professional alternatives to Visio on Mac. Which one is best for you depends on whether you want something cloud based like SmartDraw and Lucidchart, or one that has it’s own desktop Mac client like Omnigraffle or ConceptDraw.
It also depends on how closely you’re going to be working with other Visio professionals on Windows.
SmartDraw is hard to beat as a powerful but far easier to learn and use alternative to Visio. SmartDraw has been around longer than almost any other digramming software and all that experience, features and user interface know-how has clearly gone into the Cloud version. Crucially, it’s the best alternative to Visio when it comes to importing and exporting VSDX files and if you’re going to be working with Visio based clients or colleagues, you should look no further.
However, if Microsoft Office or Google product integration is a priority, although Lucidchart hasn’t been around as long and doesn’t quite have the slickness or range of templates and objects as SmartDraw, it’s much better integrated into Microsoft Office and Google Sheets. If you want something that can allows you to dynamically edit diagrams in Office document or extract data from Google sheets, Lucidchart does this better than any other product.
The drawback of both SmartDraw and Lucidchart however is that they are both Cloud based and both require monthly subscriptions. However, if you’re a serious Visio designer, this shouldn’t put you off especially since Microsoft is slowly moving Visio online with a subscription model via Office 365 anyway.
If you’d rather go for a one off purchase and a native Mac desktop solution it’s a close run thing between OmniGraffle Pro and ConceptDraw Pro. If it’s VSDX export support you need, then it has to be ConceptDraw Pro but if you want something that’s just as good at wireframing or UX design as it is at creating flowcharts, you can’t do better than OmniGraffle Pro.
We hope this article has helped you discover the right Visio alternative for Mac suitable for your needs and budget.
If you’re on a really tight budget and are looking for free diagramming software, you may find our look at the best free alternatives to Visio on Mac more useful.
If none of these alternatives are what you’re looking for and you simply must have Visio on your Mac, then your last resort is to run Visio on Mac.
If you just want to occasionally open a Visio file on your Mac, many of these applications can be used to view Visio files on Mac for free but for a more comprehensive guide, check out our look at Visio viewer software for Mac.
If you’ve tried an app that you think is better, or don’t like one of the above solutions, let us know in the comments below. Likewise, if you have any questions about using any of the software covered in this article or have any suggestions about other Visio like software worth trying on Mac, let us know.