Visio for Mac does not exist but there are some excellent alternatives to Microsoft Visio on Mac OS X. Microsoft released Visio 2016, Visio 2013 and Visio 2010 for PC only and it has never been available for Mac. And despite the release of Office 2016 for Mac, there is still no Visio 2016 for Mac included in it (nor are there plans for Visio 2017 for Mac either). However, as we’ll show you here, there is hope for Visio users that have switched to Mac. In this article, we look at serious professional Visio replacements for Mac including those native to OS X and multi-platform that can open and edit Visio VSD and VSDX files on your Mac.
- 1 Best Alternatives To Visio For Mac
- 2 Visio For Mac Alternatives Comparison Table
- 3 Other Alternatives To Visio For Mac
- 4 How To Run Visio On Mac
- 5 Conclusion
- 6 Other Articles That May Interest You
Best Alternatives To Visio For Mac
Although there’s no Apple version of Visio, there are several alternatives to Visio for Mac. However, there are only four serious contenders for professional alternatives to Visio on Mac – SmartDraw, Lucidchart, Omnigraffle Pro and ConceptDraw Pro.
|Our Ranking||Visio For Mac Alternative||Price|
These are by far the closest equivalent to Visio on Mac in terms of features and professional CAD capabilities and in the main part of this article, we take a closer look at them. After the reviews, you’ll also find a useful comparison table to help you get a better overview of what each one offers. You can also jump straight to the Visio for Mac alternatives comparison table using the Table of Contents above.
After looking at these top Mac Visio alternatives in more detail, we also then look at other alternatives to Visio for Mac that don’t offer the full capabilities of Microsoft Visio but are worth considering if you need Visio for a specific type of work. For example, Axure RP has emerged as a strong contender for creating wireframes and interactive prototypes on Mac although it’s more suited to website prototypes than general technical diagrams. We also take a look at Sketch for Mac which offers some of the vector graphic functionality of Visio but with more emphasis on graphic design.
Here then are the best alternatives to Visio for Mac users starting with our top choice, SmartDraw for Mac.
With over 1 million customers including GM, Pepsi and FedEx to name a few, SmartDraw is arguably the most established diagramming software available outside of Visio. SmartDraw has been in the diagramming business for over 20 years and during that period has been downloaded more than 22 million times. Until 2016, SmartDraw Desktop was only available on Windows PCs but now the company offers a fully functional cloud version that Mac users can finally use making SmartDraw compatible with Mac for the first time. The impressive thing is that the cloud version of SmartDraw includes every feature of the Windows only SmartDraw Desktop Business Edition which isn’t often the case when a desktop app is moved to the cloud. The toolset is exactly the same as the PC version with a mind boggling 34,000 symbols and 4,500 templates which cater for the many different users of SmartDraw. SmartDraw Cloud has templates for just about any diagramming needs including CAD designs, 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. There are in fact over 70 different categories of SmartDraw templates in all of which these are just a sample:
When you log into SmartDraw for the first time in your browser, you’re presented with a GUI that’s exactly the same as the Windows desktop version. The most striking thing about SmartDraw is the relative ease at which it allows you to create visuals compared to the complexity of Microsoft Visio. SmartDraw does this through a combination of a simplified, clear interface and automated templates which do a lot of the hard work for you. Compared to Visio, the choice of templates, the way the templates work and both the quality and choice of symbols is genuinely impressive. And even if you don’t want to stick to the templates, they provide lots of inspiration with which to work with.
Within each template, there is a SmartPanel which contains thousands of high quality symbols, images and clip art to work with. One gripe 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 Visio.
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.
The really clever thing however is the way SmartDraw automatically adjusts and revises the diagram 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. You can see this in action when building an Org Chart:
When it comes to Visualization, SmartDraw offers a huge choice in creating infographics and charts. If you need to create striking infographics, SmartDraw has a huge choice of categories and templates including population templates, World Date Map templates and process/cycle templates. In terms of charts, there’s everything from basic pie charts and bar charts to 3D charts and Relative Value charts for calculating ROI. In this respect, SmartDraw is way more versatile than Visio that doesn’t count infographic creation as one of it’s strong points. 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. Of course it can’t really compete with industry leading CAD for Mac software such as AutoCAD but certainly as a starting point for 2D CAD designers, it’s a good choice as it’s so easy to use.
If you’re already a Microsoft Visio user or have to deal with Visio files on a daily basis, your main concern will be how SmartDraw fares when opening Visio files. In our experience, SmartDraw Cloud seems to have absolutely no problem working with Visio files and preserves the formatting when importing Visio VSD and VSDX files into SmartDraw. You can do this very easily by going to the Account Menu and selecting Import Visio:
After importing a Visio file, you can ungroup, change fill color, resize shapes and edit the Visio diagram with SmartDraw. However as yet, you can’t import VST or VTX templates or VSS and VSX stencils into SmartDraw. After you’ve finished editing a diagram, you can send it to Visio users by exporting to Microsoft Office format, PDF, SVG or PNG format.
You can also export SmartDraw diagrams to Pages – Apple’s alternative to Microsoft Word for Mac. Unfortunately, Visio file export is not yet supported although this is something that will eventually be added according to SmartDraw. Everything created in SmartDraw is saved in the cloud but you can also choose to save diagrams or export Visio files to Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive and Dropbox if it’s more convenient. You can watch more about importing Visio files into SmartDraw below:
Despite being entirely cloud based, SmartDraw is surprisingly 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. Since its cloud based, you can of course use it anywhere too, including on your iPhone or iPad if you need to make a last-minute edit.
Image quality is another area where SmartDraw impresses. 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 cloud 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 on them. SmartDraw is the only cloud diagramming software that uses vector graphics which gives it an advantage over Lucidchart which uses bitmap based graphics. The result is that SmartDraw images look extremely crisp, especially when adding graphics and illustrations such as this Landscape Design:
In terms of pricing, there’s no up front cost to SmartDraw like with Visio and there’s only one version. Currently Microsoft Visio Standard costs $299 and Visio Professional $589.99. A single license for SmartDraw costs $14.95 per month (billed annually). Of course, Windows users have the option of using Visio for Office 365 for $13 per month but this still doesn’t offer all of the functionality of the desktop version of Visio. And if you buy a license for a team of 50 users for example, SmartDraw works out considerably cheaper at $59.90 per user compared to $156 for Microsoft Visio for a comparable license. For bulk purchases of SmartDraw Cloud, you must request a quote first. Note that if you’re also a PC user and have already bought the $297 Windows version of SmartDraw 2016 Business Edition, you get SmartDraw Cloud for free for one year.
SmartDraw Customer support is also 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 such as in India like with Microsoft Visio. 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 problem or issue with a critical project.
Overall, SmartDraw is hard to beat as an alternative to Visio on Mac and it’s great that we can finally use SmartDraw on a Mac. The cloud version offers all the functionality and quality of the Windows desktop version with the added bonus that SmartDraw just makes things so easy compared to Visio.
To get a good overview of SmartDraw in action, you can watch a video of SmartDraw’s interface and features below. To learn more about SmartDraw on Mac, we also recommend our more in-depth SmartDraw for Mac review.
Imports Visio files
Thousands of templates and shapes
PDF, PNG, SVG and Pages export
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, Microsoft OneDrive and Dropbox
Includes all the functionality, features and quality of the PC desktop version
No native desktop client
No work offline support
No Visio file export (although expected to be added soon)
No support for Visio VST or VTX templates
Lucidchart is the major rival to SmartDraw as an online professional Visio alternative for Mac. Like SmartDraw, since Lucidchart is cloud based, it works in any web browser and is therefore suitable for both Mac and PC users. While it’s not as slick as SmartDraw or and doesn’t come close to it in terms of templates, the Pro ($8.95/month) and Team ($20/month) versions do export Visio files whereas SmartDraw does not. Another advantage 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 allows you to do so and then syncs edits or changes as soon as you go online again. This could be useful if you regularly need to create or edit diagrams offsite for example where there’s no internet coverage.
Like SmartDraw, because it’s web based, Lucidchart is an excellent option for those working on Visio projects in a team because it’s so easy to share and collaborate on work at the same time. Or if you just need a quick and easy solution to simply view a Visio file on Mac in a hurry the free Basic Single User option is a fast and simple solution. Lucidchart will even allow you to open OmniGraffle files on Mac for free in .graffle or .graffle.zip format in Google Chrome (see OmniGraffle review below).
Lucidchart has no problem importing, editing and exporting Visio files and was actually the first web based app to allow you to do so. However, to edit Visio files on Mac using Lucidchart you need to upgrade to at least the Pro or Team version – the Basic Single User version will only let you open and view them. 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 and 2013. To do so, 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. As you can see, you can also import files from another diagramming tool Gliffy and more recently, they’ve added support for OmniGraffle files too.
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 or VSD format.
Lucidchart also allows you to upload and insert PNG, JPG and SVG files into documents and export your final diagrams into most major image formats including PDF.
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 basic and extended libraries and VMWare stencils. There are also plenty of stencils for network diagrams or for creating schemas and you can find more examples here. If you need to extend these 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. There are also plenty of tutorials and guides to help you create diagrams on your Mac.
To clarify which Lucidchart plans support which Visio formats, use the table below for reference 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 for Mac, not least because you can’t import or export Visio files with it and are limited to just 100MB of storage.
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 Mac 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 here.
In general, the Lucidchart team are very hot on updating the product based on customer feedback and changes are made pretty quickly. For instance, if there’s a file format that you need to be supported in Lucidchart, you can vote for it here and the developers are very responsive when it comes to any questions or problems you might have.
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 (or plugins) for integration with other business software platforms. Many online diagramming software tools charge for integration with other apps such Google, Microsoft and Atlassian software. 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.
For Office 365 users, the latest version of Lucidchart now features closer integration 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 to install the Lucidchart plugin for Microsoft Office 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 the most well integrated diagramming software with Atlassian software out there. 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.
In 2016, Lucidchart 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.
Other products that Lucidchart for Mac 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. 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.
More recently, Lucidchart has added an interesting new Timeline shape library in an attempt to help you manage projects timelines while creating diagrams in Lucidchart. Although this is still in Beta, it allows you to visually display past events, future plans and helps you to manage the completion of a project. However it’s limited at this stage and if you’re interested in software to help you manage projects, we recommend reading our guide to The Best Project Management Software For Mac.
Other more recent enhancement to Lucidchart include 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.
It’s not all work and no play with Lucidchart though. More recently it has also added ways to make pop-culture flowcharts such as these examples for Which Game of Thrones House Do You Belong To? or Which Toy Story Character Are You? Each week, the Lucidchart team add new flowcharts based on the latest trends in popular culture to lighten-up things a bit (if you’re interested in flowcharts, you may also be interested in our look at The Best Flowchart for Mac Software.)
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.
Pricing for Lucidchart depends on your exact needs although only the Pro, Team and Enterprise versions are suitable as Visio alternatives as they are the only ones that import and export Visio files or templates and offer a full library of professional shapes. The Basic license doesn’t import or export Visio files is limited to 100MB of storage (you can also use Lucidchart for free although it’s limited to just 60 objects per document and 25MB of storage space although works fine as a Visio viewer for Mac). Whichever option you choose, if you pay annually in advance, you save up to 33% than paying monthly.
If after trying the Team version, you decide to use Lucidchart across your entire company, you can upgrade to The Enterprise version which offers advantages such as document retention and account provisioning. There are several other advantages to the Enterprise version for administrators too.
On an end user level however, there are fewer advantages to upgrading to Enterprise except auto-provisioning and a better level of customer support:
You can get a sneak peak at what Lucidchart looks like by opening the Visio viewer demo for free. You can also try a free 7 day trial of Lucidchart to judge for yourself (the trial has recently been reduced from 14 days although Lucidchart will extend the trial on request if you need more time to evaluate it). If you’re interested in the experiences of other organizations that have implemented Lucidchart, you can read some testimonials here. Finally, for a more in-depth look at Lucidchart, we strongly recommend you check-out our Lucidchart review.
You can also get an overview of Lucidchart in action below:
Import and Exports Visio files and stencils (Pro, Team & Enterprise versions)
Integrated with Google Drive and Microsoft Office
JIRA, Confluence and BOX Support
Easy to pick-up and learn
PNG, PDF, and JPEG import/export
Chrome plugin to work offline
Only allows Visio import and export with Pro or Team version
Monthly subscription model
Some formatting issues depending on complexity of Visio files imported
No support for Visio VST and VTX templates
Limited templates compared to SmartDraw
OmniGraffle Pro is the best desktop alternative to MS Visio for Mac that’s designed specifically for OS X. OmniGraffle produces highly professional results for everything from website wireframes, electrical systems and prototypes to family trees and maps of software classes. In fact diagrams produced in OmniGraffle look noticeable better than those in Visio because like SmartDraw, OmniGraffle uses high quality vector graphics. If you don’t want to use a web app such as SmartDraw or Lucidchart, then OmniGraffle is definitely the most complete and professional native diagramming software for Mac we’ve used. 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. Since OmniGraffle is designed specifically for OS X, it’s clearly more Mac user oriented than most other Visio for Mac alternatives. This means it’s also frequently updated with each release of OS X and the recently released OmniGraffle 7 is the first diagramming software on Mac to support Touch Bars on the new MacBook Pro.
It’s important however to be aware of from the start is that the Standard version of OmniGraffle won’t suffice if you want a serious alternative to Visio. OmniGraffle Standard costs $99.99 from the Mac App Store but you have to upgrade to the the Pro version via an in-app purchase for another $99.99 to get essential advanced features, not least the ability to import and export Visio files. This means that effectively, it costs you $198.98 for OmniGraffle Pro but that’s still extremely reasonable for a native Mac desktop equivalent to Visio on Mac. Upgrading to OmniGraffle Pro is essential if you’re going to work with Visio files as it opens all Visio formats including VSD, VSDX, VDX files and Visio stencil files in VST, VTX, VSX and VSS format.
Importing Visio files into OmniGraffle is very easy. 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. When you import a Visio file, it will be automatically converted into OmniGraffle’s .graffle format. When it comes to exporting back to Visio, OmniGraffle Pro can export to Visio XML format which can be read by all versions of Visio. Both OmniGraffle Standard and Pro can also export to PNG, OO3 and PDF formats.
OmniGraffle also includes a limited number of stencils (although nothing close to the range you get with SmartDraw) but you can download many more OmniGraffle Stencils separately.
The developer of OmniGraffle, OmniGroup are pretty responsive when it comes to including features that user request. For example, 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.
The export options have been significantly improved giving you more control over the format and size of images you want to export. There’s now an Infinite Canvas which conveniently expands with your diagram without the need to manually extend width and height.
You can now finally import SVG images too which was one of the biggest letdowns in previous versions of OmniGraffle. You can now import vector graphics directly into OmniGraffle whereas previously, they would only convert into Bitmaps. You can now 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 7 has also been updated to work with the Touch Bars on new MacBook Pros making it the first diagramming software on Mac to embrace the Touch Bar. Although this 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. Note that Touch Bar and Infinite Canvas support are included in the Standard version too but all other enhancements in version 7 are for the Pro version only.
If you want mobile access, there’s OmniGraffle for iPad which can also open Visio files – simply tap and hold the Visio attachment in your email or any other app and the select Open in OmniGraffle. You can also go to the File Menu and select Import to import a Visio file or stencil. Note that OmniGraffle for iOS costs extra – the Standard version is $49 and the Pro version is $99.98 and both work with the Apple Pencil.
Any changes you make to diagrams in OmniGraffle for iPad are automatically synced with OmniGraffle for Mac via the free OmniPresence service. However, you can’t sync files via other online storage solutions such as Google Drive, iCloud or DropBox which is a bit annoying. You can learn more about OmniGraffle for iOS and watch it in action here.
The biggest problem you’ll probably experience with OmniGraffle is occasional instability. OmniGraffle has no problem importing Visio files but does sometimes slow down and on rare occasions, crash when editing. It can be incredibly frustrating when editing complex Visio diagrams for OmniGraffle to suddenly crash or freeze and lose hours of work so it’s essential to save work frequently. Although OmniGraffle generally matches Visio all the way for design features, one other slight drawback of OmniGraffle Pro is that it doesn’t quite offer the fine tuning precision of shapes and objects that Visio does although only experienced Visio professionals will likely notice this.
The good thing is that OmniGraffle has recently changed it’s free trial policy so you can now try OmniGraffle free for 14 days from the Mac App Store. Even after 14 days you decide not to upgrade, you can keep the free version of OmniGraffle to as a free Visio viewer for Mac. 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.
If you’re already using an older version of OmniGraffle, you can upgrade to the Standard or Pro version of OmniGraffle 7 for half price. Although one advantage of OmniGraffle over Visio for Mac alternatives such as SmartDraw and Lucidchart is that there’s no monthly subscription, the slight disadvantage is that you have to pay for each version upgrade although OmniGroup usually discount the cost of this to existing users.
If after 30 days you decide OmniGraffle is not for you, there’s also a 30 day money back policy. Note that OmniGraffle 7 requires OS X 10.11 El Capitan or higher which means it also works with OS X 10.12 Sierra.
Overall, OmniGraffle is still our favorite desktop alternative to Visio on Mac. While web apps like SmartDraw and Lucidchart are even easier to use and certainly better for those regularly working with clients or colleagues on Windows, if you’re working in a Mac only environment, OmniGraffle is a highly accomplished professional vector diagramming software for Mac.
You can watch some OmniGraffle tutorials here and read more about its features on the OmniGraffle website. There’s an extensive free 300 page iBook OmniGraffle manual too although this hasn’t been updated for version 7 yet. You can also watch an overview of OmniGraffle in action below. If you’re impressed by OmniGraffle, we also recommend our OmniPlan for Mac review which is an incredibly effective productivity tool and organizer made by the same developer, Omni Group.
Native desktop Mac app – designed specifically for OS X
Easier to use than ConceptDraw
Imports and Exports all types of Visio files
One-off payment – no subscription model
Not as precise as Visio
Can be unstable sometimes
Requires upgrading to Pro to import and export Visio files and stencils
No free updates
App Store version can’t be upgraded
iOS version costs extra
ConceptDraw Pro is the only professional cross platform desktop alternative to Visio on Mac that works on both OS X and Windows. If you work regularly on both Mac and PC, ConceptDraw could be a more suitable solution than OmniGraffle if you want a desktop instead of an online Visio for Mac alternative. One license costs $199 but entitles you to install one version of ConceptDraw Pro on both a Mac and PC so that you can switch between the two whenever you want.
ConceptDraw Pro can import Visio VSD files (Visio 2007-2010 format) and Microsoft’s newer open XML file format VSDX used in Visio 2013 and above. It can also import Visio Stencils in VSSX format. To import Visio files or stencils into ConceptDraw Pro for Mac, you simply go to File > Import and then select the Visio format you want to import.
While VSDX files and VSSX stencils files can be imported instantly this way, note that importing VSD files is a bit more cumbersome. You have to email VSD files to [email protected] which automatically converts VSD files to VDX format using the ConceptDraw Visio File Conversion Tool. The automated tool takes anything up to 15 minutes to convert and resend you the converted VDX file to your email address. You can also send batches of zipped files for conversion and files are returned using the original file compression that you sent them in. This is a rather awkward way to convert VSD files but since VSD files are increasingly less common because of the newer VSDX format, it shouldn’t be a major drawback for most users.
You can also import both VSSX and VSS Visio stencil VSS files but for older VSS files, you need to export them from Microsoft Visio as an XML file first and then import them. This obviously means you’ll need to have access to Visio on Windows first or at least be able to ask someone to save the stencil as an XML file on Windows. To save a VSS file in XML format, go to File > Save As > Save As Type and select XML drawing. In ConceptDraw, you can then simply import it by going to File > Import > XML For Visio. The same process applies if you want to import a Visio custom library or Visio files with custom data assigned to shapes.
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 tons of templates to get you going divided into different areas such as landscaping, engineering, management, science etc. It also features something called ConceptDraw Solution Park which effectively extends the capabilities of the program. In Solution Park, you can find more templates, audiovisual clips and tutorials to help make your documents more professional.
When it comes to exporting, ConceptDraw can export to VDX and VSDX format although you can’t export to VSSX stencil format. You can also export diagrams to MS Word, MS Project and Evernote. If you need to deal with ERD, UML and ORM formats, ConceptDraw is particularly ideal.
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. Technical support is included in the price. Updates are also free although it’s not clear if this includes major version updates too. If you want to see more of what ConceptDraw Pro can do, check out these samples of diagrams and charts created with it.
You can also see ConceptDraw Pro in action here:
Native Mac desktop app (also for PC)
Imports and Exports Visio files with ease
Lots of useful templates
Extend functionality with ConceptDraw Solution Park
Quite hard to learn at first – not as intuitive as OmniGraffle
No Free Upgrades
VSD file conversion procedure cumbersome
Visio For Mac Alternatives Comparison Table
SmartDraw, Lucidchart, OmniGraffle Pro and ConceptDraw Pro are still the most viable professional Visio alternatives on Mac OS X. If you’re still not sure which to go for, we’ve put together a comparison table that might help clarify things a bit.
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
Other Alternatives To Visio For Mac
As highlighted in the introduction to this review of the best Visio for Mac alternatives, there is other diagramming software for Mac which don’t quite measure up to Visio as a professional solution, but could still be sufficient depending on your needs and budget. Here’s a brief overview of the best of the rest.
Sketch for Mac is the slight curve ball of the apps covered here but worth mentioning because it offers something a bit different to most other Visio alternatives on Mac. Sketch is more tailored for UX designers than Visio and if you need serious vector graphics editing features with some powerful graphics design features thrown in for good measure, then Sketch could be for you. Professional Visio users will however find Sketch too lightweight compared to OmniGraffle, ConceptDraw and Lucidchart because Sketch puts a greater emphasis on graphic design than Visio.
Sketch certainly looks good too and has been designed specifically for OS X with a very slick and elegant interface which has won it several design awards including an Apple Design award. Sketch is a sort of mix between Adobe’s Illustrator and Microsoft Visio although it is vector based and leans heavily towards the graphics design features of Illustrator than the technical diagramming features of Visio. However, for Graphic Designers that need a mix of both graphics design and vector graphics functionality, Sketch is definitely worth looking at. Sketch also has a userbase that develop plugins to extend the functionality of Sketch too such as a Bitmap compressor, Sketch Measure and Dummy Content Generator.
The one thing to watch out for Sketch is instability. Many users complained of problems in version 2 although the most recent version 3 seems to have improved stability significantly. At the end of 2015, the Sketch developer Bohemian Coding decided to remove Sketch from the Mac App Store and so you can only purchase Sketch for Mac directly from them now. The reasons for Sketch leaving the Mac App Store were mainly technical and by distributing directly to customers, the Bohemian Coding team feel that they can provide a faster, better customer experience than having to jump through all the hoops involved in submitting apps to Apple via the App Store.
Sketch costs $99 which is very reasonable for a Mac vector drawing application with all the features of Sketch. Note that there are special prices available for organizations that buy in bulk and students can get 50% off the full price of Sketch.
You can also watch some video tutorials for Sketch here.
Pros: Includes both vector graphics and graphic design tools, Very slick interface
Cons: Lacks the professional diagramming tools of Visio, Some bugs and instability
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 and those looking for a serious CAD program on Mac for professional use. If you’re working with a web development team, Axure RP is arguably 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.
Our advice is try the 30 day free trial of Axure RP for Mac before taking the plunge because its considerably more expensive than most of the other options featured here. You can choose to buy either a perpetual or subscription license for $495 (or $29 per user/month) for a Standard License and $895 ($49 per user/month) for a Team License. There’s also an Enterprise License for large corporations from $99 per user/month. Note that the Standard License has been discontinued. The advantage of a subscription 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.
If you want to know more, you see Axure RP for Mac in action here:
Pros: Excellent for prototypes, Easy to collaborate with web designers and developers, Simple drag and drop widgets
Cons: More geared towards prototypes than diagramming, Expensive license
If all of the above are out of your price range, Nevron Draw is a budget alternative to Visio on Mac. Nevron Draw is available either in the Nevron Office suite ($49) which is a cheaper alternative to Microsoft Office for Mac although it only contains two products – Nevron Writer and Nevron Draw. Beyond free alternatives to Visio on Mac, Nevron Draw is about as cheap as it gets for a professional Visio like program for Macs. Of course, it can’t compare to the features you get in Visio but it does offer an impressive range of tools. There’s a very large number of shapes to choose from, it has a powerful formula based engine similar to Visio and there are automatic layout algorithms to speed things up. The other handy thing about Nevron Draw is that it works on both Mac and Windows if you regularly collaborate with PC users. You can also export your files to PDF or image format but note that there’s no support for importing or exporting Visio VSD files.
Nevron Draw is generally surprisingly easy to use for a diagramming software with such features, made easier by the fact that you customize the interface as you want. There are also lots of useful tutorials and tips about how to create custom shapes, how to connect shapes, specific tips for organizational charts etc. Nevron Draw is packed with free templates and more than suitable for mind maps, network diagrams, floor plans, fish bone diagrams, work flows, UML diagrams and electrical diagrams. GUI support is more limited however and there are very few templates such as for software or hardware designers.
You can test Nevron Draw instantly either by using the web version (requires the Microsoft Silverlight plugin) or by downloading the free trial. For $39, Nevron Draw generally represents excellent value for money and users get preferential rates of future upgrades.
Pros: Excellent value for money, Lots of shapes to choose from, Includes Nevron Writer if you buy the Nevron Office suite
Cons: Limited for professional use, No Visio file import or export, Not great for designing GUIs
How To Run Visio On Mac
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. There are a few ways to run Visio in OS X. The most common and widely used method is by installing Windows on your Mac using a virtual environment such as Parallels so that you can run both Windows and OS X side-by-side. Alternatively, you can install Windows on your Mac using Boot Camp which is a free tool included with your Mac but this only allows you to boot in either OS X or Windows at one time. Neither of these solutions are without their problems though and you’re far better going for one of the dedicated Mac Visio alternatives featured in this article.
Another solution is to run Visio on Mac using Microsoft Azure RemoteApp. Microsoft Azure RemoteApp allows you to access Windows apps remotely from your Mac and we’ve found it works surprisingly well. Microsoft Azure RemoteApp uses Microsoft Remote Desktop which is one of the best RDP for Mac clients there is to remotely connect to a Windows server hosting Visio. The setup process can be a tricky but once done, you can launch Visio from your Dock like any other app. Unfortunately Microsoft has announced it will discontinue Azure RemoteApp in August 2017 and will shortly be transitioning it to another platform. In the meantime however, the best thing is you can try it free for 30 days with a trial of Microsoft Azure before deciding whether it’s sufficient for your needs.
You can find full instructions how to set it up by reading our tutorial on how to Run Visio On Mac.
Finally, some Mac users find however that the only truly reliable and satisfactory way to have access to Visio is to bite the bullet and buy a PC laptop for a few hundred dollars for the exclusive use of running Visio on (and any other Windows programs that aren’t available on Mac). This might not be as crazy as it sounds. If you’re willing to go down this route, or feel you have no other choice, there are now some very cheap PC laptops that in the long run, can work out cheaper than buying or subscribing to a Visio alternative on Mac. It’s obviously not an ideal solution but if you simply can’t live without Microsoft Visio, it may save you a lot of hassle and time than trying to run it virtually.
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. The recent arrival of SmartDraw on Mac via SmartDraw Cloud has certainly shaken things up considerably however and in our opinion, it’s hard to beat it as a powerful but far easier to learn alternative to Visio. SmartDraw has been around longer than almost any other Visio like software on Mac and all that experience, features and user interface know-how has clearly gone into the online version.
However, if you’re a Microsoft Office user, although Lucidchart hasn’t been around as long and doesn’t quite have the slickness of SmartDraw, it does feature better Microsoft Office integration due to the Lucidchart Office add-in. This allows you to harness the power of Lucidchart within Microsoft Word, PowerPoint and Excel and if this is important for you, it may have the edge. The Lucidchart iPad app is also something that Visio users may also find appealing although this may be less entincing now that Microsoft has launched an official Visio for iPad app (although note that like Visio Online, Microsoft Visio for iPad doesn’t allow you to edit Visio files – it’s basically a Visio viewer for iPad).
The slight drawback of both SmartDraw and Lucidchart however is that they require monthly subscriptions. If you’re a serious Visio designer, this shouldn’t stop you as it’s well worth it but for occassional Visio use, it may not be worth it. In this case, you’re better to go for a native OSX desktop solution such as OmniGraffle or ConceptDraw Pro which only require a one-off purchase.
Other Articles That May Interest You
Finally, it’s worth mentioning a few bits of Mac equivalent software that Visio users often use alongside Visio on Windows. If you miss using Skype for Business alongside Visio when contacting clients and colleagues for example, you can now finally download Skype for Business For Mac. Its taken a few years for Microsoft to finally replace the much maligned Lync for Mac, but Microsoft claims to have rewritten Skype for Business from the ground-up for OS X. Since many Visio architects and users use SfB alongside Visio, this is definitely good news and one less thing missing from the Office toolkit for Office users on Mac.
If you’re an AutoCAD user and are looking for a CAD program to work alongside a Visio alternative on Mac, then check out our guide to the Best CAD Software For Mac.
If you’re a Visio user that sometimes needs to scan or OCR diagrams and Visio documents for editing, there is some excellent OCR software for Mac to get the job done quickly and accurately. Although there are fewer options on Mac than on Windows, we recommend reading our in-depth look at the Best OCR For Mac software if you need a solution to this.
Finally, even in 2016 architects and designers sometimes have no choice but to fax documents to clients or colleagues. The good news is if you need to fax Visio documents, you can do so directly from your Mac without a fax machine. We’ve shown you how easy it is in our tutorial on how to Fax From Mac.
We hope this article has helped you discover a Visio alternative for Mac suitable for your needs. If after reading this you’ve decided to look for a more general diagramming tool that doesn’t come with a Visio like price tag, you’ll probably find our article on the best Free Alternatives to Visio for Mac more useful. If you’re interested in discovering more diagramming software on Mac, we also recommend reading our articles on Free Alternatives To Visio for Mac, Flowchart For Mac Software and Org Chart Software for Mac. Note that if you just want to view a Visio file on Mac that someone has sent you, check out our guide to Free Visio Viewers For Mac.
If you’re interested in learning about alternatives to other Microsoft software on Mac, you may also find our articles on substitutes to Publisher For Mac, Access For Mac and Project For Mac useful too.
If you’ve tried a Visio alternative for Mac which you think is better, or don’t like one of the above solutions, let us know. Likewise, if you have any questions about using any of the Visio alternatives covered in this article though, let us know in the comments below.