Let’s be straight – there’s no such thing as a professional free Visio for Mac alternative but there is free diagramming software on Mac that can edit Visio files. Although these apps can’t 100% compare with a professional design tool such as Visio, there are some surprisingly good options out there nowadays.
It’s important to be aware from the start however that if you need both Visio VSDX import and export, there are very few free apps that can export to Visio VSDX format. While there are many that can now import, only serious professional Visio alternatives such as SmartDraw can also export to VSDX format used in Visio 2013 and above. If you’re planning on working with clients or customers that are using Visio, this will probably be an essential requirement in order to exchange files.
SmartDraw is the best alternative to Visio on Mac we’ve tried and not only is it much easier to use than Microsoft’s product, it’s cheaper too but there’s no free version of it.
You should also bear in mind that free alternatives to Visio come with restrictions too such as:
- Most will only allow individual free use. If you need to use them in a team, you will have to pay for a team license.
- Most free licenses are limited to a certain number of diagrams and objects.
- Some free diagramming tools make your diagrams public. You will have to subscribe to a paid plan to make them private.
- Most are cloud based but some have Google Chrome extensions which allow you to work offline on your Mac desktop.
If these things aren’t important for you though and you’re willing to settle for something less powerful than Visio, here we list the top free Visio alternatives on Mac
Lucidchart is a powerful but easy to use alternative to Visio on Mac. It includes much of the power of Visio but with an easier learning curve and excellent team collaboration tools.
Lucidchart allows some limited free use although the free version is not enough as a serious alternative to Visio. The free version for example allows you to import and edit Visio files but you can’t export them. You can also only add up to 60 objects for free but you do get access to the entire shape library and you get 25MB of free storage space.
Lucidchart allows you to import Visio files as well as OmniGraffle, Gliffy and AWS Architecture files.
If you subscribe, you can also export Lucidchart diagrams to Visio as well as most other major image formats. However even with the paid version you can only export to Visio VDX format used in Visio 2010 or older. It does not support exporting to Visio 2013 and above VSDX format which may be a problem for people that regularly work alongside Microsoft Visio users on Windows.
Importing and exporting Visio files is however very easy and accurate with Lucidchart. You can watch how we imported and exported MS Visio files in the Lucidchart vs Visio video below.
There are many cool touches to Lucidchart although most features are only available if you subscribe.
For example, Lucidchart is probably the most well integrated Microsoft Office diagramming software we’ve seen. There are add-ins for Microsoft Word, PowerPoint and Excel so you can edit and create Lucidchart flowcharts or diagrams directly in Office documents.
Just install the Lucidchart plugin for Microsoft Office, open PowerPoint, Word or Excel and go to Insert > My Add-ins and search for Lucidchart to install the add-in. This conveniently allows you to create or insert dynamic diagrams, flowcharts, and wireframes within Office documents.
The paid version of Luicidchart also has add-ons for online services such as Google Drive, Google Docs, Dropbox, Box, Slack, Confluence, JIRA and more. The Confluence and JIRA apps enable you to create, edit and embed diagrams within Confluence and attach them to JIRA tasks.
One neat feature unique to Lucidchart is data linking from Google Sheets. This is an extremely time saving feature which pulls data from Google Sheets and updates diagrams in Lucidchart accordingly. So for example, if you’re constantly having to update an office floor plan as employees join and leave the company, you can simply update the information in Google Sheets and your Lucidchart floor plan will update automatically. This doesn’t work with Microsoft Office yet but for those that use Google Sheets, it’s a very convenient and efficient rather than having to manually update data.
In general, third party integration with other apps and services is better in Lucidchart than almost any other diagramming tool although integration is limited to the Team version or above.
Lucidchart is also one of the few Visio alternatives that has a free native iOS app. Lucidchart for iOS allows you to view and edit Visio diagrams on an iPhone or iPad and sync with the desktop version to carry on where you left off. The iPad version is free to use and you can read our full review of Lucidchart for iPad for more.One final thing we like about Lucidchart is that it also tries to bring a bit of fun to diagramming and specifically flowcharting. Lucidchart features a ton of pop-culture flowcharts based on popular culture such as Pokemon Go, Star Wars and Harry Potter.
You can start diagramming with Lucidchart for free although as mentioned earlier you’ll need to upgrade to at least the Pro version for full Visio import and export support. A Pro license costs $8.95 per month and Team subscriptions start at $20 for up to 3 users.
For a more detailed look at Lucidchart, check out our Lucidchart for Mac review.
You can also watch some of the things Lucidchart can do below:
What makes Draw.io (formerly Diagramly) stand out from the crowd is that for individual use, it’s 100% free and supports not only VSDX import but VSDX export too. Apart from that, it’s also just an extremely good, fast out and easy to use diagramming tool.
The biggest draw for Visio users is that not only is it far easy to use but it has been recently updated to export in VSDX format which is very rare for a free diagramming software. Although this feature is currently in beta it works very well although you may experience formatting issues with the exported file depending on the complexity of it.
You can also export diagrams to other major formats such as PNG, JPEG, SVG, PDF, HTML, XML and also share diagrams via a simple URL.
What we also like with Draw.io is that there’s no messing around. As soon as you go to the site it opens straight into the editor – no sign up necessary. You simply choose a storage location such as Google Drive, Dropbox or your Mac hard drive and you’re good to go. You can also choose to import Visio stencils and diagrams as well as those in Gliffy and Lucidchart formats (see reviews of both below).
There aren’t a huge amount of templates to choose from but all the essentials are there including Network Diagrams, Engineering and UML diagrams.
Draw.io also has a useful Chrome extension which allows you to work offline on your Mac desktop. It syncs changes with your online diagrams via services such as Google Drive, Dropbox, OneDrive and even Github.
Although it’s not up to the level of Visio, Draw.io is an impressive free alternative. The recent addition of VSDX export support is a particular is a real standout feature and there are few diagramming apps that give you this much for free.
You can watch a quick overview of Draw.io in action below.
Gliffy is a cloud based diagraming app with a clear, simple interface that is focused on collaboration with others. Gliffy is excellent for everything from Venn diagrams to Floor plans and doing a SWOT analysis. It’s tailored for large organizations as it’s fully integrated with Confluence and JIRA.
Although it’s not as powerful as Visio, you can get some surprisingly similar results using Gliffy with a simple drag and drop interface. You can export diagrams in various formats including XML although there’s no Visio export support.
Like Draw.io, Gliffy also has a Google Chrome extension which allows you to draw diagrams offline on your Mac.
On the downside, there aren’t many templates to choose from and if you want to embed diagrams in other applications, you’ll need to subscribe to a Team subscription .
The good thing is that you can use Gliffy for free for an unlimited amount of time. There’s an initial 14 day trial but after the free trial finishes, you can continue to use it for free although all diagrams will be made public. None of your diagrams will be deleted from the account though and you can continue to access them.
You can watch how quickly you can create a Network Diagram using Gliffy below:
If you just want to import Visio diagrams but don’t need export support and prefer a Mac desktop app rather than a cloud solution, take a look at Creately. Creately is an excellent Visio equivalent for Mac which also has a free desktop app. Creately can import VDX and VSDX files although to import them into Visio you can only export to the more limited SVG format.
The desktop app isn’t just a browser extension either – it’s a proper desktop client which you can download and install on your Mac.
Creately has a really nice, clear interface that makes it extremely easy to drag and drop elements to create flowcharts, org charts, process flow diagrams, UML, UI mockups and more.
Like most cloud based doagramming software, Creately is a lot easier to use than Visio. It has lots of useful prompts and tutorials to help you get the most out of it with a big choice of templates to get you started.
Creately is free to use for an unlimited period but the free version has limitations on users, objects and collaborators. It’s also limited to just 5 diagrams and all free diagrams are public. You can remove these restrictions with pricing plans ranging from $25 per month for up to 5 users to $75 per month for 25 users or more.
You can watch what it’s like to use Creately below:
LibreOffice is an open source alternative to Microsoft Office and the Mac adaptation of OpenOffice which is a free alternative to Microsoft Office 2016 for Mac.
LibreOffice Draw is the suite’s equivalent of Visio and is completely free to use. You can’t import Visio files into LibreOffice draw but you can import and export XML and SWF files.
You can create flowcharts and diagrams with LibreOffice draw and there are some useful touches such as a grouping tool which allows you to group several objects at once and move them together.
LibreOffice Draw is nowhere near as diagram focused as the other software featured here and isn’t as easy to use. It’s a lot more hard work to create even the simplest diagrams and there’s no drag and drop support. However, if you want an alternative to Microsoft Office and want an open source alternative to Visio, LibreOffice Draw may be worth persevering with.
You can watch how to create a flowchart in LibreOffice Draw below.
Dia was one of the first free Mac desktop diagramming tools out there but nowadays is pretty dated. Dia only works via a desktop app and is heavily inspired by Visio with a similar old style MS Office interface.
It can import Visio files in XML and VDX format but cannot export to Visio format. It does however export to EPS, SVG, XFIG, WMF and PNG.
Although Dia is completely free with no limitations, it is donationware which means the developer encourages donations in order to cover the costs of membership to the Mac Developer Program. This is necessary in order to meet Apple’s security requirements for small projects such as Dia.
You can watch a quick overview of how to create a UML diagram with Dia below.
yEd works both online and offline and is designed for those who are experienced with diagramming tools. It’s probably the most powerful free diagramming tool you’ll find anywhere although it does take some getting used to.
yEd is quite tricky to work out compared to most diagramming software but has a clever automatic layout algorithm that means any changes you make to structures or layout are automatically calculated and re-balanced.
yEd goes beyond traditional diagramming and even supports Virtual Reality for the exploration of graph visualizations as you can see below.
At the moment, yEd is completely free to use which is amazing considering how powerful it is. However, a commercial version will eventually be released although the developers say it will continue to remain free for private use.
Pencil Project, or “Pencil” as it’s more commonly known, is a slick open source cross platform design tool that’s aimed mainly at those creating Graphical User Interface (GUI) prototypes.
Pencil is not cloud based and has it’s own desktop app for Mac. Although there’s no Visio import or export support, It’s very useful for those designing app interfaces with a selection of built-in shape collections and can export to PNG, Web Page, PDF, SVG and OpenOffice format.
It also has a huge online library of clipart courtesy of integration with the free open source OpenClipArt resource which you can drag and drop into Pencil. However, Pencil is geared mainly at designing GUIs so it’s not the all-round diagramming tool that Visio is.
You can watch how to create wireframes in Pencil Project here:
ProcessOn is a free Chinese based web app which allows you to create diagrams online for free. However, the website is entirely in Chinese but if you install the Chrome extension, you can use it in English.
ProcessOn is designed particularly with real-time collaboration in mind and has millions of diagrams and charts to help you compose quickly. You can see the sorts of diagrams and organizational charts possible with ProcessOn in the Explore section such as these organizational charts for Oracle.
Note that the developer is based in China and usage of Processon must follow Chinese law. The lack of English translations for certain aspects of the app is quite frustrating too.
You can watch ProcessON it in action below.
Cacoo is a fresh and clean cloud based diagramming software that allows you to create up to 6 diagrams for free. You can import Visio files but only export to SVG, PPT, PNG and PDF.
There are hundreds of templates to choose from in Cacoo including Network Diagrams, Flowcharts and Org Charts. What’s we really like about Cacoo is the minimalist, elegant interface which looks really at home on macOS.
Cacoo is also very team focused allowing you to chat in real time with other members.
After you’ve reached the free 6 diagram limit, Cacoo costs $4.95 for up to 1000 diagrams with Team plans starting at $15 per month for up to 3 users.
If you do a lot of mind mapping on Visio, then XMind may be the perfect choice for you. XMind is focused on brainstorming and mind mapping in a clean, easy to use interface that looks great on Mac.
XMind is idea for business plans or brainstorming ideas for products and sales campaigns. There are lots of nice features to XMind such as Fishbone, Matrix, Timeline and Gantt chart views as well as thoughtful touches such as a timer and day/night mode for extra focus. XMind has a free Mac desktop app so you can work offline but you can also use the Cloud version too. It’s free to use with no limitations on the amount of documents you can create although you have to upgrade for most added features such as exporting files, presentation mode and Gantt chart views.
Finally a note on Microsoft Visio Online which certainly isn’t free, but may need some clarification for Mac users who think that it’s a free online version of Visio.
Microsoft released Visio Online in 2017 to allow commercial Office 365 users to view and edit Visio files without actually having Visio installed. Visio Online allows Academic, Government and Enterprise Office 365 subscribers to view and edit a Visio file in any browser but note that it’s not actually a fully fledged version of Visio. You can open, view, comment and do basic editing of Visio files but for advanced editing, it automatically takes you to the desktop version of Visio which of course, is not available to Mac users.
However, if you have one of the Office 365 subscriptions mentioned, Mac users can use it to view, comment and make basic edits on Visio diagrams.
You can watch an overview of Visio Online below.
As we’ve seen, there’s a lot of free Visio like software that Mac users can use. If after reading this article you realize you need something more advanced than what free alternatives to Visio on Mac can offer however, we strongly recommend reading our article on the best Visio For Mac alternatives which looks at serious professional alternatives in more detail.
If you just need to open a Visio file on macOS, check out our article on the best Visio viewers for Mac.
Finally, if you decide that only the real thing will do on your Mac, there are ways to run Visio on Mac.
If you have any other comments, questions or issues with these free alternatives to Visio, let us know in the comments below.