Let’s be straight – there’s no such thing as a free Visio for Mac app but there are some excellent free Visio alternatives. Although there is no free software that can compare with a professional design application such as Visio, there are some surprisingly powerful alternatives on Mac which we look at here. If you need something professional that can genuinely compare with all the features of Visio on Mac however, then we strongly recommend you read our article on the Best Alternatives To Visio For Mac. If though you’re simply working on a budget and want some decent diagramming software without breaking the bank, these are the best Visio freeware alternatives for OS X including for OS X 10.11 El Capitan, macOS 10.12 Sierra and 10.13 High Sierra.
- 1 Best Free Alternatives To Visio for Mac
- 2 Free Visio For Mac Alternatives Comparison Table
- 3 Other Free Visio For Mac Alternatives
- 4 Conclusion
- 5 Further Reading
Best Free Alternatives To Visio for Mac
Although there are several free alternatives to Visio for Mac, the only ones that seriously compare with Microsoft Visio are SmartDraw, Lucidchart, OmniGraffle Pro and ConceptDraw Pro. The good thing is that all of these allow you to use either a free basic version or try them for free and use them as a free Visio viewer for Mac. The majority of free Visio for Mac alternatives are web apps such as the excellent SmartDraw that work via your browser online and don’t have any software that you need to download on your Mac. There are a few desktop alternatives though, the most notable being OmniGraffle although Creatively offers both a web and desktop app and Lucidchart has a Chrome plugin that allows you to work offline too.
Here then we take a closer look at the best Visio for Mac free alternatives.
SmartDraw is easily the slickest and most complete alternative to Visio on Mac with over 4,500 templates and 34,000 symbols to create diagrams with. For almost 20 years, SmartDraw was a Windows only application but the release of SmartDraw Cloud means that Mac users can finally use it too. SmartDraw Cloud is superbly designed and for anyone that’s used the Windows version, it’s identical to using it on PC. SmartDraw has been downloaded over 22 million times and counts major Fortune 500 corporations such as GM, Tesla and General Dynamics among it’s customers although it’s also popular with universities, government agencies and individuals simply looking for an alternative to Visio on Mac.
The thousands of templates in SmartDraw are impressive with almost every conceivable need catered for including CAD and Engineering (SmartDraw makes an excellent 2D CAD for Mac software solution), Floor Plans, Flowcharts, Org Charts and more.
Objects and elements that you want to draw your designs with are located in the Smart Panel on the left hand side and there are around 34,000 to choose from making it significantly richer than Visio. All objects are rendered in very high quality vector graphics rather than the Bitmap format used by most other free Visio alternatives on Mac so they look extremely sharp and crisp. If you’re designing a computer network for example, this is a small selection of the items available:
What’s really nice about SmartDraw is that it automatically snaps or aligns connectors to keeps your designs symmetrical and organized. This is extremely useful when working on large designs or highly technical electrical circuits as it’s painstaking and tedious trying to go through a diagram or design and smarten it up afterwards.
The result is that you can create more professional looking designs faster and with less hassle than other diagramming software on Mac.
If you’re not starting from scratch and need to import an existing Visio file, you can import Visio files into SmartDraw via the Account Menu. Importing is generally pretty solid with most formatting preserved from the original although you may have to make some minor adjustments. Once imported, you can ungroup, change colors, resize and continue editing the diagram exactly as if you were using Visio.
We tested how SmartDraw handles Visio files by importing a Visio org chart into SmartDraw and then creating the org chart from scratch. The import was impressive with a perfect reproduction of the org chart and likewise, creating the org chart from scratch was incredibly easy and in many ways, far more intuitive and user friendly than doing it in Visio. You can see how the results in our SmartDraw vs Visio video below:
When it was originally released, SmartDraw Cloud could not export Visio files but Visio export has now finally been added to the app in SmartDraw 2017. Simply go to the “File” menu and select “Export” and then choose either “Export to Visio 2010 or Earlier” or “Export to Visio 2013 Or Later”.
The only slight drawback of SmartDraw on Mac is that you can’t import VST Visio Stencils or Visio VTX Templates into it yet although this is due to be added soon. However with the huge selection of templates and stencils available in SmartDraw, you probably won’t need to import a Visio stencil unless it’s extremely industry specific anyway.
More importantly though, you can export diagrams to Microsoft Office although the reality is that it basically exports an image that you can paste into a word document. You can’t actually edit the diagram in Office in SmartDraw Cloud whereas in the Windows desktop version of SmartDraw you can embed SmartDraw diagrams and then right click on them to edit and it would be nice to see this added to the Cloud version eventually. To export to a specific MS Office application, the easiest way to do it is via the toolbar across the top:
You can also export to Enhanced Metafile Format which you can import back into Visio on Windows although you may need to reconnect some objects and perform other manual edits.
There have also been several enhancements to SmartDraw 2017 since the initial release in 2016. SmartDraw is now accessible to a far greater number of users as it’s now available in more than 100 languages. You can actually toggle the interface and template languages at any time without having to restart the application. This is very useful if you’re working with colleagues and clients from several different countries and also means that more complex symbols and languages can be used in diagrams.
Another big improvement in the latest version of SmartDraw 2017 is the ability to create far more engaging infographics and charts. There’s now a huge choice of infographic templates to equal the rich choice of diagramming templates that SmartDraw offers including Onion Diagrams, Comparisons and Circle Spoke Diagrams. There are now a much greater number of charts to choose from too including everything from Pie Charts and Flower Charts to 3D and Relative Value charts.
All of these can be exported to Microsoft Office to enhance PowerPoint presentations, Excel documents, Word reports etc.
Another useful addition has been the introduction of revision history to SmartDraw diagrams. You can now click on a file to view its version history including author, time created and roll back to an older version if needed. The latest versions are always saved however so if you want to restore the last modified version of a document, you can do so easily.
The latest version of SmartDraw 2017 has also added wider integration with third party services. Previously only DropBox and Microsoft OneDrive was integrated but now Google Drive and G Suite (requires the G Suite plugin from the marketplace) are supported by SmartDraw. In fact you don’t even need to sign-up for a SmartDraw account as you can now sign into SmartDraw using just your Google Account.
Likewise, integration with WordPress has been vastly improved – you can now add a SmartDraw plugin to WordPress which embeds diagrams created in SmartDraw using a simple shortcode.
Atlassian products have also been a big focus of the latest updates to SmartDraw. If you use Confluence in the workplace, you can now create SmartDraw diagrams within it using the Confluence plugin. You don’t even need a SmartDraw license to use SmartDraw within Confluence although you need a SmartDraw account in order to import diagrams from SmartDraw. If you have a license you can also import all of your existing SmartDraw diagrams into Confluence by linking your SmartDraw account to it. You can then save diagrams directly to Confluence from within SmartDraw.
The same is true for Jira. The SmartDraw Jira plugin allows you to draw SmartDraw diagrams within Jira tasks and you can grant permission for other users to edit or modify them.
If your company or organization relies on Trello, then there’s now a SmartDraw Power Up for Trello that allows you to draw Flowcharts, Org Charts, Flowcharts and other diagrams within Trello cards.
SmartDraw can be summarized as a more user friendly version of Visio that uses a huge array of templates and symbols to make it very quick and easy to diagram on Mac. If you need something seriously comparable to Visio on Mac, it’s an excellent choice for OS X users. If you do decide to upgrade after the free trial, pricing is very competitive with a single user license costing $9.95 but Team licenses are the cheapest we’ve seen anywhere for a Visio like app on Mac, coming in at $5.95 for up to 5 users and $4.95 for 10 users.
You can start using SmartDraw now in your browser for free to judge for yourself although you must sign-up for a plan after 7 days. You can also check out our SmartDraw for Mac review for a more in-depth look at it.
You can also watch SmartDraw in action creating an Org Chart below:
Lucidchart is a very impressive alternative to Visio on Mac that features all the the power of Visio but with a much easier learning curve and superb possibilities for team collaboration. Lucidchart is suitable as a professional alternative to Visio although you’d have to upgrade to one of the pricing plans to export Visio files. The free version of Lucidchart does however allow you to import and edit Visio files but you can’t export them. The free version does however allow you to add up to 60 objects, gives you full access to the shape library and provides 25MB of storage space. There’s even a free Chrome plugin if you want to work offline.
If you try the free version of Lucidchart and decide to subscribe, you can import Visio files as well as OmniGraffle, Gliffy and AWS Architecture files.
Likewise, with a subscription you can also export Lucidchart diagrams to Visio as well as most other major image formats.
Visio import and export are obviously major considerations for those switching from Visio to Lucidchart and you can watch our video below about how smooth and generally accurately Lucidchart reads and exports MS Visio files.
If you’re a Microsoft Office user, Lucidchart also features integration with Microsoft Office for Mac. Lucidchart has 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. Once you are logged into Lucidchart or have opened a new Lucidchart account, you can create or insert a diagram such as dynamic diagrams, flowcharts, and wireframes. Alternatively, you can download the Lucidchart add-in from the Microsoft Store.
Apart from Microsoft Office, Luicidchart is integrated with a wide range of other platforms and third party services. Lucidchart has add-ons for services such as Google Drive, Google Docs, Dropbox, Box, Confluence, JIRA and more. The Confluence and JIRA apps conveniently enable you to create, edit and embed diagrams within Confluence and attach them to JIRA tasks. More recently, it’s also been updated for HipChat integration so that you can create and share diagrams in any HipChat room using the “/lucidchart” command.
Similar integration has also been added for collaboration tool Slack too. Note however that all app integration features are limited to the Lucidchart Team version or above.
More recently, Lucidchart has been updated to support 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 Lucidcplan floor plan will update automatically. This doesn’t work with Microsoft Office yet but for those that use Google Sheets, it’s very convenient and efficient rather than having to manually update data.
Lucidchart is also one of the few diagramming software for Mac that has a 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 a full review of Lucidchart for iPad.One thing we particularly like about Lucidchart is that it also tries to bring a bit of fun to diagramming. Lucidchart features a ton of pop-culture flowcharts based on popular culture such as Pokemon Go, Star Wars and Harry Potter. You can sign-up to Lucidchart’s pop-culture flowcharts get new ones delivered on a weekly basis to lighten things up in the office or in meetings.
The Basic version of Lucidchart is free to use but is limited to 100MB of online storage and 60 objects. If you want to remove these limitations and import and export Visio files, you need to upgrade to the Pro version if you’re just using it on your own, or if you’re working in a team of 3 or more, the Team Plan or Enterprise Plan. A single license costs $8.95 per month and Team subscriptions start at $20 for up to 3 users. You can get more information on pricing or sign-up for a free trial here.
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:
Although OmniGraffle isn’t completely free, Omni Group recently changed its policy so that you can now download and try OmniGraffle on Mac for free and then continue using it for free as a Visio viewer for Mac. OmniGraffle is definitely the best desktop alternative to Visio for Mac designed specifically for OS X. OmniGraffle uses high quality vector graphics which makes it ideal for producing everything from industrial prototypes to floor plan layouts. OmniGraffle can open and export Visio files and stencils, has a slick OS X inspired interface and the latest version has been updated to integrate with the Touch Bar in the new MacBook Pros. To continue to create diagrams with OmniGraffle after the 2 week trial has expired, you have to upgrade although you can keep it to view Visio VSD, VSDX, VST and VSTX files on Mac for free. If you definitely want a free desktop alternative to Visio on Mac rather than a web app however, it’s definitely worth upgrading to the Standard Version ($99) or if you need Visio file import and export too, the Professional version for $198.
You can also watch an overview of the latest version of OmniGraffle below:
ConceptDraw Pro the only professional desktop alternative to Visio on Mac that works natively on both Mac and PC. Although ConceptDraw Pro is clearly more inspired by Windows than OSX, it still looks good on Mac is a highly accomplished diagramming software. Certainly if you work on both Windows and OS X regularly, ConceptDraw Pro is definitely worth taking a closer look at. ConceptDraw offers a fully functional 21 day free trial and if you decide to purchase it, one license costs $199 but which you can use to install on one PC and Mac making it easy to switch between both.
ConceptDraw Pro can import Visio file from all versions of Visio including VSD files (Visio 2007-2010 format) and VSDX format used in Visio 2013 and above. If you need to import Visio Stencils, it can also import those in VSSX format. Note that importing VSD files is a bit more complicated as you have to email VSD files to firstname.lastname@example.org which automatically converts them to VDX format. ConceptDraw can export to VDX and VSDX format (but you can’t export stencils in VSSX format). Other formats you can export to include MS Word, MS Project and Evernote.
ConceptDraw Pro includes features common to Microsoft Visio such as Snap To Grid, Layers and Connection Tools although the interface layout takes some getting used to. There are also lots of templates to get you going many of which you can download from ConceptDraw Solution Park which also includes audiovisual clips and tutorials to enhance your diagrams.
You can try a 21 day free trial by signing up for a ConceptDraw account but if you decide to upgrade ConceptDraw Pro for Mac costs $199. You can see also some examples of diagrams and charts created with ConceptDraw Pro.
You can watch an overview of ConceptDraw Pro for Mac below:
Free Visio For Mac Alternatives Comparison Table
Although SmartDraw, Lucidchart, OmniGraffle and ConceptDraw aren’t free to use all features, you can use limited features for free in all of them or at least use a free trial. Since these are by far the best free ways of opening and editing Visio files on Mac, it’s useful to have a side-by-side comparison of what they offer before continuing with other free alternatives to Visio for Mac.
Open Visio Files (VSD/VSDX/VDX)
Add Comments To Visio Files (VSD/VSDX/VDX)
Edit Visio Files (VSD/VSDX/VDX)
Export To Visio (VSD/VDX/VSDX)
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 Free Visio For Mac Alternatives
There are other free alternatives to Visio but they can’t compare to the power and features of these four. However, there are some excellent diagramming tools which offer a basic equivalent to Visio for Mac which we’ll also look at now.
Gliffy is a web app with a clear, simple interface that is particularly suitable for collaboration with others, especially in companies. Gliffy is useful for everything from Venn diagrams to Floor plans and doing a SWOT analysis. Although it’s not as powerful as Visio, you can get some surprisingly similar results using Gliffy. It’s also useful for large organizations as it’s fully integrated with Confluence and JIRA. You can export diagrams in various formats including XML. Although Gliffy is free for casual users, it is restricted to just 5 diagrams and 2MB of storage space. Also, all diagrams created with a Free Gliffy account will be public so if you’re working on something confidential, you must upgrade. Pricing plans ranging from $3.99 to $7.99 a month.
You can also watch how Gliffy Diagrams can be used for Confluence here:
Draw.io (formerly known as Diagramly)
Draw.io is another web based free alternative to Visio on Mac. You can get drawing instantly with Draw.io and it gives you the option of saving your work to Google Drive, Dropbox your Local Drive, or to simply work within your browser.
Draw.io is extremely fast and easy to use, has many preset objects and saves in XML and most recently, it’s been updated to open Visio VSDX files. To get going, simply go to draw.io and the app will launch immediately.
You can watch a useful quick overview of what Draw.io can do here:
Creately is an excellent Visio equivalent for Mac that unlike the other web apps here, also has a desktop version which is great if you want to work offline as well. When you go online, Creately will automatically sync any changes you’ve made on your Mac with an online version of your drawing. Creately is also more fun to use than Visio – it has lots of useful prompts and tutorials to help you get the most out of it. Creately is free although the free version has limitations on users, objects and collaborators. For a modest fee, you can remove these restrictions with pricing plans ranging from $49 to $749 a year for big teams.
You can see how quickly you can create flowcharts with Creately here:
SlickPlan isn’t quite as Visio-like as Gliffy but is excellent if flowcharts are your main need. It’s relied upon by some pretty big organizations such as the BBC, Garmin and Motorola for flowchart, sitemap and diagraming needs. SlickPlan creates sitemaps quickly via drag-and-drop and is excellent for collaboration with exporting supported in PDF. Word, XML and more. Adding color is limited however and dealing with very large maps can be difficult. Unfortunately, the free version is only valid for 30 days during which time you’re limited to one sitemap, one user and you can only share by web link. However, you can upgrade to the Basic version if you require full functionality beyond this for $6.99 a month.
You watch a brief overview of all of Slickplan’s features here:
LibreOffice Draw (Also Available on Mac App Store)
LibreOffice is an open source alternative to Visio. It’s the Mac adaptation of OpenOffice which is a free alternative to Microsoft Office. LibreOffice Draw is the suite’s equivalent of Visio. LibreOffice Draw is ideal for flowcharts and diagrams and has a useful grouping tool which allows you to group several objects at once and move them together. You can export in XML and even SWF format. The great thing about LibreOffice Draw is that you get the entire LibreOffice suite with it – effectively a free alternative to MS Office.
You can watch how to create a simple flowchart with LibreOffice Draw here (video part 3):
Dia is not web based. It’s a free cross platform diagraming and flowchart tool which is heavily inspired by Visio. Although the interface is a bit basic and it doesn’t offer the power of Visio, it has a very similar interface and is excellent for relationship diagrams and flowcharts. It can save documents in XML and VDX format and exports to EPS, SVG, XFIG, WMF and PNG. Although Dia is completely free, the developer encourages donations in order to cover the costs of membership to the Mac Developer Program which 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 whip-up a flowchart with Dia in minutes here:
yEd is another non-web based standalone app that’s similar to Dia and designed specifically for creating diagrams. Again, yEd doesn’t have the greatest interface but it’s quite powerful and has a clever automatic layout algorithm that means any changes you make to structures or layout are automatically calculated by yEd. Note that yEd works with various platforms such as Java Runtime Environment (JRE) 6, Microsoft Silverlight, HTML5 and there’s even an Android version of yEd. To get a better idea of what yED can do, you can see it in action here:
Pencil Project, or Pencil as it’s more commonly known, is a slick cross platform design tool that’s aimed mainly at those creating Graphical User Interface (GUI) prototypes. 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 ClipArt.org which you can drag and drop into Pencil. However, Pencil is geared mainly at designing GUIs so it’s not the all-round mapping tool that Visio is. Pencil is also available as a Firefox add-on.
You can see how easy it is to create a prototype diagram with Pencil here:
Process.on is an excellent free web app which allows you to create technical diagrams online. It’s designed particularly with real-time collaboration in mind and has millions of diagrams and charts to help you compose quickly. All you need to do is sign-up to get drawing. 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 although the service is available in English, Portuguese and Dutch.
Textografo is an online flowchart software with a clean, minimalist interface and a very competitive pricing plan starting at $4 per month. Textografo is designed specifically with businesses and mind and particularly those in Process Analysis, Business Operations, Software Development, Sales & Marketing and Customer Service roles. Textografo 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. 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 then instantly change the layout and color scheme of the flowchart via template buttons across the top of the interface. Note that Textografo does not import Visio files.
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. You can try a 7 day free trial of Textografo before you have to purchase a plan.
These are the best free alternatives to Visio for Mac although of course, it’s impossible to expect any free software to measure-up to Visio. SmartDraw and Lucidchart are certainly the closest you’ll get although you need to sign-up to a plan on both to get full Visio-like functionality. If it’s a desktop free Visio alternative for Mac you’re looking for, you can’t get any better than OmniGraffle but you can only use it for free for 14 days. ConceptDraw Pro meanwhile is a good option if you plan to work on both Mac and PC regularly.
If all else fails and you simply must have Visio, you can of course purchase a PC laptop for the exclusive use of Visio and other Windows programs that aren’t available on Mac. With the PC laptop market increasingly competitive, you can buy a cheap PC laptop to use Visio on for just a few hundred dollars nowadays and it may save you a lot of time, hassle and expense in the long run.
If this article has helped you find a free alternative to Visio on Mac, then you may also find the following articles interesting:
If after reading this article you realize you need something more advanced than what free alternatives to Visio on Mac can offer, we strongly recommend reading our article on the best alternatives to Visio For Mac which looks at professional alternatives in more detail. And if you just need to view a Visio file on OS X, check out our article on the Visio Viewers For Mac.
If you decide that only the real thing will do on your Mac, then don’t miss our tutorial on how to Run Visio On Mac where you can even try it for free. Alternatively, you can try install Windows on Mac with a virtual machine such as Parallels or install Windows with Boot Camp so that you can have the best of both worlds. Using the Windows version of Visio on your Mac will never offer quite the same performance as using it on a PC but it generally works very well.
If you have any other comments, questions or issues with these free alternatives to Visio on Mac, let us know in the comments below.