Completely free to use for individuals with no limits
Mac desktop app
Visio file import support (although not very accurate)
Integration with lots of online services
Quick to start and easy to get going
Chrome extension allows you to work offline too
Very limited objects and templates
VSDX export not always accurate (still in beta)
Quite basic compared to Visio
Teams must pay for connections to Confluence
No Cloud integration with Chrome desktop extension
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 export them to 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 diagramming 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 3 diagrams and all free diagrams are public.
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.
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.
No free use limitations
Visio import support
No Visio export support
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.
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.
Very powerful for a free Visio alternative
No free use limitations
Virtual reality support
Desktop app based on Java
Not easy to use
Will eventually require payment for commercial use
8. Pencil Project
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.
Microsoft released Visio Online in 2017 to allow commercial Windows Office 365 subscribers to view and edit Visio files without actually having Visio installed.
Visio Online allows Academic, Government and Enterprise Office 365 subscribers on Windows to view and edit a Visio file in any browser but note that it’s not a fully fledged version of Visio.
You can only open, view, comment and do basic editing of Visio files but for advanced editing, it automatically takes you to the Windows desktop version of Visio which of course, is not available to Mac users.
However, if you’re a Mac user with one of the commercial Office 365 subscriptions mentioned above, you can use it as a free Visio viewer, and make very basic edits or add comments to Visio diagrams.