We may earn a commission from the affiliate links on this site. Check our advertising discloure for more.
free alternatives to visio - cover

Best Free Alternatives To Visio For Mac of 2024

Let’s be straight – you’re simply not going to find something as powerful as a professional industry standard tool like Microsoft Visio for free.

The closest thing to Visio on a Mac that we’ve used is SmartDraw which is by far the best alternative to Visio for Mac.

However, not everyone has the budget for it which is why we’ve looked at the next best free replacements for Visio.

It’s important to be aware that most free diagramming software come with some serious catches which do not make them suitable for professional use unless you upgrade to the paid versions:

  • All of these apps only allow free use for individuals. If you need to use them in a team, you will have to pay for a team license.
  • Most free diagramming tools limit the number of diagrams you can create and the number of objects available unless you upgrade to a paid plan.
  • Many of these apps also make your diagrams public in the free version. You will have to upgrade to a paid versions to make them private.

With this in mind, here are the best free replacements for Visio on a Mac in order of ranking.

1. Draw.io

draw.io flowchart

Although Draw.io (also known as “Diagrams.net”) can’t compare to Visio in terms of features and power, it’s still a remarkably easy to use, fast and impressive free diagramming tool.

Draw.io imports and exports Visio files and allows you to work offline on your Mac desktop via a Mac desktop app. There’s also an extension for Google Chrome.

The biggest plus is that Draw.io is completely free to use for individuals with no limitations (at least for now anyway).

Unlike a lot of diagramming software, there’s no free use limitations even when it comes to Visio importing or exporting.

Draw.io does support exporting to VSDX format although it should be noted that this feature is in beta and doesn’t always work well.

The other attractive thing about Draw.io is that it has a Mac desktop app which allows you to diagram offline.

You can download Draw.io for Mac free.

You can also check out our full Draw.io review for more.

Pros:

  • 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

Cons:

  • 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

2. Creately

visio free on mac alternative - creately interface

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.

You can start using Creately for free.

You can read our review of Creately for more.

Pros:

  • Free Mac desktop app
  • Imports Visio files
  • Easy to use, clean interface
  • Plenty of templates

Cons:

  • Free version limited to 3 diagrams
  • Free version makes diagrams public
  • No native Visio export support

3. Lucidchart

Lucidchart is a powerful but insanely easy to use online alternative to Visio. It includes much of the power of Visio but with a gentler learning curve with far better team collaboration features.

The basic version of Lucidchart is free to use although it’s important to be aware that there are limitations. The free version 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 not only allows you to import Visio files but also 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.

You can start diagramming now with Lucidchart for free.

For a more detailed look at Lucidchart, check out our Lucidchart review.

Pros:

  • Very easy to use
  • Imports (but does not export) Visio files (paid plans)
  • Works offline in Chrome
  • Lots of templates and tips

Cons:

  • Does not export to Visio VSDX format
  • Free version limited to 60 objects
  • Free version limited to 3 documents

4. Gliffy

Gliffy is a cloud based diagramming 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 Lucidchart, 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 start using Gliffy for free.

You can also check out our complete review of Gliffy for more.

Pros:

  • Easy to use
  • Strong team collaboration focus
  • Chrome extension for offline diagramming

Cons:

  • Free version makes all diagrams public
  • Not many templates
  • Embedding requires subscription
  • No Visio export support

5. LibreOffice Draw

visio mac free alternative - libreoffice draw flowchart

LibreOffice is an open source replacement for Microsoft Office and an adaption of OpenOffice which is a free alternative to Microsoft Office 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 start using LibreOffice Draw for free.

Pros:

  • No free use limitations
  • Integrated into the LibreOffice suite

Cons:

  • Not easy to use
  • No Visio import or export support

6. Dia

visio free - dia

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.

Pros:

  • No free use limitations
  • Desktop app
  • Visio import support

Cons:

  • Dated interface
  • No Visio export support

7. yEd

visio free mac alternative - yed flowchart

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.

However we strongly recommend Mac users to use the online version of yEd Live as the desktop version is based on Java which we don’t recommend downloading on Mac.

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.

Pros:

  • Very powerful for a free Visio alternative
  • No free use limitations
  • Virtual reality support

Cons:

  • Desktop app based on Java
  • Not easy to use
  • Will eventually require payment for commercial use

8. Pencil Project

free visio mac - pencil project shapes

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 start using Pencil Project for free.

Pros:

  • Mac Desktop client
  • Ideal for designing GUIs
  • Integrated with OpenClipArt

Cons:

  • No Visio import or export support
  • Not great for other types of diagramming other than GUIs

9. Cacoo

cacoo flowchart

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 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 $6 for the Pro Version and Team plans starting at $6/user per month for up to 1000 users.

Pros:

  • Slick, fresh interface
  • Visio import support
  • Lots of templates

Cons:

  • Free version only allows 6 diagrams for free

10. XMind

visio mac free - xmind

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.

Pros:

  • Excellent for Mind Mapping
  • Mac desktop app
  • No limit on use in free version

Cons:

  • Most features such as exporting require upgrading

11. Google Drawings

google drawings

Google Drawings is the closest thing to a Google Visio alternative.

Like most of Google’s products, it’s free to use but it’s nowhere near as powerful as Visio.

If you just want to sketch out some simple process flows, mindmaps or flowcharts, it is however an easy to use solution.

You only need a Google Account to use Google Drawings although the best way to use it is via the Chrome extension which also allows you to work offline.

Google Drawings is a simple vector based app that’s integrated into Google Docs which makes it easy to add diagrams to your Google Documents.

You can also add it to other documents via a link which will dynamically update the diagram when you modify it.

The number of shapes, connectors and other objects are limited and it can be laggy to use but if you want a really basic alternative to MS Visio, it does the job.

You can start using Google Drawings for free.

Pros:

  • Very easy to get started
  • No limitations on free use

Cons:

  • Very basic
  • No Visio import or export support

Is Visio For The Web Free?

visio mac free - visio online

Microsoft Visio For the Web (formerly Visio Online) certainly isn’t free, but does allow some basic free use on a Mac.

Microsoft released Visio for the Web in 2017 to allow commercial Windows Office 365 subscribers to view and edit Visio files without actually having Visio installed.

Visio for the Web 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.


Discover more from MacHow2

Subscribe to get the latest posts to your email.

error:

Discover more from MacHow2

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading