Let’s be straight – there’s no such thing as a serious professional free Visio for Mac alternative but there is powerful diagramming software that allows you to open and edit Visio files on Mac for free. The good news is that many of these tools such as SmartDraw are easier, faster and slicker than Microsoft Visio too. Most of these programs only allow individual free use or free trial modes so bear in mind if you need to use them in a team, you will have to pay for a team license. Note that many free diagramming apps also limit the number of diagrams and objects possible and some like Gliffy and Creately also make your diagrams public. Here then are the best Visio for Mac free alternatives in order of ranking.
SmartDraw is the best alternative to Visio on Mac out there and is the only software which can both import and export Visio files in VSDX format. This is absolutely essential nowadays if you’re working alongside other Visio users especially Windows based clients or colleagues using the latest version of Visio 2016. SmartDraw is also far easier to use than MS Visio and yet allows you to do pretty much everything Microsoft’s product does.
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. The thousands of templates in SmartDraw are genuinely impressive with almost every conceivable need catered for including CAD and Engineering, Floor Plans, Flowcharts, Org Charts and more.
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.
One basic thing that really stands out about SmartDraw is that they’ve really pushed the boat out when it comes to the graphics. All objects are rendered in high quality vector graphics rather than the Bitmap format used by most diagramming tools so they look extremely sharp and crisp. If you’re designing a computer network for example, this is just a small selection of the items available:
Another handy touch is that SmartDraw 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 professional and complex designs surprisingly fast compared to Visio.
We tested how SmartDraw handles Visio files by importing a Visio org chart into SmartDraw to see how accurate it was. The Visio file import process was extremely fast and accurate with a perfect reproduction of the original Visio org chart. 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 watch the results of our tests importing Visio files into SmartDraw and creating diagrams from scratch here.
The other big advantage of SmartDraw is that it can also export files to Visio’s older VSD and newer VSDX format. SmartDraw is the only serious online alternative to Visio that exports to the newer VSDX Visio format (although there are now some more basic diagramming tools which also support VSDX exporting which we’ll look at later).
All SmartDraw diagrams are automatically saved in the Cloud but you can also choose to save them to DropBox, Microsoft OneDrive, Google Drive and G Suite (requires the G Suite plugin from the marketplace).
If you or your organization has 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, there’s even a SmartDraw Power Up for Trello that allows you to draw Flowcharts, Org Charts, Flowcharts and other diagrams within Trello cards.
In summary, SmartDraw is a powerful but more user friendly version of Visio with the most comprehensive Visio format import and export support out there. It also offers a huge array of templates and symbols that make it very quick and easy to draw diagrams on Mac. If you need something seriously comparable to Visio on Mac but without a steep learning curve, it’s an excellent choice for Mac users.
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 here how we imported and exported MS Visio files in Lucidchart.
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.
Although Draw.io (formerly Diagramly) is more basic than either SmartDraw or Lucidchart, it is free for individuals and supports both VSDX import and export too. It’s also an extremely fast, functional 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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. SmartDraw remains our number one choice due to it’s superb interface, support for VSDX Visio file export, huge number of objects or templates and generally just its overall ease of use.
We hope this article has helped you. 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 the software featured here, let us know in the comments below.