Microsoft Visio is still the most widely used diagramming software out there especially for flowcharts, process flows, network diagrams, floor plan mapping and more.
However, MS Visio is a premium product that’s not included in a basic Microsoft 365 subscription.
It also requires an additional subscription to Visio Plan 1 ($5.00 per month) or Visio Plan 2 ($15 per month) if you want the full Windows desktop app.
We therefore decided to look at the best alternatives to Microsoft Visio that work on multiple platforms both paid and free options.
You’ll find many of the paid apps here offer a limited free version for personal use although if you’re looking for something 100% free for unlimited use, you may find our look at the best free Visio alternatives useful too.
Alternatively, if you’re looking for a replacement for Visio that works best on a Mac, you may also find our look at the best Visio alternatives for Mac useful as it includes more apps that have desktop apps for macOS.
Draw.io is a 100% free replacement for Visio that offers unlimited free personal use.
Draw.io (also known as “Diagrams.net”) imports and exports Visio files and although the accuracy isn’t great, you can’t complain much considering its totally free.
Benefits of Draw.io include:
There’s a Windows/Mac desktop app and an extension for Google Chrome.
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.
You can save files on your desktop or edit and save them to online storage services such as Google Drive, OneDrive and Dropbox.
On the downside:
The amount of objects and templates is limited in Draw.io
VSDX export not always accurate as its still in beta
It’s not free for team use – if you want to colloborate that you must pay for Confluence integration.
yEd is probably the most powerful free diagramming tool outside of Visio we’ve seen but it is free to use.
The desktop version of yED can be used in Java on Windows and Mac although you can also use the online version yEd Live instead.
Some of the best things about yEd are:
yEd uses a clever automatic layout algorithm that means any changes you make to structures or layouts are automatically re-balanced.
yEd goes even supports Virtual Reality for the exploration of graph visualizations.
yEd is 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.
On the minus side:
yED is not easy to learn or use. It might be free but you’ll need to spend a lot of time working out how to use it too.
It doesn’t support importing or exporting to Visio format – in fact all import and export features are limited.
There’s no support for real time team collaboration.
The desktop app is based on Java which can be buggy and glitchy.
The product is being developed commercially so will eventually require payment.
Finally, if you just want something to view and do basic edits to Visio files, you can use Microsoft Visio for the Web on any platform.
Microsoft Visio Online isn’t free, but does allow some basic free use.
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 (note that this is not available on Mac).
However, if you’ve got a commercial Office 365 subscription, you can use it as a free Visio viewer, and make very basic edits or add comments to Visio diagrams.