The official Microsoft Visio Viewer is only available on Windows but you can use one of these free Visio viewers for Mac to open VSD and VSDX files.
Note that they only allow you to view Visio files on Mac. If you need to edit Visio diagrams on a Mac we strongly recommend using a proper replacement to Visio for Mac such as the excellent SmartDraw.
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Free Visio Viewers For Mac: Online vs Offline
Before downloading anything, it’s important to be aware that Visio viewers on Mac are divided into two types:
- Online Visio Viewers: These include apps such Lucidchart and MS Visio Online which work instantly in your browser and are therefore compatible with any version of macOS. However, it’s important to be aware that they upload Visio files to their own servers in order to display them in your browser. Although these services guarantee confidentiality, you should be aware of this fact if you’re dealing with sensitive corporate Visio files or diagrams.
- Desktop Visio Viewers: These include apps such as OmniGraffle and Nektony VSDX Annotator which are desktop applications and require no internet connection to use. The advantage of these is that all data stays on your desktop and isn’t uploaded anywhere. The disadvantage is that you usually have to pay for major upgrades in the future. There’s also more likelihood of compatibility or technical issues with future releases of macOS.
With this in mind, here are the top 5 free Visio viewers that allow you to open Visio files on a Mac.
In our experience, the Chrome plugin seems to work better than the Firefox plugin so if you have problems with Firefox, try Chrome instead.
If you receive Visio files by email regularly, the Firefox and Chrome plugins are convenient as they automatically detect any attached Visio files in emails and open them directly on your Mac.
Lucidchart Visio Viewer supports opening of VSD, VDX and VSDX formats including Visio 2007, 2010, 2013 and 2016 files. It also allows you to add comments, add embedded documents and see the revision history.
If you receive a file in your Gmail account for example, the Lucidchart Visio Viewer plugin will conveniently prompt you to open it in Lucidchart.
Or, if you want to open a Visio file stored online on any website, you can simply Ctrl-click on the file and you’ll see an option to “Open in Lucidchart”. The VSD or VSDX file will then open in Lucidchart’s main interface.
After you’ve opened the file, you can also easily share it online or export it to PDF.
Note that whichever method you choose, your Visio files will be uploaded to Lucidchart’s servers in order to open the files on your Mac so be aware of this if you are opening confidential information.
The slight downside of the Lucidchart browser plugin is that it only works for Visio files that are stored online i.e. either sent to you by email or stored on the web. Technically, it does not work for Visio files that are saved locally on your Mac’s hard drive although you can easily get round this by uploading the file to your Gmail account and then sending it to yourself. However, if this is not an option because the file is too big and you need to open a Visio file saved on your Mac hard drive, you can simply register for a free Lucidchart account and then upload the file and open it using Lucidchart online instead.
The other slight drawback of the browser plugin is that it can sometimes be broken by updates to Chrome and Firefox in which case, you may have to wait until Lucidchart issue a fix before it works again. At the time of writing, Lucidchart has updated it to fix problems users were having and it definitely works with the latest versions of Firefox and Chrome.
Note that Lucidchart also offer a free Chrome extension to view OmniGraffle files on Mac too (see OmniGraffle below).
In summary, Lucidchart Visio Viewer is a quick, easy and convenient way to open Visio files on Mac. While it can be used for free just as a viewer, it’s also a doorway to upgrading to the full version Lucidchart which is a complete professional alternative to Visio.
If you want to learn more, you can check out our full in-depth review of Lucidchart here.
If you don’t want to use an online Visio viewer, OmniGraffle offers an excellent free Mac desktop Visio viewer.
You can download the Standard version of OmniGraffle free from the Mac App Store and when the free trial expires, you can continue to use it for free.
This makes it ideal to open Visio files that are saved on your Mac desktop and also allows you to get a feel for OmniGraffle if you ever decide you want to upgrade to the Pro version at some stage.
Microsoft Visio Online is a more basic version of Visio Professional but can be used in any browser by any user with a commercial Office 365 subscription.
Visio Online was initially released exclusively to Office 365 First Release customers but it is now available to all paying customers on Business, Enterprise or Government Office 365 subscriptions (check here which Office 365 subscription you have).
If you just want to view a Visio file on Mac and have a commercial Office 365 subscription, Microsoft Visio Online allows you to do so. However, if you need to do further editing, it takes you to the desktop version of Visio which isn’t available to Mac users.
Visio Online allows you upload a VSDX file to a Microsoft OneDrive for Business or SharePoint Online account and view Visio files instantly in any browser.
You can Pan around Visio diagrams and Zoom in and out with the slider:
You can also view metadata of shapes by clicking on the shape and selecting Shape Info:
You can click on links within Visio diagrams (although you can’t edit them yet). If you want to find a specific object or item in a diagram, you click on Find to search shape text, shape data and user defined cells:
If you want to share the Visio drawing with other users, just click on the Share symbol in the menu bar and you can send a link via email.
Initially you could only view Visio documents using Visio online but you can now perform basic edits or leave comments on the diagrams. Windows users with Visio installed can of course also choose to open it in the desktop version of Visio too.
Visio Online supports all browsers but Microsoft says it works best in Microsoft Edge, Google Chrome, and Microsoft Internet Explorer. Firefox and Safari are supported but it doesn’t work quite as well in them. You can see the Visio Online compatibility table below:
VSDX Annotator is a desktop VSD viewer which allows you to open, preview and convert Visio files on Mac. It also allows some basic annotation of Visio documents on.
VSDX Annotator supports VSD, VDX and VSDX flowcharts, diagrams, schemes and drawings. There are also 12 annotation tools which allow you to add notes, callouts, comments, blocks and graphics files.
Among other features of VSDX Annotator are the ability to hide or show layers, shape data and hyperlinks, convert VSD, VDX, and VSDX documents to PDF for sending via email or printing.
VSDX Annotator renders Visio diagrams very well and files are reproduced exactly as you would see them in Microsoft Visio. There are several useful viewing options such as tools to view documents with embedded OLE-objects, EMF- and WMF-metafiles and objects that are outside page boundaries or gradient-filled objects. You can also see the original dimension units if you need to.
The developer of VSDX Annotator Nektony also make VSD Viewer For Visio Drawings (see below) the difference being that VSDX Annotator is newer and allows basic annotation of Visio files on a Mac.
If you’re torn between the two, you might as well go for VSDX Annotator as although it costs $10 more, the annotation tools can be useful and the interface is newer than VSD Viewer.
Overall, if you regularly just need to open Visio files on your Mac and send a few comments or observations to colleagues or clients, VSDX Annotator is ideal.
Although VSDX Annotator costs $24.99 from the Mac App Store, there’s a free trial so you can open files for free.
VSD Viewer For Visio Drawings is a more basic version of VSDX Animator from the same developer Nektony. The main difference between them is that VSDX Annotator allows you to annotate and comment on Visio files while VSD Viewer is purely for opening Visio diagrams on Mac.
The full version of Nektony VSD Viewer for Mac is not free, but it does offer a free trial and at $14.99, if you need to view Visio files regularly on a Mac, is well worth it as it’s a very powerful tool. With it you can open VSD, VDX and VSDX files on Mac plus stencils in VSDM, VDW, VSSX, VSSM, VSX or VSS format. Basically, anything created in MS Visio 2000 onwards.
To open a Visio file using VSD Viewer for Mac, you simply double-click on the .VSD file to open it. You can switch layers using VSD Viewer, preview Shape Data, zoom in and out, export to PDF (very useful for sharing Visio diagrams with others), view documents with OLE objects, EMF and WMF embedded meta files and much more.
For those that need to share Visio data in meetings without always having to ask CAD designers for different layers or files, VSD Viewer is extremely useful.
The good thing as well is that VSD Viewer doesn’t store your Visio files online anywhere – everything is stored on your Mac for better security if you’re dealing with confidential designs and data.
You may occasionally experience formatting issues when you open Visio files which you can fix by going to Preferences and selecting “Render Metafiles with Transparent Backgrounds”.
The slightly frustrating this is there’s no way to search Visio files using VSD Viewer but otherwise, if you don’t need to annotate or comment on drawings, it’s an excellent way to read Visio files on Mac.
There’s also a companion Nektony VSD Viewer app for iPhone/iPad and Android which offers almost all of the functionality of the Mac version but because of processing power limitations, can be considerably slower.
The best free online Visio viewer for macOS is easily LucidChart Visio Viewer.
If you want a desktop solution however, we don’t think you can beat the excellent OmniGraffle diagramming software made specifically for Mac.
Finally, Microsoft Visio Online is now a viable option for Mac users but is only free to those that already have certain Office 365 subscriptions.