Visio Viewer For Mac: Free Ways To Open Visio Files

If you need to quickly view or open a Visio file on your Mac, here we’ve looked at the best free Visio viewers for Mac in 2018. Currently Microsoft Visio Viewer is only available on Windows computers using Internet Explorer but you can view  Visio files on Mac for free by using third applications such as SmartDraw and other Visio replacements on Mac. All of these apps can open VSD and VSDX files on the latest versions of OS X and macOS including on El Capitan, macOS Sierra and High Sierra. Here then are the best ways to open Visio files on Mac for free.

1. SmartDraw

SmartDraw is the best alternative to Visio for Mac and allows you to open Visio files for free on Mac. SmartDraw opens VSD, VDX and VSDX Visio file formats and even allows you to edit them on Macs. To view a Visio file on your Mac with SmartDraw, simply sign-up for a free trial, go to File in the Menu Bar and select Import. SmartDraw then gives you the option to import one or a batch of Visio files from a folder in one go.

best free visio viewer for mac - smartdraw

SmartDraw will then allow you to browse to and open the files on your Mac as if you were using Visio, even if the files have been sent to you by a PC user. Once imported, you can ungroup, change fill color, resize shapes and edit Visio diagrams using SmartDraw.


Any Visio files imported into SmartDraw will be converted to SmartDraw’s own .SDR file format but once you’ve finished editing them, the latest version of SmartDraw 2017 allows you to export them into Visio format after editing. You can also share diagrams with others via a simple web link, Google Drive, Dropbox or OneDrive and it exports to PNG, PDF and SVG format. Note that if you’re dealing with sensitive or confidential data, any VSD or VSDX files you open in SmartDraw (or any other Cloud software for that matter) will also be uploaded to SmartDraw’s servers although the software complies with strict SOC 2 privacy protocols.

SmartDraw isn’t designed just for simply opening and viewing Visio files – it’s aimed more at those looking for a complete alternative to Visio on Mac. SmartDraw also does not have any browser extensions that allow you to open Visio attachments from directly within emails like Lucidchart does (see below) although in our experience, such plugins can frequently be broken anyway by browser updates. However, if you’re looking for a quick and easy way to open VSD files in OS X and also want the possibility of editing them, SmartDraw is a very fast, slick and efficient solution. If you want to learn more about SmartDraw for Mac, you can check out our in-depth SmartDraw review.

You can judge for yourself by signing-up for a free trial of SmartDraw and start viewing Visio files for free now.

2. Lucidchart Visio Viewer

Like SmartDraw, Lucidchart is an online Visio viewer which allows you to view and even edit Visio files for free. Since it’s cloud based, it also works just as well on PC too. There are two ways to open Visio files on Mac using Lucidchart – either by using the free online Lucidchart Visio viewer in your browser, using the free Visio viewer Chrome extension if you’re a Google Chrome browser user, or by using the Visio viewer Firefox add-on if you’re using Firefox. In our experience, the Chrome plugin seems to be better maintained than the Firefox plugin so you may be better opening Visio files in Chrome with it rather than Firefox.

If you receive Visio files by email regularly, the Firefox and Chrome plugins are probably the most convenient as they automatically detect any attached Visio files and open them directly on your Mac. 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.visio viewer for mac lucidchart firefox mail

Or, if you want to open a Visio file stored online on a website, you can simply right click on the file and you’ll see an option to “Open in Lucidchart”. After you’ve opened the file, you can also share the Visio files online or export them to PDF.

visio viewer for mac - lucidchart plugin

The slight downside of the Lucidchart browser plugin is that it only works for Visio files that are stored online though 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. If you find it doesn’t work with Chrome though for example, try it in Firefox instead.

Lucidchart 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. 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 sensitive information.

Lucidchart Visio Viewer is an excellent solution if you need to edit Visio files as well. While it can be used for free just as a viewer, like SmartDraw it’s also a doorway to upgrading to the full version Lucidchart for Mac which is a complete professional alternative to Visio. To import, export and edit Visio files you’ll need to upgrade to a paid Lucidchart plan. The Basic plan only costs $4.95 per month but it can’t import or export Visio files but all of the other plans can. The Pro Plan costs $8.95 per month but if you’re in a team of 3 or more people, the Team Version works out cheaper at $6.95 per user per month. There are also Enterprise Plans for large companies and organizations on request. Whichever plan you choose, you can save 17% by purchasing annually rather than monthly.

visio for mac - lucidchart pricing

If you’re interested in using Lucidchart as a complete alternative to Visio, you can also check our full in-depth review of Lucidchart for Mac. You can also sign-up for a free trial of Lucidchart and start viewing Visio files in your browser immediately.

3. OmniGraffle

OmniGraffle is the best alternative to Visio for Mac that’s designed specifically for OS X. Until recently however, you had to buy the Pro version for $199.98 to import and export Visio files. However, with the release of OmniGraffle 7, the company has changed that policy so that you can now download OmniGraffle for free from the Mac App Store. This makes it ideal to use as a Visio file viewer and also allows you to get a feel for OmniGraffle if you ever decide you want to upgrade to the full version at some stage. You can simply dismiss the licensing upgrade prompt if you want to continue using OmniGraffle to open and view Visio files on your Mac.


 4. VSDX Annotator

VSDX Annotator is a desktop Visio viewer for Mac by Nektony which allows you to open, preview and convert Visio files on Mac as well as do some basic annotation of Visio documents on Mac. VSDX Annotator supports VSD, VDX and VSDX flowcharts, diagrams, schemes and drawings and there are 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. view visio file on mac - vsd annotator

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.

visio viewer for mac - vsd annotator view

The developer of VSDX Annotator Nektony also make VSD Viewer for Mac (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. If you need to edit the Visio files however, you’re better going for SmartDraw or Lucidchart. Although VSDX Annotator costs $24.99 from the Mac App Store, there’s a free trial so you can judge for yourself.


5. VSD Viewer for Mac

VSD Viewer 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 Max. 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 – 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.

free visio viewer mac - vsd viewer for mac

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.

To upgrade the trial to the full version of VSD Viewer costs $14.99 from the Mac App Store and the free trial of VSD Viewer for Mac is here. There’s also Nektony VSD Viewer 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.

visio viewer for mac - vsd viewer ios

Microsoft Visio Online

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 (you can 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.

visio viewer for mac - visio online

You can Pan around Visio diagrams and Zoom in and out with the slider:

free visio viewer mac - visio online

You can also view metadata of shapes by clicking on the shape and selecting Shape Info:

visio viewer mac - 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:

visio viewer software mac - visio online

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.

visio viewer mac - visio online share

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 viewer mac - visio online open file

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:visio viewer for mac - visio online browser compatibility table

Visio Viewers For Mac: Online vs Offline

As we’ve seen, Visio viewers on Mac are divided into two types:

  • Online Visio Viewers: These include apps such as SmartDraw, Lucidchart which work instantly in your browser and are therefore compatible with any version of OS X. However, it’s important to be aware that both of them upload the 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. Note that you can’t use Microsoft Visio Online for free unless you’re an Office 365 Business, Enterprise or Government subscriber.
  • Desktop Visio Viewers: These include apps such as OmniGraffle and Nektony VSDX Annotator which are desktop applications that require no internet connection to use. The advantage of these is that all data stays on your desktop and isn’t uploaded anywhere but the disadvantage is that you’ll have to pay for major upgrades and there’s more likelihood of compatibility or technical issues with future releases of macOS.

Which one you choose depends on whether you want an online Visio reader with editing options or a desktop Visio reader for OS X. The best online Visio viewers for Mac we’ve used are easily SmartDraw and LucidChart Visio Viewer. Both of them have free trials that allow you to open Visio files instantly in a browser and even edit Visio files on Mac if you need to.

If you want a desktop solution however, we don’t think you can beat the excellent OmniGraffle diagramming software made specifically for Mac. Although OmniGraffle retails at $99, you don’t have to upgrade to continue using it to view Visio files on Mac for as long as you want. Finally, Microsoft Visio Online is now a viable option for Mac users but it only allows you to view Visio files in a browser and is only available on specific Office 365 subscriptions.

Further Reading

We hope you’ve found this guide to how to open and view Visio files on Mac useful. If you found this article interesting, you may also be interested in our articles on our look at professional alternatives to Visio on Mac. If you’re on a budget, check-out our look at free Visio for Mac alternatives.

If you have any other problems, questions or suggestions about viewing Visio files on Mac, let us know in the comments below.

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16 Responses

  1. ani ramos

    Visio viewer for Chrome is not working at all, for anyone. You can confirm this on the reviews of the add on.

    • MacHow2

      Are you trying to open a Visio file from the web (e.g. via your Gmail) or from your Mac hard drive? Note that the Visio viewer extensions only work for opening files from the web. If you are trying to open the Visio files from the web and it’s still not working, it’s possible that both Chrome and Firefox have been updated but LucidChart haven’t updated the Visio viewer plugins. We’ve updated the post to highlight this problem. Thanks for the update.

  2. tom

    yup does not work.
    I don’t see “open in …” in the contextual menu.

    • acatano

      also- your link to the free trial of vsd viewer doesn’t work either.

      • MacHow2

        Hi, As stated in the first paragraph, Lucidchart still haven’t updated the Firefox or Chrome extension to allow you to open VSDX files in Gmail. Also, try downloading the free trial of VSD Viewer again as the link is definitely working.

  3. craigiskowitz

    Excellent tips. The LucidChart Firefox plugin was a breeze to install and opened the files pretty fast. I’ll be reading your other articles on alternatives to visio for the mac.

  4. Andy

    LucidChart doesn’t work at all well with Visio diagrams that reference shape data from an Excel spreadsheet. Utterly mangles the entire Visio. Still in search of a suitable alternative to running a VM of Windows and Visio.

  5. allexysleeps

    VSD Viewer helped me a lot.
    Now I can take my Ipad or Mac to the meeting and show presentations for my clients without any complications.

  6. vanfruniken

    I would have liked a comparison with Omnigraffle, whose pro version ($$$) supports the visio format (for stencils only? import only?)

    • MacHow2

      This article focused on free visio viewers for Mac. We’ve looked at OmniGraffle in more detail in best alternatives to Visio for Mac. In answer to your question, OmniGraffle Pro can indeed import Visio files and stencils (.vsd, .vsdx, .vdx, .vst, .vtx, .vss, and .vsx formats) and can also export to Visio XML document format (.vdx).


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