We’ve already taken an in-depth look at The Best Alternatives to Visio on Mac but here we review one of them more closely – Lucidchart. Since Visio isn’t available on Mac, Lucidchart has positioned itself as one of the top contenders to fill that void. Unlike Visio, Lucidchart functions entirely in the cloud meaning there’s nothing to download but this doesn’t make it any less powerful than desktop software (although for Google Chrome users, Lucidchart also has a plugin which allows you to work offline too). Lucidchart allows you to do almost everything you can do in Visio including importing and exporting of VSD and VDX files, importing of Visio stencils and integration with Microsoft Office 2013, Jira, Confluence, BOX and more. More recently, Lucidchart for iPad was revamped enabling you to edit Visio files created in Lucidchart anywhere. Best of all, using software in the cloud means you never need worry about cross-platform compatibility again: colleagues and clients can share and collaborate on both PC and Mac. Here we take a more in-depth look at exactly how Lucidchart for Mac measures up as a serious Visio alternative.

Important Note: This review is based on the Team Version of Lucidchart in order to experience the collaboration features which are one of its biggest selling points. This means that some of the features mentioned here are not available in the free version such as revision history, Visio file exporting (crucial for many people) and wireframes/mockups. The free version does allow you to create an unlimited number or diagrams but is limited to 60 objects per diagram.

Getting Started With Lucidchart

To get started, you must simply log-in to Lucidchart – there’s nothing to download. You can either sign-up for an account or login using your Google or Yahoo! account:lucidchart review - login

We tried the Team Version to get an idea of what it’s like to collaborate on Lucidchart which is one of it’s biggest strengths compared to Visio. To get started in the Team Version, after logging-on, you must simply choose a team name:lucidchart review - team setup

When Lucidchart launches, the main interface is annotated to show you the main features and functions:lucidchart for mac - main interfaceThe first thing you notice about is how quick and responsive it is – there’s no waiting around – Lucidchart is very snappy from the start. The interface might also at first seem a bit disconcertingly basic compared to Visio but that changes once you start a document.

Lots Of Templates

To start a document, go to Documents in the Top Menu and you’re given a huge choice of different layouts and templates to choose from:lucidchart review - templates

The default is Standard Flowcharts but there are tons of others to choose from depending on the type of project you’re working on such as floorplans for interior designers:lucidchart review - floorplan

Or iOS templates for developers:lucidchart - ios templates

There are many more including Mind Maps, Venn Diagrams and AWS Architecture making Lucidchart far more flexible than just an industrial design application.

When you open the document, Lucidchart gives you hints and tips to get you started making it very easy to use, even for those that have never used Visio before:lucidchart review - tipsThe developers have obviously made a great effort to make diagramming tools comparable to Visio accessible to users of any background and experience. A beginner will find it far less intimidating than using Microsoft Visio for the first time.

Main Document Interface

When you see the main editor, Lucidchart looks much more Visio-like with a toolbar of actions across the top and shapes and objects down the left hand side: lucidchart review - main editorThere are a huge number of objects to choose from but if you can’t find what you need, click “More Shapes” in the bottom left corner and you can search for more:lucidchart review - more shapes

There is a huge selection of objects to choose from and adding new objects is simply a case of drag and drop. Objects snap into place and it’s very easy to rotate them and add text annotations. The design grid can also be adjusted to the size you need to keep your objects organized and in-line although you can also use swimlines to help you too (more on this later). You can also easily add color to objects and bring your diagrams to life using the color picker tool in the toolbar menu:lucidchart for mac review - colors

And even though you’re always working on Lucidchart’s servers, there’s no significant lag when designing and drawing diagrams.

Importing Visio Files And Stencils

If you want to import a Visio VSD, VDX or VSDX file, simply click Import. Those that currently use other Visio alternatives on Mac such as Gliffy and Omnigraffle can also import files although the latter feature is in beta at the time of writing:lucidchart for mac review - import tool

Select the Visio file you want to import and importing takes just a few seconds to complete depending on the size of your file.lucidchart review for mac - import visio vsd fileThe imported Visio diagram will then appear in your documents area. Just double-click on it to open.lucidchart review - visio file imported on macWe imported a simple test VSD diagram and Lucidchart imported it perfectly well with no errors or problems.lucidchart for mac review - imported visio file

However, you may experience some issues if your Visio diagram is more complicated, particularly if it contains Smart Shapes which Lucidchart doesn’t import as well. We advise you to try importing Visio files you intend to work with in the free version of Lucidchart to see exactly the kind of results you can expect.

You can import up to 200 files at one time and once done, you can edit Visio VSD files and the only small drawback being that smart shapes are not supported. You can also import VSS, VSX and VSSX Visio stencil files although this feature is also still in beta at the time of writing:lucidchart for mac - visio stencil import

However, Visio templates in VST or VTX format from Visio 2006 are not supported by any version of Lucidchart. The table below gives you a full overview of exactly what Visio formats the different versions of Lucidchart can and can’t import:visio for mac - lucidchart visio import formats

Excellent For Teamwork

Collaboration with others is where Lucidchart really excels. To enjoy this, you must purchase the Team Version but it’s well worth it because it makes working on the same project very easy. Any changes made by others that have access to the document take place in real-time – no more sending documents or designs back and forth via email or uploading them online. You can communicate with team members within Lucidchart via the Comment feature (which can be toggled off if you don’t want to be disturbed) in the bottom right hand corner:lucidchart review - comments

Integrated With Office, Google Apps, JIRA And Confluence

The Team account is also fully integrated with Google Apps and also entitles you to free Lucidchart plugins for JIRA, Confluence and Jive integration:lucidchart for mac review - confluence plugin

Lucidchart is also integrated with Microsoft Office 2013. All you need is to download the free Lucidchart plugin from the Microsoft store and you can start creating new diagrams in Word for example. Eventually, this will include other Office apps such as PowerPoint and Excel.

There are many other ways to share your designs including email or web link:lucidchart review - sharing

PDF document or Image:lucidchart review - share pdf

Or simply embed them into a webpage:lucidchart review - share embed

Work Offline In Google Chrome

One really nice feature of Lucidchart is that you can also work offline if you don’t have an internet connection. All you need is a Google Chrome and a the Lucidchart plugin available for free from the Chrome store:

lucidchart for mac review - offline chrome app

You can edit documents as if you were online and all changes are saved on your Mac hard drive:lucidchart for mac review - chrome changes saved locallyAs soon as you go back online, Lucidchart will automatically sync changes with the online version. Of course, others can’t collaborate with you until you are online again.

Useful Lucidchart Hotkeys for Mac

Lucidchart also allows Mac users to use keyboard shortcuts to help speed-up your workflow. All of the standard shortcuts you’d expect are there, along with a few other options. You can see the full list in the editor by selecting Help > Hotkey reference:lucidchart for mac review - hotkeys

And here’s a sample of the most useful hotkeys for Mac:lucidchart for mac review - most popular hotkeys

Keep Diagrams Organized With Swimlanes

Swimlanes are a great way to organize data, whether you’re assigning tasks to team members or breaking down the steps of a complex process. In Lucidchart, swimlanes are dynamic, so the content inside will respond as you change the format:lucidchart for mac - how to use swimlanes

To turn on swimlanes:

1. Open a Lucidchart document.
2. Click “More Shapes” and check the box for Flowchart Shapes.
3. Click “Save”.

You’ll then be returned to the editor. To use a swimlane shape:

4. Drag out a horizontal or vertical swimlane from the Containers section.
5. Click the tooltip (the blue icon that pops up) to add lanes and change the orientation.
6. Double-click the swimlane title to edit the text.
7. Drag and drop objects into the swimlane—text boxes, shapes, or whatever else you like. When you reposition the swimlane, the objects will move along with it.

Excellent Network Diagram Support

Lucidcharts is particularly good for those that need to design network diagrams whether it’s for home or office. You have the choice of three network shape libraries: generic, AWS, and Cisco.lucidchart for mac review - network diagrams

To turn on network diagrams:

1. Open a Lucidchart document.
2. Click “More Shapes” and check the box for AWS Architecture, Cisco Network Icons, or Network Infrastructure. You may also want to open the libraries for server rack diagrams and tech clipart.
3. Click “Save”.

From there, it’s as simple as dragging and dropping shapes onto the canvas. You can add connections and import custom shapes as needed.

Lucidchart Pricing

As we mentioned at the beginning, if you’re working in a team, then a Team subscription is essential to get the best out of Lucidchart. Depending on the size of your team, it could also save you or your company a lot of money too. A team of around 100 could spend something in the region of $10,000 for Visio licenses but for the same number of collaborators on Lucidchart, it currently costs just over $330 a month for 100 users which considering you’ll never have to upgrade either the software or your Mac or PC, definitely works out cheaper in the long run. However, if you just want Lucidchart for very limited personal use, it is completely free. For a complete overview of the different pricing plans available for Lucidchart, check the price comparison chart below.

 

visio for mac alternative - lucidchart pricing

A Superb Alternative To Visio

Overall, Lucidchart is an extremely impressive alternative to Visio, especially when it comes to team collaboration. Ease of use and intelligent design ooze from Lucidchart and it’s clear the developers have put a lot of thought in redefining how people work in teams on applications such as Visio. Our advice is go ahead and judge for yourself by trying Lucidchart for free and you can also get an idea of what Lucidchart looks like in action here:

Review: Lucidchart - Goodbye Visio?
If you're sick of struggling with a virtual machine to run Visio on your Mac or need something that makes designing of all kinds with colleagues easier, our advice is you should definitely give Lucidchart a try. Don't forget to check out our full review of the new Lucidchart for iPad app too.
Pros
  • Imports and Exports Visio Files And Stencils
  • Works Offline With Chrome Extension
  • Excellent For Collaboration Across PC and Mac
Cons
  • Requires Monthly Subscription Model
  • Some Features Still in Beta
  • Smart Shapes may not import well
4.0Overall Score

About The Author

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2 Responses

  1. James

    Pricing deceptive? $10k for 100 Visio licenses. Would that be Visio Enterprise version being compared against the basic version of Lucid? Also $330/month comes to about that over three years which is a typical period to capitalise the licenses. If Lucid is based on *concurrent* users then that could work out a lot less expensive. Also the collaborative aspect could be good but the roughly 4:1 saving on their website doesn’t seem to stack up.

    Reply
    • MacHow2

      James, The comparison is actually based on the Standard version of Visio which is $300 a year (the Enterprise version of Visio is $590 a year). Assuming that the average user keeps the program for 3 years, that works out $100 per user, per year for Visio. 100 users would therefore cost a company $10,000 per year over three years for Microsoft Visio. Lucidchart charge $4008 annually for 100 users which works out at $40.08 per user per year so that’s less than half the price of Visio. However, the pricing policy changed recently so you’re right that the 4:1 saving no longer adds up.

      Reply

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