A Free Open Source Alternative to Microsoft Visio

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DIA_Head Do you diagram? Chart? Maybe you sketch room layouts or wiring schematics? How about flow charts?

Most people in the corporate world use the industry standard (and expensive) Microsoft Visio. So what do you do if you are in need of Visio but you can’t afford it or don’t want to use another Micro$oft product? Are there any free Visio alternatives?

Well I think we have a solution! I was almost shocked to find such an awesome application for the low low price of FREE! Open source is a wonderful thing and I would like to thank all the users that helped created this package – you rock!

Now let us check out DIA-  it is a 16.5 MB download from Sourceforge over here. It is also available for Linux and can probably be run on a Mac as well. If you have experience with DIA on either operating system we would love to hear from you in the comments! We will be working with the Windows version in this article.

After installing the application I launched it and was shown this screen:

free visio alternative

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At first glance it looks just like Visio with a different logo! Let’s see how it works”¦

You will see flowcharting as the default purpose of the application but with the click of a drop down menu and choosing Network we can do what I do in Visio”¦ Chart networks.

dia - free visio alternative

That changes our tools to be computer network related like servers and firewalls. You can see the items shown below:


Just like Visio all you need to do is drag and drop icons onto your graph paper like so”¦


Icons are easy to resize and re-orientate by simply clicking on and manipulating the icon. You can make it point in a different direction or whatever you need. Icons snap together if you wish intuitively.

You can add text labels by simply hitting tools – text like so:


Then click where you want to add text either inside an icon or outside like so:


Really anything you can do in Visio you can do in DIA. Why would I want to use Visio over this, seeing as it also opens all file formats that Visio does? The community goes on to say this about the product:

Dia is roughly inspired by the commercial Windows program ‘Visio’, though more geared towards informal diagrams for casual use. It can be used to draw many different kinds of diagrams. It currently has special objects to help draw entity relationship diagrams, UML diagrams, flowcharts, network diagrams, and many other diagrams. It is also possible to add support for new shapes by writing simple XML files, using a subset of SVG to draw the shape.

It can load and save diagrams to a custom XML format (gzipped by default, to save space), can export diagrams to a number of formats, including EPS, SVG, XFIG, WMF and PNG, and can print diagrams (including ones that span multiple pages).

For me this free Visio alternative is wonderful! What do you use? Questions comments, death threats ? Leave them in the comments!

DIA – http://dia-installer.de/index_en.html.

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