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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!


  1. Saifur Rahman Mohsin
    January 30, 2015 at 6:22 pm

    I use Gliffy Diagrams on Google Chrome. It's more cleaner and simple to use

  2. Sebastian
    January 13, 2010 at 6:01 am

    ARIS Express is another alternative, which is also free-of-charge ( It can also import Visio files for further editing.

  3. Yvan
    October 25, 2009 at 10:22 am

    I was surprised at how well OpenOffice Draw does flow charts. In addition to common shapes, you can add connector nodes to any shape or image making it quite flexible.

    Unfortunately it doesn't import Visio files.

  4. Gates VP
    October 11, 2009 at 4:28 pm

    I've had very good success with Gliffy
    it's actually a Flash app hosted in a browser, bit it worked very well for me.

    Even worked great for exporting and eventually printing.

  5. Pavel
    October 9, 2009 at 7:08 am

    This is another free alternative -

    It has much more features and types of shapes, as well as the ability to apply automatic layouts on the created diagrams.

  6. Sergey
    October 8, 2009 at 3:51 am

    Recently i've discovered a super-simple, super-light weight "diagram designer"

    It's also free. It is very basic, but very intuitive. Also it can export to many formats, including wmf, emf, and various bitmap formats.

    Highly recommended

  7. Bill
    October 7, 2009 at 12:43 pm

    In response to dig_boy in order to get around the box manipulations and resizing I've found it works best to simply export the diagram as a png and print it in gqview (in linux) and it works great. I actually used DIA to create an entire diagram of our companies disaster recovery, failover and load balancing network topology and it works great. Even printed it out on a plotter printer in 36x24 poster size and it still looks great. Hope this helps

  8. dig_boy
    October 7, 2009 at 8:10 am

    I was using Dia up to Version .096.1 and I liked it for the most part but got entirely fed up with its export and printing capacities. It was abysmal at printing text within boxes -- it would always crowd the text or overspill the box when it looked fine on the screen. It also was impossible to get the margins to come out right on teh first try. Exporting to images left Dia-crisp images looking terribly pixelated to the point of unusable. And metafile export was just plain buggy wrong. Please note that I was only doing dirt-basic box diagrams with lines.

    I really wanted to like the program but it just couldn't do the things I wanted... and then I found EDraw Mind Map ( - a free version of its pay product - and my whole world changed. It is a top-line product that may not overlap Dia or Visio with its features but did the kind of things I needed. I never worried about printing or image export again. Love it! For the record though - I hope Dia has gotten better since 096.

  9. Lanni
    October 7, 2009 at 6:30 am

    The program seems to have all the merits. I haven't fully explored the software, however the site could use some revamp. The program has the ability to create more than one image. Given that fact, I would suggest providing a wider view of the programs capabilities in this site. I'll make reference to images "via4" and "dia5". I recognize the reference you would wish to make to the relative comparison to a "pay for" program. Why not display a few more options provided by "freeware" software. Give the people a choice. Pay for "this," or be happy with "Free."

  10. Pradeepraj
    October 7, 2009 at 5:53 am

    Will i be able to open a VSD file using DIA? Could someone confirm if is there any other alternative softwares which can open a VSD file for editing?

  11. Joseph
    October 7, 2009 at 3:02 am

    I love DIA, it's what I use as it works on both my Windows and Linux machine, allowing me to use a common interface for both of them. I never thought about it as a Visio alternative to be honest, but I guess it can classify as that :) Glad to see that someone has taken notice of this wonderful program.

  12. lefty.crupps
    October 6, 2009 at 12:13 pm

    > Open source is a wonderful thing
    Open Source is a development model; the Free Software licenses is what allows you to have access to this application and (if desired) the source code :)

  13. Gary
    October 6, 2009 at 10:30 am

    DIA also comes in a portable version at Here is a link to the application:

  14. Igor T
    October 6, 2009 at 8:47 am

    Dia is a little limited in terms of quality of the pictures. If you want quality output I would use inkscape. Inkscape has the problem of not having stencils...

    Also Dia does not allow rotation of pre saved stencil drawing which is really cumbersome...

    If anyone knows of any plugin for inkscape to allow for stencil support it would be nice :-)


  15. Thomas P
    October 6, 2009 at 7:43 am

    Nice article. However, Dia is not the only or most popular alternative. For other open source alternatives to Visio go to Or just use main page on to search for virtually any open source alternative.


  16. Ross Goodman
    October 6, 2009 at 7:29 am

    You can also simply copy the installed directory onto your USB stick and take it with you !


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