The best thing about Diagramly is how accessible it is. You just click a URL, and you’re in. There’s no download, no account registration, and you don’t even need Flash to use it. It really couldn’t be simpler to get started. The worst thing about Diagramly (I’ll just get this out of the way right now) is the utter lack of documentation. For example, check out this diagram I made for you, showing the ideal MakeUseOf reader’s workflow:
Pretty easy to understand, right? It took about 45 seconds from the moment I first loaded Diagramly in my browser until I had this diagram. But did you notice how all steps use the same icons? That’s not because I think you guys are cogwheels in MakeUseOf’s giant machine – it’s because I simply couldn’t figure out how to change the icon! I clicked all over the interface, right-clicked the bubbles and did just about everything I could think of, and yet I was unable to change the icon. This is where you come in, by the way – feel free to leave a comment and tell me what I missed.
Let’s take a look at the UI:
I included Chrome’s address bar on purpose, so you’d see it really is a Web app. The border between web apps and desktop apps is growing ever fuzzier, and Diagramly is a good example. The interface is very snappy, too. You can drag a marquee around multiple elements to select them all (or Ctrl-click them one by one, if they’re not adjacent). You can adjust the zoom level, and select diagram components from a rich library of high-resolution icons.
Here are just a few samples I picked at random:
Why there is a Shield of David there, I have absolutely no idea. I think it’s just supposed to be a star, but it has six points for some reason. At any rate, you can see the icons are very detailed. I believe I’ve seen them before elsewhere. Diagramly’s creators must have obtained permission to use existing icon sets. Having such high-quality icons is very handy when you’re trying to get a visual message across quickly. You can just draw an arrow from the $ icon to the Mac icon — the message is clear.
Once you’re done crafting your masterpiece, you can save it in one of a number of formats:
Saving as an SVG is very handy if you have a desktop vector editing application (such as the free and open-source Inkscape). As I’ve already mentioned, documentation isn’t exactly Diagramly’s strong suit, so I have no idea what type of XML it saves. I’ve inspected the resulting XML and it lacks a DTD declaration, but you can certainly open it back using Diagramly (I’ve tested this).
Should you use Diagramly for your multi-million dollar keynote? You can probably guess the answer by now. But if you have an idea you just want to lay down on screen very quickly, and without futzing about with a software download and installation, with opening an account, or with any of the other hassles most diagramming tools present, then Diagramly is the way to go. If you make anything interesting or funny, do share in the comments!