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You might not have heard of Lucidchart before, but I bet you’ve heard of Microsoft Visio.

If you’ve ever had to make a diagram at work, you’ve probably used Microsoft Visio. For years, it has dominated the diagramming market and is a staple of Microsoft’s productivity package. But is its reign as diagramming king about to come to an end? I think so. Meet Lucidchart.

What is Lucidchart?

Lucidchart, which we first covered in 2008 LucidChart: Online Flowchart Maker LucidChart: Online Flowchart Maker Read More , allows you to create incredible diagrams and charts without having to install any software, or even open your wallet. They have a free tier, which comes with 25 megabytes of storage for your designs, and a variety of paid plans which can support more expansive (and ambitious) charts. They even have a team plan which allows you to work collaboratively with up to 100 users, and even integrates with Google Apps, Atlassian’s Jira, and Confluence.

lucidchart-plan

You’ll find that the highest tier personal Lucidchart license costs only $8.33 a month. Compare that to Microsoft Visio, which will set you back a great deal more at $299.99 for the premium version.

Admittedly, it’s worth noting that the diagramming and charting software world is a crowded one indeed. Over the past few years, we’ve covered some of the bigger players in the game, from Tableau, to InfoGram, to CaCoo. Lucidchart is one of many, but comes with a set of features that separate them from the rest.

lucidchart-diagrams

Perhaps the most compelling argument for Lucidchart is the immense flexibility it offers the user with respect to the diagrams that can be created. Lucidchart supports network diagrams, flowcharts, process maps, and even wireframes. Anything you throw at it, it can handle. Personally speaking, I use it to design relational database So What Is a Database, Anyway? [MakeUseOf Explains] So What Is a Database, Anyway? [MakeUseOf Explains] For a programmer or a technology enthusiast, the concept of a database is something that can really be taken for granted. However, for many people the concept of a database itself is a bit foreign.... Read More diagrams, and to create UML class diagrams when working with object-oriented programming languages, such as CoffeeScript CoffeeScript Is JavaScript Without The Headaches CoffeeScript Is JavaScript Without The Headaches I've never really liked writing JavaScript all that much. From the day I wrote my first line using it, I've always resented that whatever I write in it always ends up looking like a Jackson... Read More , Ruby and Python.

lucidchart-android

Should you wish to, you can also use Lucidchart to mock-up Android and iOS applications. Handy for any professional (or aspirant) mobile developers.

After you’ve used Lucidchart for any length of time, you’ll notice the stark difference between it and Visio when it comes to aesthetics. Visio uses a slightly dated, unintuitive ‘ribbon’ based environment (what’s the Ribbon menu How To Tweak The Windows And Office Ribbon Menu How To Tweak The Windows And Office Ribbon Menu That pesky Ribbon Menu. Ever since its introduction in Office 2007, I’ve been struggling to come to terms with it. I much preferred the Office 2000/2003 method of “hiding” tools that you don’t use often... Read More ?), which often gets in the way of real productivity.

Lucidchart is completely different, and looks like a beautiful, modern piece of software. When it comes to business software, Lucidchart is as pretty as it gets.

lucidchart-graphics

It’s not just looks though. In terms of usability, Lucidchart shines. Things just work. For example, when you draw lines, they smoothly auto-connect to the edges of shapes. And when shapes are moved, the lines stay connected so your diagram is easier to rearrange. Another example is the auto-prompt feature: when you start connecting shapes, a dialog will pop up that allows you to choose elements from your most frequently-used shape libraries. Finally, keyboard shortcuts will help you move quickly. Hit F1 or Help > Hotkey Reference to see the full list of shortcuts.

Interoperability is crucial when working in a business environment. New software which challenges incumbents lives and dies on how they handle interoperability, as seen by the slow uptake of LibreOffice Is the New LibreOffice a Better Microsoft Office Alternative? Is the New LibreOffice a Better Microsoft Office Alternative? LibreOffice, a long-time contender of Microsoft Office, just received a makeover and important updates. After being held back by niggling bugs over the years, has LibreOffice finally found the winning formula? Read More in business environments.

lucidchart-import

Should you decide to switch to Lucidchart, you probably want to make sure your old Visio files still work, and you’re able to work with people yet to make the switch. Thankfully, Lucidchart comes with full Visio support, and can create and view files built with Microsoft’s flagship diagramming application.

Lucidchart differs from Visio in the respect that it’s a browser-based application, rather than Visio which runs natively on your machine. As a result, you can use it across a range of devices and computers, with no hassle. Compellingly, you can also break from the hell of the Microsoft upgrade cycle: since Lucidchart is browser-based, you won’t have to pay for upgrades or updates, and there’s no chance of having to purchase a new package every couple of years. This contributes to Lucidchart being a vastly more affordable alternative to Visio.

Visio is expensive, but if you use it in a team environment, these costs are compounded. Mercifully, Lucidchart comes with a team plan. Starting at just $21 per month for a team of 5, you can use Lucidchart between up to 100 users. Lucidchart also offers enterprise account opportunities to teams of more than 100. Lucidchart also beats Visio on collaborative features too as it boasts an in-editor chat window, as well as supporting group-editing of diagrams.

Making A Simple Diagram With Lucidchart

Convinced? You will be when you see how incredibly easy it is to create a diagram with Lucidchart. In a few short steps, I’m going to take you through the process of making a flowchart, from start to finish.

Select Your Template

Once you’ve signed up for your free Lucidchart account and logged in, you’ll be prompted to create a new flowchart. First, click ‘+ Document‘ and select your template. There is an immense wealth of templates available, but right now we’re just going to work with a blank template.

lucidchart-step1

Give Your Chart A Name

Lucidchart makes it a breeze to manage an entire library of charts, but it’s our job to distinguish between them. At the top of the page, you’ll see the name of the document. Clicking that allows you to change the name of the chart.

lucidchart-step2

Add Some Items

To the left of the page, you’ll see a wide array of shapes that you can copy over to your canvas. Let’s select two, and drag them over.

lucidchart-step3

Add Some Labels

To give an item a label, double-click it and type something meaningful that uniquely identifies that item.

lucidchart-step4

Join Your Items Together

In the shapes box, you’ll notice a few items which identify a direction, or a relationship. Since we’re making a flowchart, we’re going to use these.

lucidchart-step5

Select the appropriate one, and then drag it in to your diagram.

lucidchart-step51

Add Detail

Continue to add detail until your diagram is completed. Only you’ll know when that is.

lucidchart-step6

Save It

Luckily, Lucidchart constantly saves your progress, but it never hurts to be sure. Click File, and Save.

lucidchart-7

Come Back To It

Should you need to come back to your diagram, it’ll be waiting for you when you next log in.

lucidchart-8

Conclusion

Lucidchart is intuitive, beautiful, and best of all, affordable. You can give it a try here. Trust me, you won’t regret it.

Have you used Lucidchart? Love it? Hate it? Tell me your experiences in the comments below. 

Image credit: Seamless vector pattern flowcharts

  1. Violeta Nedkova
    April 7, 2015 at 5:45 pm

    I've been looking for something like this. I'll play with it right now!

  2. TerryD
    March 11, 2015 at 3:27 pm

    I prefer to use Creately . It has a much better interface, much better library shapes and most of all they DON'T restrict libraries whether you use a free account or not. Even Lucidchart's basic paid account doesn't give you access to wire-frames.

  3. Karen Reid
    March 6, 2015 at 1:22 am

    not sure how to use this.

  4. Rohit
    March 4, 2015 at 5:35 am
  5. Grant
    March 2, 2015 at 2:55 pm

    How does this compare to Gliffy? I've been very impressed with the free package over the course of 3 projects. I don't think you guys have reviewed the newer web-based Gliffy yet.

  6. Karen Reid
    February 28, 2015 at 9:12 pm

    Very interesting concept!!

  7. ABrownT
    February 27, 2015 at 5:10 pm

    I'd rather keep looking for a good Open Source alternative. This looks great and all but free trials, followed by large monthly fees, really isn't appealing to me.

    • Matthew Hughes
      February 28, 2015 at 1:47 pm

      There's a free package!

    • Clinton Rendall
      March 2, 2015 at 8:25 pm

      Yeah, with a free account level available to any user, Lucidchart seems like a no-brainer. Even the first paid level is like $3/month, which doesn't seem very large to me. But most people don't even need a paid account.

  8. Brad
    February 25, 2015 at 5:32 pm

    Definitely worth check out. It is great for team projects with chat in the browser and working together like you would expect from Google Docs.

    • Matthew Hughes
      February 25, 2015 at 5:34 pm

      It's an awesome collaborative tool. Kind of like the Github of diagramming.

      Thanks for your comment Brad!

  9. Derrick
    February 25, 2015 at 5:30 pm

    I love having a web based diagramming tool. Simple and effective.

    • Matthew Hughes
      February 25, 2015 at 5:31 pm

      Same here, Derrick!

  10. Sarah
    February 25, 2015 at 5:20 pm

    I'm a first year Computer Science student, and I receive Microsoft products free through my school. I recently had to complete my first diagramming assignment. The professor showed us how to use Visio to complete the assignment, and I couldn't believe how complicated it was. I had used Lucidchart before and knew how easy it was, so I asked if I could use it instead. Luckily, the only requirement was that it should be submitted as a PDF. Lucidchart was able to do this, and it was incredibly easy! Afterward, the professor sent out an example of the correct diagram, so that we could see any mistakes that we had made. My diagram looked ten times better than the professor's! I love Lucidchart!

    • Matthew Hughes
      February 25, 2015 at 5:30 pm

      That's an awesome story! I'm a compsci student too, so I can relate to this. :)

  11. Jane
    February 25, 2015 at 5:19 pm

    Hmm, looks pretty good. I've been looking for an online alternative to OmniGraffle, looks like this could be it.

    • Matthew Hughes
      February 28, 2015 at 1:48 pm

      Never heard of OmniGraffle before! What is it?

  12. Abe Watters
    February 25, 2015 at 5:06 pm

    Love this post--Lucidchart has been an amazing find for my startup.

    • Matthew Hughes
      February 25, 2015 at 5:29 pm

      Awesome! What does your startup do, Abe?

  13. Guy Fuller
    February 25, 2015 at 4:57 pm

    I use Gliffy, but this is much better. This is an excellent tool - thank you

    • Matthew Hughes
      February 25, 2015 at 5:28 pm

      My pleasure, Guy!

      Give it a try and let me know how you find it!

  14. Christine
    February 25, 2015 at 4:12 pm

    I have used Lucidchart to make UML diagrams. It was so useful to share the diagrams with my teammates and work on the diagrams at the same time! The collaboration features are awesome. I love it!

    • Matthew Hughes
      February 25, 2015 at 5:29 pm

      You know what's better than Lucidchart for UML diagramming? Not having to make UML diagrams in the first place. :)

      Yeah, I'm not a fan of UML.

  15. Ray Bodnar
    February 25, 2015 at 4:08 pm

    Awesome! Nice to see a post about Lucidchart. I've been using it for over a year and it's my go-to diagramming tool. I was tired of using tools like Microsoft Visio and Draw IO.

    • Matthew Hughes
      February 25, 2015 at 5:28 pm

      Draw.io is a smidgeon better than Visio, but yeah. It doesn't come close to LucidChart.

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