Diagramly: A Free Online Tool for Creating Diagrams and Charts

Looking for a tool to create diagrams, mind maps and flow charts? Diagramly is a capable online diagramming tool, and while it’s not quite as powerful as desktop apps like Microsoft Visio (s msft), it’s free and can produce fairly complex diagrams and charts¬† — an impressive feat for a web app built entirely in HTML and JavaScript.

You don’t need to create an account or login to get started: just head to the Diagramly site. The bulk of the screen is taken up by a blank grid, where you’ll create your diagram. Along the left-hand side of the screen are palettes of shapes (rectangles, circles, connecting lines,¬† arrows, etc.), BPM flowchart symbols, and clip art — to use these you just drag and drop them onto your grid, and then preposition and scale as required. At the top of the screen you’ll find tools for adjusting things like zoom level, text size, gradients and fills, and line color. There are also undo/redo, copy/paste and file open/save buttons at the top-left.

Once you’re happy with your diagram, you can save it locally (either in Diagramly’s native XML format, or as a PNG, JPG or SVG file). Unfortunately, there’s no option to save your diagram to the cloud, and you can’t collaborate in real-time with other Diagramly users, which would have been nice features to see. Cleverly, you can open Visio files using the app; if nothing else, Diagramly could prove handy for those times that people send you a Visio file and you don’t have it installed.

If you’ve used a desktop diagramming app like Visio, Diagramly will probably feel familiar. It does have some quirks that take a little getting used to: Some of the icons in the left-hand sidebar don’t really match the shapes produced, for example. However, while it’s not quite as polished as commercial desktop diagramming apps, it’s free, and with a little patience it’s capable of producing pretty decent results.