Software

Five flow charting applications

There are a number of different tools available to help you to create flowcharts. Brien Posey lists five apps he has tried.

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As a freelance technology writer, I find myself often having to create various types of charts. In doing so, I have discovered that there are a number of different tools available to help you to create flowcharts. Here are five such tools.

This article is also available as a TechRepublic Screenshot Gallery.

Five Apps

1. 1888 Quick Flow Chart Creator

1888 Quick Flow Chart Creator is a free flow chart application. This particular application doesn't really measure up to the paid applications, but it will get the job done.

The program provides a series of flow chart symbols that you can place on the screen and connect to one another. You also have the ability to change the color of the symbols or add text to them.

The program is fine for creating a basic flow chart, but it isn't really conducive to high precision work. There don't seem to be any tools to help you line up the objects that you place on the screen, so producing a clean looking flow chart can take a bit of practice. The software could also benefit from some better documentation, as it took me a few minutes to figure out how to use some of the features.

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2. WizFlow Flowcharter

WizFlow Flowcharter is a very basic flow charting application that seems to work really well. This program starts off by asking you to choose a color pallet, font, etc. After doing so, you are presented with a screen containing a series of objects that you can drag and drop to create your flowchart.

I found the interface to be very intuitive, but admittedly, it took me a few tries to get the hang of object placement. The process wasn't difficult, it was just a little bit different from what I was used to. All things considered, this application is probably a good choice for those who need basic flow charting capabilities.

WizFlow Flowcharter sells for $69.95, but a free 30-day trial is available.

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3. RFFlow

RFFlow is everything that a flow charting application should be. The utility is fast, efficient, and intuitive. It makes light work of object placement and a popup takes all of the guess work out of adding text to an object. The program also makes it simple to resize, move, or delete objects that you have already created. The software even includes templates that you can use to create various other types of charts.

RFFlow sells for $49.00, but a free trial version is available for download.

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4. Novagraph Chartist

Novagraph Chartist is a relatively powerful tool for creating flow charts and other types of charts (such as organizational charts). Although there is a bit of a learning curve associated with using this tool, it is at least somewhat intuitive. More importantly, the tool is jam packed with features and should be able to accommodate even the most demanding flow charting requirements.

Novagraph Chartist sells for $49.00, but a free trial version is available for download.

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5. Microsoft Visio Professional 2013

Microsoft Visio Professional 2013 is the flow chart application that I personally use for my day to day work. The main reason why I use Visio is because it's built in network diagramming tools are extremely helpful for some of the books and articles that I write.

When it comes to creating flow charts (as opposed to network diagrams or other types of diagrams), Visio is easy to use. It behaves much like other Microsoft Office applications, such as Word or Publisher. Visio allows you to drag and drop objects to build your flow chart.

In all honesty, Visio performs almost identically to RFFlow, which costs a small fraction of what Visio costs. If you only need to create flow charts, you are probably better off getting RFFlow than Visio. However, if you need to be able to create a wide variety of chart types then Visio is an excellent application choice.

Microsoft Visio Professional 2013 sells for $589.99.

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26 comments
phr3ak
phr3ak

Trisotech's BPMN Web Modeler is a perfect application for designing business process models. It's a cloud solution that works on mobile devices.

http://www.bpmnwebmodeler.com/

Tomas Bisciak
Tomas Bisciak

there are people using something else than visio?... god...

bill_bosler
bill_bosler

Is see that "Process Intelligence" is a discipline that focuses on understanding and empowering each Individual as a Contributor to the Organization's Value Chain, So, my focus is much on Swim Lane style Business Process Diagrams. In particular, BPMN 2.0 Compliant Diagrams seem easiest to communicate with Senior Management.

The Business Process Incubator, http://www.businessprocessincubator.com/, has a Visio Add-In that lets you jump to other pages very easily. It was FREE; but, now, it looks like it is VERY Expensive at $30 per month.

BonitaSoft, as referenced by an earlier post, looks interesting; but, I see that you need a paid version to get the templates and the ability to have SubProjects. Finding the Cost has not been quick.

Whatever we choose as a modeling tool, it is much better if the model is Actionable. that is, one can change it in Excel or a Database and the Visual Model Changes Accordingly. That way, the model can be maintained and integrated with other activities.

BPs that are not Actionable are simply Extra Work for a disconnected visual. We need Active Visuals.

For instance, I see that ProM, http://www.promtools.org/prom6/, exports BPMN 2.0 visuals. I expect to test the interoperability with Visio.

sanat.pal
sanat.pal

I use extensively MS-VISIO Flowchart tool for the last 14 years.  Even prior to acquisition of the VISIO from Microsoft.  I find it is very easy to use. 

Jim-Bob_z
Jim-Bob_z

Here is a "Flow Chart" tool (actually, a real, WfMC- and BPMN-2.0-compliant Workflow Development and provision environment) that is totally free forever and does far more than any simple "Flow Chart" maker, for example, it builds real workflow applications that run on your local server (also using free software), and it integrates with many other "business" applications:

http://www.bonitasoft.com/products/bonita-bpm-open-source-bpm-suite

I have used it and learned enough to build basic workflows and serve them, and I am impressed with both its power and ease of learning, which is a rare combination in any product IMHO.

Of course, it is not intended to help with "flows" that are not Business Processes, but if your interest is in Business Processes, I highly recommend this solution.

IHTH

Jim-Bob

Stratocaster
Stratocaster

Since pretty much everyone has it on their office desktop already, if you want a high-level flowchart which will fit on a slide rather than in a document, PowerPoint is hard to beat.  And it will connect all the lines and shapes for you.  Sort of Flowcharting for Dummies, but not meant in a pejorative sense.

Since our enterprise has gone all Microsoft-ish, I have not used the current release, but I have used iGrafx FlowCharter before with good results if you are looking at the high-priced spreads.  I started using it back in the day when it was called ABC FlowCharter (for DOS) before Visio was a twinkle in Bill Gates' eye.

mnacif
mnacif

yEd Graph Editor is also a nice FREE option.

fernando
fernando

Users would be better with LibreOffice. In my experience, better than most of those for flowcharts, and with increased clipart and shapes, plus ability to import visio shapes, almost as good as visio. But free, and with added features like exporting as high quality, flash, pdf and svg.

LibreOffice has the aligment features the author misses on most featured tools, and it's very flexible when connecting shapes. I use it to draw flowcharts, organizational charts, IT diagrams and many other diagrams for my work as a teacher and consultant.

It isn't a dedicated flowchat app (for me this is even better). The functionality is integrated into the presentation and drawing modules, and it's easy to cut-and-paste diagrams into text and spreadsheets.

Frank H Little
Frank H Little

Good to know that there are still real programmers out there.

Jackie Kiadii
Jackie Kiadii

How strange is this? Five minutes ago I thought to myself "I need to find a flowcharting app" and then I see this post. Thanks!

blastradius
blastradius

I liked Kivio even though it was for KDE, development had stopped though so I went to Dia which is good as well.

Tom Glasscock
Tom Glasscock

If it's something complex and the audience is interested in detail, then Visio. Otherwise PowerPoint.

Burkhard
Burkhard

Just use DIA ! It's free and you can do many the things that Visio can do!


Sejohannsen
Sejohannsen

Anyone having used Visio for 14 years likely would find it easy to use. I do too. Set someone down in front of it that has been relegated to doing this in PowerPoint, and I'll bet the intuitivity factor goes down a bit. Just sayin'

mcarey
mcarey

@shad Second that.. DIA is a great free alternative to Visio.

tcavadias
tcavadias moderator Staff

@Jackie Kiadii I have done that myself numerous time. It can be very spooky sometimes, as if someone can access my brain thoughts :-)