I recently needed to create a complex organizational chart. I've tried the usual culprits — Microsoft Word and Microsoft Visio — and even some creative options — including Scapple and OmniGraffle. Seeking a cross-platform tool I could use to draft, edit, share, and update a professionally prepared organizational chart, I discovered Lucidchart.
My hopes rise every time I encounter a credit-card free trial, as is the case with Lucidchart's web-based diagramming application. In my experience, whenever a vendor feels sufficiently confident to provide a trial of its software without requiring credit card information, the program typically proves sound.
Lucidchart did not disappoint. I was up and running with the online charting application within minutes. Drafting a professional-appearing organization chart proved easiest with its straightforward tool that, while providing a range of templates, formatting capabilities, and shapes, proved intuitive and easy to learn. You won't need a hefty missing manual to quickly become adept at aligning hierarchies, editing entries, or re-ordering items within Lucidchart. Best of all, you can create an organizational chart using your Mac, make fine-tune adjustments using a Linux box and even perform tweaks and share the file using a Windows machine.
With support for Google Drive integration and real-time edits by other authorized users, collaboration within larger teams is simplified. Because Lucidchart also works with OmniGraffle, Microsoft Visio, and Google Docs, it's a flexible platform that can be deployed within most environments.
A Basic account is $4.95 per month paid annually ($5.95 month-to-month) for a single user. The Basic account includes unlimited shapes and documents and 100 MB of online storage.
A Pro account is $8.95 per month paid annually ($9.95 if paid month-to-month) for a single user. The Pro account includes professional shapes and features, provides access to all shape libraries, and supports Microsoft Visio import and export.
A Team option is available for $20 a month when paid annually (or $30 per month if paid month-to-month). The Team account includes all Pro features and adds team administration and management capabilities and support for third-party integrations, such as with Google Apps.
The Enterprise account adds enhanced authentication for compatibility with Google, OneLogin, Okta, and other platforms as well as enterprise-wide controls enabling consolidating users into a master account to simplify managing files. Pricing appears based on an enterprise's size, as large organizations are asked to contact Lucidchart at 650-733-6172 or to fill out a web form.
How to create a chart or a diagram in Lucidchart
Actually creating a chart or a diagram is easy. Once you establish an account and log in, click the Documents button that appears at the top right of the webpage. Choose either Create A Diagram, Search Tutorials, or Import Visio File.
Choosing Create A Diagram results in viewing standard flowchart templates, such as used for sales mapping, value stream tracking, and support processes. You can choose to browse Standard diagram templates, Personal templates you've saved, or templates loaded by Lucidchart's user community. Categories possessing preformatted templates include Business Analysis, Engineering, Floorplan, Network Infrastructure, and Org Chart.
Selecting the Org Chart category reveals three Standard templates: Role, phone, email, Role, photo, and Vertical Org Chart. An animated quick tutorial pop-up window appears demonstrating how to drag and drop shapes to create the diagram. When clicking through the animated tutorial, the guide instructs users how to connect shapes by clicking the edge of one shape and pulling out. The tutorial also reviews adding colors and styles and provides instruction for accessing additional shapes. Last, the tutorial demonstrates how to share the diagram with others by using the provided Share button.
The bottom line
Lucidchart appears much like a full-fledged application within your browser, in my case Safari when I started. To switch to a Landscape layout, I clicked File, selected Page Setup, and then chose Landscape. The application and interface are intuitive and required little time to begin using proficiently. For example, if you don't need a shape included within a pre-populated template, just highlight the corresponding shape and press the Delete key and it's gone.
Choose Lucidcharts for your organizational charting and diagramming needs and you'll be in good company. Major firms that reportedly rely upon Lucidchart include Disney, Dropbox, Fidelity Investments, and Mozilla.
All told, Lucidchart reduced the time required developing hierarchies and relocating entries to minutes, whereas the same attempts using other software led to frustrating delays. I'm a believer.
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Erik Eckel owns and operates two technology companies. As a managing partner with Louisville Geek, he works daily as an IT consultant to assist small businesses in overcoming technology challenges and maximizing IT investments. He is also president of Eckel Media Corp., a communications company specializing in public relations and technical authoring projects.