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What diagramming software do you use?

What diagramming software do you use?

  • What diagramming software have you used, and what have you used it for? Based on your experiences, would you recommend it to other nonprofits? For what types of projects?

    If you're considering a diagramming app for your nonprofit, check out TechSoup's article Visual Presentations Made Easy With Diagramming Software. Tried one of the applications listed? Tell us what you think about it here.
    senior editor, TechSoup
  • What type of diagramming?

    In the school district environments I've worked in, I've used MS Visio and Rational Rose in the past. I've never been overly fond of RR, but it may be a matter of personal taste (I believe Visio is cheaper, it depends on what type of diagramming/modeling you are doing).

    Kevin S. Peterson Backup To The Web - Easy Online Backup NPO Pricing Available - PM or email for details
  • Check out, it allows you to create and share diagrams online.

    Andrew Mitry
  • A really good Mac-only app I use for website site maps and other types of diagramming is OmniGraffle. There's also a site with free stencils: Graffletopia. The ability to generate diagrams quickly from an outline is my favourite feature.

    I used Dia a year and a half ago. It was ok, but still buggy. I also used OpenOffice Draw for a while, which worked out ok.
    -- Eric Barstad Shadow Box Creative Media Ltd. Websites for Non-Profits
  • I've been using VISIO since version 1 (last 7-10 years) and before Microsoft bought it. I also like inspirsation and mindmanager - which are less diagram tools and more visual thinking tools.

    I even used visio to mindmap a meeting in realtime using an LCD.

    I've also used the graphs feature in excel/powerpoint when in a pinch.

    I have a few more resources mentioned in the visual thinking section of my blog:
  • The key software I use in this area and recommend is OmniGraffle. Basic version is free with many versions of Mac OSX and OmniGraffle Professional ver 4 it will also do mindmapping.
  • A good diagramming software that is realtive inexpensive is Inspiration.
    It is available on both Macintosh and Windows systems.

    NovaMind Mind Mapping 3.2.0 for both platforms is also good.

    ConceptDraw MindMap for MacOS 4.5 is also very good and easy to use.
  • We used LanFlow from Pacestar Software for our network diagramming. It was around $70 which was much cheaper than Visio at the time.
  • Hi everyone,

    Diagramming software has changed a lot in the past three years, so we decided it was time to update the article using a lot of your suggestions from this thread. Of course, there'd be no way to list every diagramming tool in one article, so I'll leave it up to you to share your favorites or least favorites here.

    The biggest thing that's changed since the original article is that online tools are much more popular. I wrote on the blog about my experience playing with some of these tools.

    Best regards,

    Elliot Harmon
    Staff Writer, TechSoup

  • I love Dabbleboard. Simple, easy to use, and easy to share and collaborate.

  • We use Visio 2007 from the Microsoft donations on Tech Soup.  I have all my APC racks nicely diagrammed with amazingly accurate pictures of our equipment. 

    Gary Network/Systems Admin Berlin, NH
    Host Non-profit Tech Careers, Security Forums
    Co-Host Networks, Hardware, & Telecommunications Forum

  • Thanks for pointing out the Visio donation, Gary. I'm excited to see the new features in Visio 2010, particularly the online components (PROTIP: If you request Visio now, you'll be able to get the upgrade through Software Assurance).

    firstgentrekkie, I have a big soft spot for Dabbleboard too. I even wrote a blog post about it last year. I chose not to include it in the article because I think it's a slightly different class of tool than the ones in the article. At least for me, I consider it more a tool for whiteboarding and brainstorming in meetings than for more permanent-ish diagrams. But obviously that's a distinction with a whole lot of gray area.

    And speaking of that gray area, I got a tweet this morning from Daniel McQuillen, creator of a new diagramming app called SimpleDiagrams. There's a free version with a few missing features and a $19 paid version. Aside from the low price, how Daniel really differentiates his product from the rest of the market is in its decidedly "non-professional" look and feel. Here's a useful diagram I spent about 30 seconds making.

    Since it's a new product, SimpleDiagrams still has some kinks, but it's one I'm definitely going to keep an eye on. The paid version enticingly includes an "export to Basecamp" option. Also interesting, SimpleDiagrams saves its files as XML, which makes me wonder how it would fare in version-control systems.

    Finally, I wanted to let you all know that last week I blogged about free and cheap alternatives for building charts. As I said in the blog post, it never fails to amaze me how many truly poor charts I see in fundraising letters, even from nonprofits that should know better.


    Elliot Harmon
    Staff Writer, TechSoup

  • I agree - both Inspiration and Mind Mapping work particularly well. Inspiration is very intuitive - easy to figure out/guess how to do and show what relationship is between ideas -- think of this as a electronic flip chart. Easy to move elements around and then to generate an outline (in a Word format)

    Inspiration has been used by kids in schools as much as by business which indicates ease of use as well as its visual appeal.

  • I really enjoy using open source software called FreeMind it has a really easy to use interface, and can export into several file formats.





  • I've used FreeMind also, pretty good program.  Another excellent free mind mapping application is Mind42.  It's web-based and it also allows you to share and work on your maps with others in a collaborative way.


    Yann Toledano, Digital Marketing Strategist
    Host, Web Building Forum,
    Twitter: @webmanyann