Why Use Flowchart Software?
The top performers in our review are Visio, the Gold Award winner; Lucidchart, the Silver Award winner; and Edraw, the Bronze Award winner. Here's more on choosing flowchart software that meets your small business's needs, along with detail on how we arrived at our ranking of the best flowchart software.
Do You Need Flowchart Software?
It's easy to spend a lot of time developing business processes and creating presentations. Depending on your role, you may need to create and regularly update organization charts, network diagrams, process-flow diagrams or wireframes. You may need to share your charts with your team members, in-house and remote staff or even to present your diagrams to external clients who want to purchase your product or services. Flowchart software gives you the tools you need to more efficiently create professional-looking diagrams that visually communicate complex ideas and processes in the simplest, clearest form possible.
Although you can use spreadsheet and presentation programs as well as some free online programs and apps to create flowcharts, these programs are often limited to basic features and shapes, which means that it can be time consuming to create and edit diagrams, especially if they’re large or complex. It may be worth investing in flowchart software if creating or editing diagrams is a regular part of your job, if you need more than basic functionality or if you require professional-looking diagrams.
As you look for the best flowchart software for your company, consider which features are the most useful to you and can save you time, the different types of diagrams you want to be able to create, and how you can most efficiently share your diagrams with your staff and your clients. If you specifically need software to design 2D and 3D models, check out our CAD Software Review. Or, if you’re looking for software to create home and garden plans, our Landscaping Software and Mac Landscaping Software Reviews may be useful to you. Also, be sure to check out our articles about flowcharting software.
Flowchart Software: What We Evaluated; What We Found
We looked for affordable programs with monthly and annual subscriptions. Although there are additional high-end flowcharting programs on the market, like iGrafx Flowcharter, they are much more expensive and seem better suited for larger businesses or corporations that require technical process modeling and analysis capabilities.
We looked for flowchart software that streamlines the diagram-creation process. All of the programs we reviewed include templates and examples that get your project off to a fast start and a library of shapes that can be customized to fit your diagrams. They feature drag-and-drop functionality that makes it easy to rearrange the shapes and connectors on the canvas.
In addition to these basic features, the best diagram software programs have a user-friendly interface and provide templates and shapes for a variety of applications. Although every flowchart software we reviewed can be used to create basic flowcharts and organizational charts, many of the programs also include shapes and templates designed for particular types of diagrams, such as for various business and industry-specific applications.
Creation Features Simplify the Diagramming Process
Tools that make it easier and faster to create professional-looking charts and diagrams are among the most important considerations as you look for flowchart software. We tested the flowchart programs to see how easy it is to create diagrams and whether or not they have features that save time or improve the look or quality of the charts.
In this score, we evaluated the features that affect your experience with the software and make it feel intuitive and user friendly, such as how easy it is to navigate the interface and whether it feels up-to-date. Most of the programs looked current, although a few felt dated despite being recently updated.
We looked at the shape libraries to see if the symbols are basic or if there is a more extensive collection that can be customized to allow for a larger range of use and visual interest. ConceptDraw Pro and Edraw have the largest libraries, each having more than 10,000 symbols, making them top choices if you want to use the flowchart software to make infographics.
We considered whether the software has color schemes and design themes that you can use to quickly customize your charts. Although most have premade color schemes, few have fully designed themes that utilize fonts, colors and effects.
Most programs also include the ability to use spell check, replace shapes without having to first manually delete the original shape, add connector points to the spot of your choosing on a shape and automatically resize shapes to fit your text.
Because many tasks require input from managers or colleagues, we wanted software that made it possible to work in tandem with team members in real time. Half of the programs we reviewed include real-time collaboration tools that allow multiple users to view and edit flow diagrams at the same time and see changes as they occur. Many of the programs with this capability also have built-in chat features that allow users to discuss the project as they collaborate without picking up the phone or using another program.
The best programs also support multiple page process flow diagrams that give you the ability to include several diagrams in a single project and link between them, to have expandable canvases that automatically grow to fit your content so that you’re not constrained to a preset page size, and to add layers to your diagrams.
Sharing & Presentation Tools Make Your Diagrams Usable
Since it’s important for you to be able to get your diagrams in front of your staff and your clients as easily and elegantly as possible, we looked at the export options and viewing capabilities of the diagram software. We also we also tested it as viewers to evaluate the steps your clients have to take in order to access your charts.
Viewer Access Score
This score evaluates your client’s viewing experience with the diagrams you create with the flowchart software. It considers the effort your client must go to in order to view your diagrams, whether or not the programs include tools that help you guide your viewers as they look at your diagram, and whether your client can interact with the diagram by adding comments or making edits.
Most programs require your client to download a free viewer or register for a free trial account in order to view the diagram. SmartDraw Cloud was the easiest to access, allowing you to email a link to an exportable, printable diagram without requiring your client to register for an account unless he or she wishes to add comments or edit the diagram. Half of the programs allow viewers to add comments and edit charts after registering for accounts.
All but two of the programs allow you to guide your client through the diagram by enabling you to link to other sections and pages of the diagram. Half of the programs allow you to collapse and expand groups in order to simplify the diagram.
We also considered the degree to which you can control the access that your collaborators and clients have to your diagrams, for instance, if you want them to be able to simply view the diagram or if you want them to be able to comment on or even edit your diagrams. The majority of the programs we looked at have this capability; however, only three of them enable you to password protect your diagrams.
Being able to export your files to sharable formats that can be emailed or printed is another important consideration, and all of the diagram software on our lineup can export diagrams to common image formats, such as JPG, PNG and SVG, and all but three can export to PDF files or to a website in HDML. Half of the flowchart software on our lineup come with presentation capabilities that makes it easier to share your diagrams during a meeting.
Flowchart Software: Our Verdict & Recommendations
Choosing the right flowchart software for your business makes it easy to quickly create professional-quality charts and diagrams. The best programs in our lineup can be used with business and industry-specific applications and include collaboration, sharing and presentation functionality.
- If you’re looking for flowchart software that has professionally designed templates, a familiar Microsoft Office interface and technical functionality, like the ability to set and check rules, consider Visio.
- If you want an intuitive, browser-based flowchart program with an iPad app that supports a variety of diagrams, Lucidchart is worth checking out.
- If you want a visually rich program with an abundant selection of examples for many different types of diagrams that also enables you to create infographics, Edraw may be a good option for you.
- If you need flowchart software that is both inexpensive and includes real-time collaboration features, check out Creately.
- If you’re looking for a Visio alternative, for example if you’re a Mac user but your clients use Visio, Lucidchart and ConceptDraw Pro can also export files in Visio format.
All of the programs we reviewed have free trials that let you try out the software before purchasing the product, which is helpful if there is specific functionality that you need and you want to test it out before making your purchasing decision.