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I'm seeking a Mac app for creating basic flowcharts and similar diagrams.

Google has been no help; I've followed dozens of links to apps that either don't exist anymore, I can't find any real reviews of, or that won't run on OS X 10.6.6.

What I'd really like:

  • A simple and clean interface

  • Basic shapes

  • Automated connectors that stay linked as you move shapes around

  • Inexpensive, preferably under $30 but definitely under $50

What I'm not looking for:

  • Hundreds of shapes

  • Default styles that have shadows and textures and such that I have to keep removing

  • Dozens of amazing features that allow you to automatically map databases and draw UML diagrams from code and such (I'm looking at you, Visio) that I have to constantly navigate around to make a few basic diagrams

  • A mind-mapping app with all the features such a thing entails, one that happens to also let you make basic diagrams

  • A full-fledged drawing app where, once again, I have to maneuver around a whole bunch of features and options to get to the basic functions I need. (I have Illustrator, I love Illustrator, but it's crap for basic flowcharts and other simple diagrams.)

I wouldn't actually use it for flowcharts, but rather basic similar diagrams to show data flow between apps, information flow in a company or other places, that kind of thing.

I recently found out that the drawing portion of Google Docs actually does a pretty good job with the types of diagrams I need to create, but the UI is pretty poor and it obviously requires a constant net connection.

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So you do not want to use the free feature in MS Office (SmartArt)! –  user44516 Mar 22 '13 at 10:33
3  
I suppose it's "free" if you own MS Office. –  Matthew Frederick Mar 22 '13 at 22:45
    
Rather than spending$100 on some flowchart stuff, you spend bit more and have the office. <kbd>⌘</kbd> –  user44516 Mar 22 '13 at 23:05

26 Answers 26

up vote 32 down vote accepted

If you can stretch your budget, get OmniGraffle for Mac. At $100, it's pricier than you'd like (do you possibly qualify for the $60 edu price?), but it's exactly what you're looking for.

On the lower end there's Mindcad Incubator for $50, but I haven't tried it myself and I'm not sure it does everything you want.

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I appreciate the suggestion. I spent about 45 minutes with OmniGraffle a couple of months ago, trying to make the type of simple diagram I'm talking about. Unfortunately I found it to often be counterintuitive and/or in the way. I've not managed to figure out how to, for example, not have a shadow appear on every shape I draw, a shadow that I have to manually remove. I grew accustomed to copying and pasting shapes that I'd removed the shadow from (along with other default formatting), and realize that with enough effort could make my own template, but why should I for $100? –  Matthew Frederick Jan 17 '11 at 7:22
    
@Matthew - would this or this solve the problem? –  Dori Jan 17 '11 at 8:06
4  
I recommend Omnigraffle. It is a maddening program out of the box, with all of the defaults configured to please one of the old gods from the Cthulhu Mythos by HP Lovecraft, but it is possible to configure them sensibly. The ones in Preferences are easy to find, but the tricky bit is how to figure out how to set the defaults on drawing: click on the toolbar icon of choice with the option key down, so that Omnigraffle lets you set the desired default properties using the inspectors without having to create a graphic object first. –  Michael Brian Bentley Jan 17 '11 at 19:37
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I've chosen OmniGraffle as my answer, though maybe I'll use it to design the app I really want. :) –  Matthew Frederick Jan 20 '11 at 5:25
2  
@Dori I went with OmniGraffle back when you first suggested it and am now very experienced with it and love it. Thanks for the recommendation! –  Matthew Frederick Jan 3 '12 at 22:54

iPlotz

iPlotz allows you to rapidly create clickable, navigable mockups and wireframes for prototyping websites and software applications.

Create a project, add wireframe pages with design components and discuss your creations with others.

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At $99/year, it costs as much as Omnigraffle and does less. Yes, there's a free version, but that only allows one project. –  Dori Jan 17 '11 at 19:46

Would MindNode fit what you're looking for?

There's a free version and and $20 version available. They're both on the Mac App Store.

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You also have several proposals from another SO thread here. OmniGraffle won the competition but the other links are quite interesting and could fit your needs.

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Give Xmind a try. It's Java, so expect a Java applications… if you know what that means.

But given that you haven't found OmniGraffle very "attractive" for you, you might want to give it a try.

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The Google Docs suite of tools now has a diagramming tool that lets you create flowcharts. While not as feature rich as something like OmniGraffle, it does cover all your requirements: simple & clean interface, basic shapes (and not an overabundance of shapes), automatic connectors with elasticity, and it meets your price point at free.

Certainly can't hurt to try it out before you drop $100 on the Mac Daddy of diagramming programs for Mac.

Edit: just noticed your last paragraph in your question. Not much I can do about the UI, but I will mention that offline support is about to make a return via Chrome.

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GraphViz

The link above is to a GUI wrapper to the command line utility. With GraphViz, layout is automated, so you don't get to choose exactly where the nodes end up, although you can provide hints and have some limited control.

Regarding your other points:

  • It is CLI, so I think that counts as a simple and clean interface
  • Basic shapes are provided
  • Connectors are automated and will stay linked (although you can't move shapes with a mouse).
  • Free.
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I found another one. Seems to meet all your prerequisites.

Shapes

Shapes is a simple, elegant Graphing and Diagramming app for Mac OS X Snow Leopard. Shapes gives you all of the most important features you need in a Diagramming tool without all the extra cruft, and without breaking the bank.

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2  
Just bought shapes from the app store after stumbling on this thread. I find it fast and intuitive. Just shapes, lines, and text. Thats all I wanted. I was able to make a flowchart with several dozen elements in less than half an hour. –  colonelclick Jan 11 '13 at 17:05

I'm late to the party, but NeoOffice's drawing tool meets your four criteria.

enter image description here

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For free online diagramming there's draw.io. THe U/I is simple and clean. It support the automatic connection and dragging of components you're looking for. Also, it's free, which meets your under $30 requirement.

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I think this is the best one as its platform independent. Thanks. –  AliBZ Jul 9 '13 at 22:17

There is new diagramming tool Diagrammix in the Mac App Store. Simple and beautiful.

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Thanks for pointing it out, it looks like it has promise. I'm downloading the trial now! –  Matthew Frederick Apr 22 '11 at 2:02

IHMC CmapTools is very good. You have to register for it but it is free to use and can run on all major OSes.

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Stephan, welcome to Ask Different! Ask Different is an english-only site, so please refrain from posting answers in German. –  user6124 Jul 28 '11 at 10:27
1  
Stephan, willkommen zu Ask Different! Ask Different ist ein englisch sprache webseite, bitte refrain aus beitrag Deutsch. (translated with google translate) –  user6124 Jul 28 '11 at 10:28

Your best solution is probably Inspiration. There's a free trial version available you can try out.

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I love Gliffy. It's free and very user-friendly.

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We're looking for long answers that provide some explanation and context. Don't just give a one-line answer; explain why your answer is right, ideally with citations. Answers that don't include explanations may be removed.

Dia is pretty useful. From the description: "Dia is a program to draw structured diagrams". Available for Linux, Windows, OS X.

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We're looking for long answers that provide some explanation and context. Don't just give a one-line answer; explain why your answer is right, ideally with citations. Answers that don't include explanations may be removed.

    
Multi-platform, which has, of course, certain downsides. –  myhd Nov 7 '12 at 11:24
    
+1 for Dia. Just created a diagram using it and it works great on Mac. Only drawback is that it indeed doesn't feel like a native application, however it's cross-platform (so once you know how to use it, you can use it anywhere else), free and open source. Exports great to PDF as well, which is what I needed. All in all, great, useful software. –  this.lau_ Oct 7 '13 at 13:22

I know this is an older thread, but I would like to throw in my $.02 (since things have changed some since this was posted). Lucid Chart for Google Apps is a viable solution. It is free for basic diagramming, and there are very reasonable pricing for more advanced features. It even has the capability to open (and save) Visio documents. It is integrated with Google Drive (for personal OR Apps Domains) and is real-time collaborative. Google Docs, of course, has a Drawing tool, but Lucid expands on it with some drag-n-drop features and other more advanced tools you would expect from fat-client apps. more information can be found on their website but if you search in the Chrome Web Store, you will find it and can install it directly from there. At that point it is as simple as logging into Google Drive and clicking Create and selecting Lucid Chart as the document type.

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I noticed nobody has mentioned the flowchart for mac solution from Lucidchart. It is web based, it is integrated with google drive, allows real time collaboration, and is so much more than just flowcharts. I highly recommend it! –  user43364 Feb 20 '13 at 23:09

Take a look at the free and simple to use yEd, I believe this would fit about right for your 2 yr old question :)

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Since what you're asking for is an extremely simple to use program without advanced features and lots of shapes, I suggest Delinieato, available through the Mac App store. Delineato gets ideas out of your head and onto the screen with a few clicks. It includes specifically the features you asked for, simple shapes, easy to use connectors, connectors that flow with the shapes as you move them around the screen. Delineato also has an infinite sized canvas, allowing you to shift things around and expand ideas as neccessary.

Best of all, it's under $10 on the App Store for the full version.

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I like this app's simplicity, as well as its complexity all at one shot. I have been looking for something like this for a while. There are features being added all the time, but I will be honest, this has a promising start. –  Matt Ridge Jul 3 '13 at 14:10

Apple's Keynote may primarily be for presentations, but its diagramming tools also hit all your requirements: simple interface; polygons of arbitrary number of sides; connection lines (select two shapes, right click, "Add Connection Line"); cost of USD$20.

As a bonus, you'll have great presentation software to show off your cool new diagrams.

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I see you that you need to draw flowchart with basic shapes and guides. I would recommend a web based solution since you are not always using it. But if you are drawing flowcharts frequently I suggest you to get an flowchart software like Creately. There is a mac version avalialbe and you can try for free

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roaringapps.com/app:6074 –  Shalin Jun 4 '13 at 4:17

Try yEd, it's free and very good.

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We're looking for long answers that provide some explanation and context. Don't just give a one-line answer; explain why your answer is right, ideally with citations. Answers that don't include explanations may be removed.

How about pencil? This is for fast prototyping.

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1  
Not sure who voted this down, but Pencil has flowcharting capabilities, and looks like it might serve the OP's purpose to me. –  Dave Aug 23 '13 at 2:38
    
It mainly GUI prototyping tool, however diagramming are also possible –  wik Aug 28 '13 at 23:51

Well, I read all the posts and tried several of these apps, as I was also looking for a flowchart tool. Go for Pencil (thanks Sangcheol Choi) It's amazing yet simple. Yes, it has a lot of shapes, but it also has a very intuitive search tool, and the MEANING of each of them, which many other apps don't have.... Sometimes, that's very useful, at least for people who do not deal with flowcharts every day, so we are not sure about the meaning of some less used shapes....

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Lovely Charts:

A diagramming application that allows you to create professional looking diagrams of all kinds, such as flowcharts, sitemaps, business processes, organisation charts, wireframes and many more....

A cross-platform desktop application that is available for Linux, Mac & Windows, as well as an online edition & iPad edition compliments its versatility.

This is a Premium application and the price varies depending upon which version who choose to purchase.

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I'm really liking Gliffy. I'm a long-time user of Graffle and have tried a number of the other suggestions on this page. Graffle is great except for one crucial, deal-killing problem - it's orthogonal connecting line algorithm is terrible. I have to manually redraw lines almost anytime I move anything.

Gliffy is completely intuitive - everything pretty much does what I expect it to, and there are nice keyboard shortcuts for most things. I'd like to see symmetrical resizing (hold down option like in Graffle) so I don't have to re-center every time I resize a box, but that's a niggle.

The one feature I'd really like that none of these programs seems to have is the ability to expand or collapse a process block to reveal the flowchart of what's in the box. MacFlow under Mac OS9 used to do this, and it was wonderful: double-click a box and a new page would open, where you could flowchart the "nested" process. Close that window and the chart is hidden, but still there underneath whenever needed. Boxes with nested flowcharts had a bold border around them to let you know.

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The ProcessOn diagram platform is completely free, and includes a drawing application that is actually fairly useable for creating diagrams and flowcharts at the simpler end of the scale.

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