Visio Alternative for Mac OS X

In the Windows world there is MS Visio for diagram drawing of all kinds. On Mac OS X there is OmniGraffle, a phantastic diagramming application with a 100% Mac look-and-feel. Omnigraffle comes in two versions, standard and professional. I have the professional version and if you plan to do some serious diagram drawing I strongly recommend it (check here for a feature comparison).

The developers just released Version 5. I cannot comment on this version directly, since I have not upgraded yet. OmniGraffle 5 Pro claims improved Visio compatibility, one of the key features of the Pro version. In my experience, the compatibility of Rev. 4 was not very good with text and shadings not being well supported. When using OmniGraffle diagrams on Windows, my standard path is to export as 300 dpi PNGs which have excellent quality at small file sizes.

At $200, the program is not cheap, but well worth it. This is still $60 cheaper than the standard edition of Visio. The Professional version of Visio costs 3 times as much. There is also another commercial application with both Windows and Mac versions by the name of ConceptDraw. Apparently, the Mac and Windows licenses have to be purchased separately, at $250 each not cheap. The advantage is good cross-platform compatibility, but it doesn’t have the Mac look-and-feel that makes OmniGraffle so much fun to use.

For the budget conscious, there is also a good (and free) vector graphics application called InkScape. I briefly tested it and it seems to be very capable, albeit, not as pretty and feature-rich as OmniGraffle. Also, it requires X11 to be installed. In my experience, applications requiring X11 tend to be less integrated and to have less of a Mac look-and-feel to them. Last not least, VectorDesigner is a recent addition to the vector graphics applications. While I acquired a license through the 2008 MacHeist Bundle I have only briefly tested this app. I like the look-and-feel, but my first impression is that for just $30 more a basic OmniGraffle license seems like a better deal.

7 Responses to Visio Alternative for Mac OS X

  1. Alas I have tried OmniGraffle 5. The OmniGraffle bundled with OS X Tiger was a really great app; intuitive and easy to use. Version 4 was barely useable. Version 5 completely unusable.

  2. Peter, I thought, packaged with Tiger was OmniGraffle 4 as well? I used that packaged version and liked it so much that I upgraded to OmniGraffle Pro 4. The use of inspectors takes a little bit getting used to, but this seems to be the OS X way; all apps use inspectors. I am not planning to upgrade to 5 unless they either lower the price, or increase the feature-set. Too bad, because the ‘mini-inspector’ seems like a nice addition (a step away from inspectors). Pretty much the same thing as the ‘Format Bar’ added in the recent iWork ’08.

  3. Also for the budget conscious: Lucid Charts – Like Omnigraffle, the Visio import is improving and isn’t yet perfect but it’s the only web app I’ve seen that offers it.

  4. I’d like to note that ConceptDraw shouldn’t be purchased individually for MAC&PC. A 1-user license goes per named user which allows installing on several computers.

  5. Another good alternative is Creately. They have a desktop version called Creately desktop which works on Mac. At 75$ its cheaper than most products. However it doesn’t have the advanced editing tools and a Visio import. Although Visio import is mentioned as a to be implemented feature.

  6. Although its an excellent alternative for Visio in OSX the price tag might be too hefty for someone looking to draw few simple diagrams. A good web based Visio alternative for Mac is Creately. It supports flowcharts, UML and most other major diagram types and has some cool features like real-time collaboration.

  7. Creately is one of the cool visio alternative that is available online. It can be used to draw any kind of diagram that visio can draw!

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