In the world of diagrams and flowcharting, Visio by Microsoft has been a standard go-to tool for years. Due to the new way I work (heavily cloud centric) I wanted to see if there was anything out there that could hold a candle to the capabilities of Visio. Lucidchart looks to be a worthy alternative to the long standing Microsoft application.
A brief history
Now Lucidchart is by no means new to the diagramming game, with the company having been founded in 2008. In cloud years that makes them an old and stable player in the space. They have raised funding over the years to continue their growth and offer both free and paid packages of their service. It’s always good to find a company on the web who has a solid revenue model, especially when you’re counting on them to help you generate your own revenue.
Working off an interface similar to the majority of tools in this space, I’ve found Lucidchart to have a short learning curve and enough functionality to meet the needs I have in creating flowcharts and process diagrams. The traditional collection of shapes are available leveraging drag and drop to make placement and reorganization a simple matter. You’re not limited to the standard set though as Lucidchart has collections of shapes to meet almost every need.
Creating a new document is a simple click and you’re off and running creating your diagram. One of the nicest features I’ve found is how well Lucidchart handles when you move objects around. Part of my work involves dynamically building process flows with a team on a projector and that is not someplace you want a clumsy user experience. I’ve left meetings and had people asking, “What’s that tool you were using?”
One of Lucidchart’s strengths is it’s ability to facilitate collaboration. Being cloud based, Lucidchart has built into their tool effective controls for letting more than one person work on a diagram at a time. Preview links, embedded comments, and multiple types of sharing all build to helping your team coordinate on the diagrams you are constructing.
For example, I have taken diagrams in initial stages, created shared links allowing commenting, and posted those links to team discussion threads to get feedback from the team. By doing this we avoid the waterfall of emails and lost discussion threads. Focusing on efficient communications and collaboration is a strong differentiator between Lucidchart and Visio, but it’s also one of those areas I could see Microsoft sweeping in with their Office 365 offerings.
Lucidchart supports importing and exporting Visio formats as well as SVG and PDF versions of your charts. Couple that with multi-browser support and you wind up with a tool useful regardless of what machine you’re using or where you happen to be.
Worth the price?
At the Pro level for a single user, the price of Visio Standard 2016 will pay for two years of Lucidchart. To me that’s a good investment (subscribing to Lucidchart that is) since you get all the updates automatically as well as an easy way to keep growing as your needs grow. I recommend Lucidchart to anyone who needs to work with diagrams and flowcharts and doesn’t want to drop a large chunk of change on a platform locked application.
Also published on Medium.