Spurred by a thread on Twitter, and because I wanted to keep a record of the trials, here are some links to tools for diagrams.

Professionally Visio was always close at hand, although it had a sufficient price point that I often had to get a higher level of approval (it’s not bundled with Office, and the one with fancy templates is pricey). A lot of the time it was overkill, and outside of work, far too expensive. The good news is that it appears to be “cheaper”  these days although that is in the context of Microsoft’s subscription pricing rather than a simple capital cost of an application.

First up, diagrams.net (used to be draw.io). This works fine for me in terms of a Visio alike. Works fine, not many bells and whistles, but does the job. It is also comes in an “offline” version (still called draw.io as of v13), which may be more important than you think. It also allows import from VSDX files (visio). Cost: Free.

Cloudskew – online based as the name suggests, not open source, fixed diagram sizes, but free, and very much if you want to make a diagram about cloud things.

asciiflow – this one is for those looking to recreate your retro ascii documentation. it’s cool, but no. seriously, no.

figma – collaborative design, more for designing things like application flows and layouts (https://www.figma.com/pricing/ – free for 2 editors and 3 projects, after that $15 per editor per month).

mural.co – commercial, collaborative whiteboard?(https://www.mural.co/pricing – at $12 per user per month on an annual basis – $16 if you actually want to pay monthly – pricey)

LucidChart – the supposed other app to Visio, offers collaboration and more workflow elements. Useful if you are using the diagram to drive project flow or change/maintenance. Free option is limited to 3 documents and 60 objects per document (that runs out more quickly than you might think), pricing is not cheap, https://www.lucidchart.com/users/registerLevel#/pricing

Creately – simple online diagramming, lots of integrations – a very web 3.0 package, has a Free option (https://creately.com/plans/) with 5 documents.

excalidraw – is a drawing package. You can draw your diagram (standard blocks and arrows) but no dynamic lines, snap etc. Included because it was in the list.

sketchboard.io is more like a collaborative whiteboard with elements of Visio around processes with a “organic” drawn style. Free for 5 users as 1 team with a max of 3 boards, otherwise $7 per month for solo – https://sketchboard.io/pricing.

Gliffy (perforce) – not free, although I seem to recall it used to be at one point (might be my dodgy memory), also good for Jira plugins now. Diagrams were nice and crisp. (https://www.gliffy.com/pricing $7.99/month, $4.99 per user per month for team)

So in summary – if you need to pay for diagramming, consider just getting Visio at £3.80 or £11.30 p/m (£45.60 or £139.20 annually for the fancier version)

(If anyone is wondering about Enterprise pricing – that’s gonna be a phone call and a negotiation with the relevant firm above)

Summary Table for a solo user (cheapest options):

Monthly CostAnnual Cost
Gliffy£6.32 ($7.99)£75.86 ($95.88)
sketchboard.io£5.54 ($7)£66.50 ($84)
LucidChartFree option/£8Free option/£96
figmaFree option/$15Free option/$180
mural.co£9.50 ($12)*£113.96 ($144)
CreatelyFree option/£3.16 ($4)Free option/£37.98 ($48)
Summary of solo costs for diagramming – bistromatic edition

$/£ as of 27/04/2020 via xe.com, *subject to actually paying annually.

None of this is an endorsement, it’s just me looking around for Visio replacements while at home and for ad-hoc work. Use the above as a starting point, and obviously consider your requirements will almost certainly be different to mine.