Drawing a simple, elegant chart for an MS Word doc
September 16, 2011 5:29 PM   Subscribe

I need to draw a small diagram and drop it into an MS Word document - what are the best free, user-friendly tools to do this?

I need to illustrate the flow of data between several databases, w/both the databases and the information flows labeled. It's a simple graphic, but it needs to look reasonably elegant.

Bonus points if I can later convert the document to a PDF w/out screwing up the graphic.
posted by ryanshepard to Computers & Internet (11 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Lucidcharts is a thing I've only just started playing with, but like. Free, online, easy to use so far.
posted by deludingmyself at 5:52 PM on September 16, 2011

You can draw it right inside word.

Insert shapes or a SmartArt graphic using rectangles for the databases, arrows for the flow of information, and textboxes to label things. The shapes are flexible: you can control color, orientation, borders, etc. It should do everything you want to do.
posted by jsturgill at 6:09 PM on September 16, 2011 [2 favorites]

Yeah, I was gonna suggest doing it all in Word. Word's drawing options are pretty decent.
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 6:38 PM on September 16, 2011

If you've got Word, you're probably also got PowerPoint. I would make the graphic in PP, then "save as" in the appropriate format (jpg, bmp, etc.) and insert that. I've done this quite successfully several times.
posted by aqsakal at 2:03 AM on September 17, 2011

I often make these diagrams in Excel because there's so much flexibility about where to put text: in the smart art slots, in text boxes or in cells. Turn off the gridlines and copy-paste special-windows metafile to insert your creation into word. Or save it as a PDF.
posted by carmicha at 4:07 AM on September 17, 2011

Depending on your skill level... What I usually do is draw it on a whiteboard and take a photo. If your drawing skills are good it can add a sort of retro and custom feel to what you are doing. And easier to add / edit / change on the whiteboard than futzing with something on a screen
posted by Meatbomb at 5:43 AM on September 17, 2011

Inkscape is a free, open source proper SVG drawing program that's pretty easy to learn, will do things nicely this time, and then you'll have it for when you need something more complicated.
posted by Dr.Enormous at 7:10 AM on September 17, 2011

You can use Balsamiq for this. I just use the free browser version and printscreen to capture. There are like 700 "online wireframe" apps that you can try out.
posted by DarlingBri at 10:39 AM on September 17, 2011

Use PowerPoint. When you paste them into Word, use Paste As and paste as bitmap.

For the love of god, do not do graphics editing in Word. It will lead to all sorts of pain.
posted by bluelava at 3:02 PM on September 17, 2011

I create flowchart like models in Word with draw all the time. But Visio (free trial) looks nicer.
posted by k8t at 5:18 PM on September 17, 2011

If you want it in a PDF later place it in as Windows metafile (.wmf) rather than jpeg or bmp. It'll look cleaner, because it will stay as a vector rather than a bitmap.

Inkscape is good. PowerPoint can be used for drawing, but drawings made in PPT are painful if you actually care about elegance or ease of building anything complicated.

Having spent the better part of the last 2 weeks trying to clean up PPT-created drawings for an NIH grant submission, I am speaking from painful experience here. Stay away from the MS Office drawing tools. That way lies madness.
posted by caution live frogs at 5:43 PM on September 17, 2011

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