Best Bubble Diagram/Chart/Map Software or Website
April 13, 2015 10:12 AM   Subscribe

Google "bubble diagram" and check Google Images to see the sort of chart I'm trying to make. I'm interested in the sort of chart where I can put different topics in separate bubbles and then draw interconnections freely between any of them. I'm not talking about a "mind map" where everything radiates level-by-level from a central point, although what I'm looking for may be a variation of that or included in the same software or website package. I'd prefer something free since I don't do a ton of graphs, but I'm open to paying for something if it's really good. I like the idea of something online (maybe even with an associated app), but I'm not wedded to it. There's a million mindmapping options out there, but I find very few solutions for the decentralized bubble-mapping I'd like to do, so I'm interested in the best option.

I'm not sure if it matters, but I plan to use this for personnel and project planning. I want to put every person in our company in separate bubbles and then draw the interconnections between them. Preferably the interconnecting lines can be labeled to show how the two people specifically connect. Arrows to show direction of the connection would also be useful. I also want to specify the various tasks for a project and show the interconnections between them. You can sort of get part of this from Gantt charts and some from mind maps, but I think the bubble charts will really show the chaos most easily, and that's what I'm trying to illustrate clearly to my boss. It's also the first step towards cleaning things up.

Also, if anyone thinks of other options for diagramming or otherwise laying what I just described (not a trained project manager here), I'm open to those as well, but I do want to take a crack at these bubble charts/diagrams/maps, regardless, to see how they go. Thanks in advance for any suggestions.
posted by KinoAndHermes to Computers & Internet (16 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
I use Google Draw (through Google Drive) to do something very similar. Bonus: it's free!

You can add shapes and change colours and add text/images really easily.
posted by guster4lovers at 10:15 AM on April 13, 2015

Not free, but since you may already have it/may be used to it, you can do this kind of thing with Powerpoint.
posted by quaking fajita at 10:22 AM on April 13, 2015


posted by a lungful of dragon at 10:23 AM on April 13, 2015 is simple and free.
posted by BrashTech at 10:58 AM on April 13, 2015

+1 for Omnigraffle
posted by Mac-Expert at 11:01 AM on April 13, 2015

I am a huge fan of OmniGraffle
posted by munchingzombie at 11:06 AM on April 13, 2015

What are you talking about is also called a directed graph or force-directed graph. I don't have a suggestion for tools (I would do it in code), but that may help you search. Something like Shiny might work, assuming you can find a good R example and swap out the data. That might be faster than trying to do it in a drawing program.
posted by dame at 11:20 AM on April 13, 2015

OmniGraffle isn't free, but it is pretty much tailor-made for this task and worth the money if you plan to do this kind of work a lot.
posted by a lungful of dragon at 11:25 AM on April 13, 2015 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks for the responses, guys. I will say that knowing that these are also called directed or force-directed graphs helps a lot with searches. I looked at OmniGiraffe, and it looks awesome, except it appears to be only for Mac, and I use Windows. I'll be checking out the other suggestions as well, but if anyone knows of something equivalent to OmniGiraffe on Windows, that would swell to know. Thanks.
posted by KinoAndHermes at 11:51 AM on April 13, 2015

Check out yEd. Maybe not the most intuitive/user friendly but it is pretty powerful.
posted by ropeladder at 12:40 PM on April 13, 2015

Memail me.
posted by tel3path at 12:59 PM on April 13, 2015

Count me as another huge fan of OmniGraffle. ("OmniGiraffe" would be an awesome name, but alas...)

Your use case is pretty much one of OmniGraffle's core strengths - and it produces gorgeous output. Is there any way in which you could borrow a Mac to try this out?

(No idea about Windows, sorry - if that had been in the question as a requirement, I'd have skipped answering.)
posted by RedOrGreen at 1:48 PM on April 13, 2015

Seconding yEd. It's not the prettiest user interface, but it's solid, free and cross-platform.
posted by scruss at 2:10 PM on April 13, 2015

Scapple might do what you need, if I understand you right. It has a free trial.

You can design the borders and backgrounds of the bits of text however you want.
posted by megafauna at 4:56 PM on April 13, 2015

Dia Portable is one of the PortableApps, and is free. Screenshots here.
posted by megatherium at 6:56 PM on April 13, 2015


It is very versatile and may fit the bill.
posted by worlddisciple at 3:23 AM on April 14, 2015

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