Flowchart tool that doesn't require free drawing arrows
September 19, 2019 7:46 AM   Subscribe

I am looking for a tool for making flowcharts or organizational charts that doesn't require that I am able to draw a straight line or make a straight line connect 2 boxes based on my ability to use a mouse to measure it exactly.

I am very, very bad at free line drawing and this sort of measuring and I need this to look professional.

I feel like this shouldn't be a big ask, but everything I have tried requires this (Powerpoint, Word, Canva) and I can't tell from a Google search of reviews which ones don't.

Please help. Thank you.
posted by eleanna to Work & Money (16 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
PowerPoint will do this if you go into the SmartArt tool.
posted by janell at 7:49 AM on September 19, 2019

Gliffy is great for this.
posted by pazazygeek at 7:56 AM on September 19, 2019 [1 favorite]

Word has arrows, PowerPoint has arrows, so does Canva. The rotation handle in Canva also tells you when you're at 90, 180, 270 degrees for accuracy. I think I must be misunderstanding your issue. Can you elaborate?
posted by DarlingBri at 7:56 AM on September 19, 2019

Microsoft Visio has done this for a long, long time. Do you have access to it?

Honestly, it's a much better tool for this sort of thing than PowerPoint.

(If you're on a Mac, OmniGraffle is a reasonable substitute.)
posted by uberchet at 7:57 AM on September 19, 2019 [4 favorites]

Do you know that holding the shift key whilst mousing generally makes things "snap to grid," i.e. tend to align with common angles and meet up with other aligned objects?
posted by teremala at 8:03 AM on September 19, 2019 [4 favorites]

Dia is a free open-source diagram drawing tool similar to Visio.
posted by mbrubeck at 8:21 AM on September 19, 2019 [1 favorite]

GraphViz is a simple text based tool for making flowcharts -- you can just type "a -> b" and it will make a node labeled "a" with an arrow joining it to a node labeled "b".

If the flowcharts you want to make are simple enough, it might do the job.

Here is a simple tutorial with a web interface. Here is a fancier web interface that shows some of the different options.

(The thought of coding might be offputting for you, depending on your experience: I can totally understand if it makes you recoil, and would not recommend you spend any time on it if so).
posted by rollick at 8:42 AM on September 19, 2019

Draw.io is great for this. Free, online, can export to many formats, easy to use.
posted by SaltySalticid at 8:58 AM on September 19, 2019 [4 favorites]

+1 for Draw.io
posted by Fidel Cashflow at 9:08 AM on September 19, 2019 [1 favorite]

I'm honestly not sure what you're asking for – I've never encountered a flowcharting tool that requires you to draw anything freehand.

But, I like LucidChart for flowcharting.
posted by escape from the potato planet at 9:45 AM on September 19, 2019 [1 favorite]

Thanks everyone. I have trouble getting the arrow to rotate correctly and then be the correct length to connect the boxes in Canva or Powerpoint (SmartArt may solve this; I have poor mouse control). What I really want is to be able to say "Please connect a and b" and have the tool make the connection for me. If code can do that, code is not intimidating. I am going to explore the other options mentioned.
posted by eleanna at 10:11 AM on September 19, 2019

Oh, you are looking for a Domain Specific Language for charting.

Mermaid.js looks promising!

I think you can do this in google charts and other things too.
posted by rockindata at 10:25 AM on September 19, 2019

Omnigraffle is my favorite tool along these lines, but it's not cheap.
For free options - I've used yEd a lot recently and been pretty happy with it : https://www.yworks.com/products/yed
There's a desktop version I've used that's fine, and they also have a web version called 'yEd live'.
posted by mmc at 10:27 AM on September 19, 2019

In power point click on your text box/shape. There should be 8 points that show up (corners and middle of each side). Click “add a shape” from the top default toolbar. Click a arrow (or line, whatever) then click on one of those 8 points around the square, drag the arrow to whatever text box/shape’s point that you’d like it to connect to. Now as you move the shapes around the screen they will stay connected. That’s the “easiest” way to it but I’m not sure if that helps your mouse mobility issue or not.
posted by raccoon409 at 10:58 AM on September 19, 2019 [1 favorite]

draw.io has a mode where you can type in the node names and relations and it will lay it out for you. then you can select from multiple approaches to lay out and adjust from there.
posted by shelbaroo at 11:00 AM on September 19, 2019 [2 favorites]

plantUML is what you want (I think). Markup language for drawing (mostly) UML, but you can trick it into drawing a lot more.
GraphVIZ is a plantUML visualization tool. Lucidchart has markup support (only for sequence diagrams). Take a look.
posted by kookywon at 2:52 PM on September 19, 2019

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