Microsoft Visio is the de facto standard when it comes to diagramming software. But, with the Standard edition costing nearly $300/PC and the Professional edition costing double that, some may wish to seek out alternatives.
Here, Andrew Tabona has hand-picked five of the best free and easy-to-use network diagram tools for you to consider.
Draw.io is a free, cloud-based, online diagramming software solution that allows you to create basic network diagrams from a user friendly interface. You can save directly to Google Drive, Dropbox, OneDrive, or your own device and export the finished product in PNG, SVG, HTML, PDF, or XML format.
Click More Shapes, on the bottom left hand side, to choose more shapes from pre-defined categories. The Scratchpad allows you to add your own images by dragging and dropping, importing from a file, or specifying an image URL.
Draw is part of the LibreOffice suite, an open-source alternative to Microsoft Office. Side-by-side, Draw is similar to Visio in terms of functionality—offering the ability to create basic or complex diagrams, anything from flowcharts and organizational charts to network diagrams and 3D sketches.
LibreOffice Draw runs on Windows, Linux, and Mac OS X.
Tip: LibreOffice Portable lets you to run any of the tools from a USB, local hard drive, or the cloud.
To get started, you will need to download and apply a network topology icons pack, available in the form of an extension. A couple of popular ones are VRT Network Equipment and Cisco Network Topology Icons.
To apply the extension, go to Tools > Extension Manager > Add > choose the extension file you downloaded and it will be added automatically to your extension list.
Alternatively, if you have your own icons or images you wish to use in your diagram, you can add them to your gallery. Open the Gallery by clicking on the icon on the right hand side, or going to Insert > Media > Clipart Gallery. Here, you can create a New Theme folder and add your images or icons to that folder.
LucidChart Free is an online, cloud-based diagramming tool that allows you to create basic network diagrams using an intuitive and functional interface. Using LucidChart, you can collaborate with other users, permitting them to view, edit, and comment on your document.
By signing up for a free account, you get access to everything you’ll need to create basic network diagrams directly from your favorite web browser. The free account does have some limitations, including a restriction on the number of objects per diagram (maximum of 60 objects), not allowing you to export to Visio format, and no revision history.
When you create a new document, click the icon next to Shapes on the left hand side to add more shapes to your library. You can search for even more shapes, images or icons and import your own images by clicking the magnifying glass and picture icons on the top left hand side.
Dia Diagram Editor is an open-source diagramming tool for creating UML diagrams, flowcharts, network architectures, and more. Dia does have a bit of a retro look and feel to it, but for those that are looking for something that is quick and simple to use (and don’t mind the traditional UI), this tool is pretty solid. It comes with thousands of objects to help you draw professional diagrams and is well rated by the open source community.
Dia Diagram Editor runs on Windows, Linux, and Mac OS X.
To import your own images into the diagram, click the Image button from the top left hand side and then double click anywhere in the diagram pane. This will bring up a window that allows you to browse for an image to add.
yEd Graphic Editor is an open-source diagramming tool that can be used to create diagrams such as mind maps, flowcharts, UML diagrams, and more. With its straightforward and clean design, yEd makes it easy to draw basic network diagrams and export them to popular file formats such as PDF, SWF, SVG, PNG, and HTML.
yEd runs on Windows, Linux, and Mac OS X.
Right click anywhere on the Palette pane and choose Manage Palette to bring up the Palette Manager. From here, you can import Palette files and Visio stencils. You can also use the Icon Finder to search for free icons to use in your diagram. To add your own image, simply drag and drop it into the yEd interface from your computer.