Flowcharts are an easy way to show complex ideas such as data analysis, performance forecasts and many other business processes. While many word processing, spreadsheet and drawing programs have capabilities to create simple diagrams, flowchart software has additional tool that make creating charts easier and more in depth. This is especially important if your company needs to create something more than just simple seating charts or organizational hierarchies.
While diagram software is still available as a download or physical CD-ROM, more and more solutions are being offered as online flowchart software. Either option works well, though online solutions allow you to create and save projects in the cloud, freeing up valuable storage space on your PC or laptop. It also means you can access the program while on the go from your smartphone, tablet or other mobile device.
Our lineup of the best flowchart software has both cloud-based and on-premise solutions. Look closely at our top picks, Visio, SmartDraw and Flowcharter. Also, check out our articles on flowchart software.
When buying diagram software, it is important to understand the type of projects your company will use the program for. Some applications are very basic with just enough tools to create a basic flowchart. Others include templates, graphics and symbols for creating a variety of unique and custom diagrams, including maps, floor plans, process charts and infographics. Here are some other important points to consider while comparing flowchart software.
With flowchart makers, diagram features are the most important tools. All programs allow you to include basic shapes with text fields and connect them manually with straight, curved or angled connectors. The best diagram solutions offer automatic connection points, drag-and-drop features and a large selection of premade chart templates. These features are designed to make creating flowcharts as simple as possible. Snap-to tools, automatic spacing and alignments, and grid lines help to make sure your diagram is not only functional, but aesthetically pleasing.
The best flowchart software allows you to create flowcharts on multiple pages, collapse or expand sections of a diagram group and add hyperlinks that automatically jump to another section or page within the flowchart. A few solutions can even connect to another data source, such as an Excel spreadsheet, and automatically create diagrams after importing information from that file or program.
Text & Graphic Tools
While color and graphics are not necessary for creating a nice organizational chart or process diagram, being able to adjust text, insert graphics and choose color schemes helps personalize and highlight the importance of certain points within the presentation. Some programs have design themes that have clipart, symbols, chart templates and color schemes that match with the specific project or industry that you are presenting. It is helpful when a shape has multiple text fields and reshaping handles so you can include as much information as needed for your chart. Some flowchart makers let you change the color of each individual shape, add backgrounds and insert titles.
Few flowchart programs include a clipart gallery, though all will allow you to upload and use your own graphics and pictures. The top flowchart solutions allow you to insert pictures into each diagram shape, so you can include employee photos in organizational charts, or sample products for sales forecast diagrams. Several programs have symbol galleries that can be used instead of text shapes. For example, an airplane symbol can be used to represent a future business trip or travel expenses that need to be reimbursed rather than creating a shape and text to convey that process. These symbols are different than traditional clipart since they are used for a specific function within the flowchart or infographic, and can be connected just like diagram shapes.
Help & Support
The best flowchart programs are easy to use without too much help from support personnel. Most have in-program prompts that help you navigate throughout the process of creating your diagram. However, if you need additional help, most manufacturers have email and phone support available. Not many have live chat, user forums or FAQs available, but these can be helpful for quick references. While most CD-ROMs come with a user guide, downloads generally have a manual available online. These should be easy to locate on the website without too much digging and searching.
Flowchart software is an important tool for creating professional-looking diagrams quickly and efficiently. While some basic tools are available within other programs, such as Open Office and Excel, flowchart software is specifically designed to create diagrams and flowcharts with fewer steps and more ease than these other programs.