Workflow diagrams are visual representations of workflows.
These diagrams help you better understand and improve upon the processes you’re turning into workflows. You can see what the previous step is, what the next step is, and what decisions might need to be made. Laying this out graphically makes it easier to move a step forward or back, eliminate steps, or reconfigure the order of steps.
To make creating workflow diagrams easier, you can use workflow diagram software, also known as flowchart software.
Using workflow diagram software is faster and easier than drawing your workflow on a whiteboard — with the added bonus of avoiding accidental erasure. It lets teams collaborate on workflows, which is particularly useful if your workflow spans multiple departments, like the workflow for a purchase order.
While there are a lot of choices available, the best software will include prebuilt templates that you can customize, as well as predefined objects and a low- or no-code interface. You should also be able to export your diagrams to different formats so you can print them on posters if needed.
Here are five of the best workflow diagram software programs available.
5 best workflow diagram software programs
- Microsoft Visio
- Gliffy Diagram
One of the best-known flowchart software programs, Lucidchart provides templates, software mock-ups, and a variety of shapes to use as you create and refine your workflow diagrams. The interface is familiar to most, with a traditional File/Edit/Menu bar at the top.
You can import files from competitor products like Microsoft Visio and Draw.io, as well as export to Visio. You can also export to PDF and vector formats for distribution and printing.
If you need to collaborate on workflows, Lucidchart offers real-time collaboration. You can see the edits being made as your coworkers are in the document, something that’s useful if you’re on a conference call and demonstrating how an edit will change the workflow.
Lucidchart offers a free trial version and starts at $7.95 per user, per month for an annual subscription.
Companies that rely on Microsoft Office will appreciate this workflow diagram software. The interface is similar to other Office programs.
You can create workflow diagrams, engineering diagrams, software mock-ups and floor plans with Visio, and it offers a variety of templates and shapes to help you get started. Visio also offers image and vector formats for exporting. One thing that might be particularly useful if you’re working on complex workflows is automatic layout, which can better organize your workflows.
Visio can be used in a browser with either Plan 1 or Plan 2 and downloaded as a desktop app with Plan 2. A one-time purchase of Visio Standard starts at $280. If you choose to use the browser-based application, pricing starts at $5 per user, per month.
Another software choice is Draw.io, which doesn’t require you to create an account to get started. The user interface is like Google’s online office applications and fairly easy to learn. A clearly defined grid makes it easy to arrange objects.
You can store the files you’ve created on your computer or a cloud service like Google Drive. Draw.io lets you import Visio, Gliffy, and Lucidchart files, and you can export files as images and vectors. However, Draw.io has fewer shapes and templates to use than other programs.
Unlike most online workforce diagram software programs, Draw.io provides an offline version for Windows, Mac OS, Linux, and Chromebooks, so you don’t have to be online to use it as long as you’ve saved your workflow diagrams to your hard drive. Draw.io is free unless you want Jira and Confluence hosting.
Another web-based workflow diagram software tool is SmartDraw, although it also offers a Windows desktop version. It includes templates for flowcharts, software design, landscaping, and wireframes, as well as maps.
You can save your files to SmartDraw or to services like Google Drive, Dropbox, OneDrive, and Box, as well as export to Visio, an image file, or a vector file. However, the user interface isn’t as streamlined as other products, so if you want to give SmartDraw a shot, make sure you spend as much time as possible in your seven-day free trial to get a feel for it.
Pricing for the desktop version is a one-time fee of $297, and a single-user license for the web version is $9.95 per month when billed annually.
Web-based Gliffy Diagram provides templates and shapes that let you create flowcharts, Venn diagrams, or other visual representations. You just drag and drop the icons and shapes to the built-in grid.
Gliffy Diagram lets you import Visio files and export to image and vector files. It integrates with Jira and Confluence, which is useful if those are services you need to pull information from.
Gliffy Diagram pricing starts at $4.99 per user, per month for the team plan, and it offers a 14-day free trial period so you can test it out.
These are just a few of the workflow diagram software products available. What you choose will depend on the needs of your organization as well as what’s easiest for you to use.