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Creating Flowcharts and Diagrams with Dia

Microsoft Visio has long been the standard for drawing flow-charts and other diagrams, however things have changed rapidly and now the open-source application Dia is mature enough to be an alternative.

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Dia can be used for a variety of tasks; flowcharts, UML-diagram, network diagrams and electrical circuits. There are also several shape repositories available online to extend the program further.

The user-interface in Dia is similar to Microsoft Visio, which has a solid user interface by default. It is easy to understand and work with. Sometimes it is even more intuitive than more powerful and commercial applications. The toolbox is easy to understand for most users and the way Dia handles shapes is intuitive.

Flow-charts are often not drawn in a bubble, they usually have some other usage, for example in an application, or on the web.  Dia has a number of export options, including .SVG,  .PNG, .WMF etc. However the export options are not as well developed as in Microsoft Visio. For example it isn’t possible to create clickable flowcharts, which can be displayed in a web-browser.  There is obviously a lack of Microsoft Sharepoint integration in Dia but also integration with open-source content management systems.

Dia also has a limitation when it comes to assigning characteristic and other information to shapes.  Other applications have the ability to integrate data with the shapes, for example if a shape of a computer could contain processing power etc. This might not seem like a big draw-back but when drawing complex flows and networks it is actually a huge benefit being able to assign information to objects.

Overall Dia is a pretty good light-weight program for drawing flow-charts, network diagrams and what not. It is not as powerful and integrated as commercial alternatives such as Microsoft Visio, but it is still a viable alternative to get basic drawing done quickly.  When on the road I was using my net book, it didn’t have Microsoft Visio installed so I downloaded Dia for the first time. In just a matter of minutes I was up and running drawing flow-charts, that is how powerful open-source software can be. Dia is available for Windows and Linux. With a little tweaking it can also be compiled on MAC OS X.


Microsoft Visio has long been the standard for drawing flow-charts and other diagrams, however things have changed rapidly and now the open-source application Dia is mature enough to be an alternative.

Dia can be used for a variety of tasks; flowcharts, UML-diagram, network diagrams and electrical circuits. There are also several shape repositories available online to extend the program further.

The user-interface in Dia is similar to Microsoft Visio, which has a solid user interface by default. It is easy to understand and work with. Sometimes it is even more intuitive than more powerful and commercial applications. The toolbox is easy to understand for most users and the way Dia handles shapes is intuitive.

Flow-charts are often not drawn in a bubble, they usually have some other usage, for example in an application, or on the web.Dia has a number of export options, including .SVG, .PNG, .WMF etc. However the export options are not as well developed as in Microsoft Visio. For example it isn’t possible to create clickable flowcharts, which can be displayed in a web-browser. There is obviously a lack of Microsoft Sharepoint integration in Dia but also integration with open-source content management systems.

Dia is limited when it comes to assigning characteristic and other information to shapes. Other applications have the ability to integrate data with the shapes, for example if a shape of a computer could contain processing power etc. This might not seem like a big draw-back but when drawing complex flows and networks it is actually a huge benefit being able to assign information to objects.

Overall Dia is a pretty good light-weight program for drawing flow-charts, network diagrams and what not. It is not as powerful and integrated as commercial alternatives such as Microsoft Visio, but it is still a viable alternative to get basic drawing done quickly. When on the road I was using my netbook, it didn’t have Microsoft Visio installed so I downloaded Dia for the first time. In just a matter of minutes I was up and running drawing flow-charts, that is how powerful open-source software can be. Dia is available for Windows and Linux. With a little tweaking it can also be compiled on MAC OS X.

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One Comment

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