Use this Free Program to Create Great Flowcharts and Diagrams

"Visio" is most probably the application that comes to your or anybody else's mind first when being asked about a diagramming software. Not many know that there is a great and powerful program available for free that does a very good job in that area as well. In fact, I prefer it over others for its great auto arrange capabilities.

yEd Graph EditoryEd by yWorks is a great example for a "free but professional" application. It is as simple as it is feature rich. It comes with several icon libraries and diagram templates and I am sure that anyone in need of a diagram or flowchart will be able to create it with yEd (BPMN diagrams, Flowcharts, Family Trees, Semantic Networks, Social Networks, UML Classes, Org Charts, Network diagrams, Swim Lanes and more).

What I liked about yEd is its great capability to auto-arrange your diagram. Don't worry about the layout too much while creating your flowchart. Just add your boxes and connections and then when you're done, use one of yEd's many auto-arrange algorithms. I am confident you'll find one that does it just right for you.

yEd is freely available and runs on all major platforms: Windows, Unix/Linux, and Mac OS. Get it here:


This article is maintained by George

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by ctleake on 2. October 2013 - 16:12  (111177)

Hello Sir,

You have my profound respect for this tool. Every where I end up seems to have it lying around.

I'm an old COBOL programmer, re-invented as a PHP5 web coder, who remembers good old Jackson Structured Programming and still thinks there's a limited place for this inside OO Methods.

Is there anyway to conjure up new symbols: a tiny circle or a tiny star in the North-East corner of a rectangle; plus some square braces big enough to contain a rectangle with an indefinite number of vertical arrows beside the rectangle?

Warmest regards,


by Remah on 3. October 2013 - 11:28  (111195)

Yes, you can "Import Symbols.." from the Palette menu (right-click) but they're more rudimentary than the standard ones. I learnt that it was usually easier to get by in yEd without using too many custom symbols. You might find the same particularly for your second example.

Search for "Custom Symbols" in yEd help to get more info. You can use bitmap and vector graphics formats to create custom nodes but they won't have modifiable visual properties unless they are Visio XML shapes.

by winnyuk (not verified) on 19. September 2011 - 13:17  (79890)

Does anyone know the stencil used in the ipv6 example diagram, or can recommend something they use for network diagrams?

by stretcharm on 8. November 2011 - 23:40  (82937)

yEd has had a recent update and they've now got a nice Q&A forum. You could try asking your question there.

by stretcharm on 5. August 2011 - 19:46  (76992)

I've been using yEd for just over a week now and it is a truly amazing bit of free software. Definitely the best by a long way for flow diagrams and business processes. The auto layout features are stunning.
I still like freemind for quick brain dumps, and have yet to work out how I can move my information easily into yEd.

Thanks, I've been looking for something like this for a long time.


by rthomson (not verified) on 20. July 2011 - 15:37  (75918)

Program opened with blank windows on my XP AMD NVIDIA system. Ok when I ran it in Win95 compatibility mode.

by awh (not verified) on 20. July 2011 - 12:14  (75901)

I have used Dia quite a bit for flowcharts in my work. It's got some very useful shape libraries too and is very easy to use (even for the engineers I have to deal with that are use to using Visio!)

But Java or not this looks pretty interesting! I'll have to give it a test drive.


by awh (not verified) on 20. July 2011 - 12:29  (75902)

Oops - My mistake. I've tried so many of these I am getting confused! I have use Diagram Designer for my flowcharts, not Dia.

by crombierob on 12. January 2014 - 1:24  (113550)

I agree Diagram Designer is simple and great.


by sulasno on 20. July 2011 - 10:37  (75898)

would be great if the download did not include Java and is portable

by AllanM (not verified) on 21. July 2011 - 22:43  (75993)

You don't have to download the full installer version with included JRE. Just download the zipped Jave file on the download page with the note "Zipped yEd Jar file. For experts only. Requires Sun's JRE 6."

There is nothing experts only about this - it includes a single .jar file and a license.html. That makes it semi portable, in that more and more computers now have Java installed anyway. It does not appear to write any registry entries that I have yet found. Just unzip it, double click and the installed Java will execute it. It does create some temporary files in (Windows 7) C:\Users\\AppData\Roaming\yWorks\yEd which means that while it is somewhat portable, it is not stealth (no traces).

If you really want to be portable and not depend on Java being already installed, go to and get their jPortable bundle which is a portable Java bundle, then write a batch file to run the portable Java and run the yEd jar file.

If you want to be stealth in addition to portable (no temp files), you could probably use JauntePe to portablize it and have JauntPE launch jPortable which in turn executes the jar file, while JauntePE takes care of redirecting directory reads/writes and puts them in the same location as the batch file that launches jPortable and the jar file.

by jaska (not verified) on 23. July 2011 - 21:19  (76121)

Strange.... Double clicking .jar caused my Nokia Ovi Suite window to appear, nothing else...

XP Pro SP3 , using JDK, which also has JRE included.

by Col. Panek (not verified) on 17. July 2011 - 17:55  (75707)

I use Inkscape and Dia, and they're both pretty good but have different strengths. Of course I use LibeOffice's drawing app too. The big glaring improvement any SVG app needs is to be able to import Visio files. I have a ton of them drawn from my bad old Visio days, and I have to fire up a Windows computer, run Visio, and export it to something readable, sort of.

by 26Dolphins on 17. July 2011 - 14:12  (75701)


Just a heads up, it requires Java Runtime Environment to be installed (stated at the very bottom of the "Features" page).

by ma_t on 17. July 2011 - 10:30  (75686)

"yEd by ySoft is a great example for a "free but professional" application."

Actually the company is yWorks. ySoft is some other company altogether. Please correct

by George on 17. July 2011 - 12:28  (75692)

Hi ma_t
thanks for spotting this. My mistake. I apologize. I have corrected it now.
Best regards,

by Gonzo (not verified) on 17. July 2011 - 5:34  (75671)

How does this compare to the free and open source Dia?

by George on 18. July 2011 - 6:59  (75738)

Ok, I checked out Dia real quick. It's only my first impression but I do feel a bit more comfortable with yEd. Dia is great in dealing with the objects on the canvas (connector points, selecting, moving) but definitely misses out on the auto arrange feature of the whole diagram. That was a real help for me in yEd. Also, Dias symbol repository looks a bit old fashioned with the 2D flat fill symbols. yEd is offering optically more attractive symbols, 3D and with gradient fills. Dia is faster though and a joy to work with. I found it a little more intuitive than yEd.

Bottom line, both apps are in the same quality class for me with a slight advantage for yEd. I'd say test them both and decide based on your personal preferences.

by George on 17. July 2011 - 12:31  (75693)

Hi Gonzo,
I don't know Dia. Thanks for the tip. Will try to give it a test drive too.
Best regards,

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