yEd Graph Editor – a free alternative to Microsoft Visio

Key Features of the yEd graph editorMicrosoft Visio is a great application for making flowcharts and process maps. Chances are that every project manager has used Visio at least once. But Visio does not come for free. It is a paid program and you need a license to use it.

Recently I came across another graphing tool which blows Visio away. It is a free software called yED and it is available for free download on it’s official website. It’s a desktop application available for Windows, Mac OS and Linux. The download contains the executable, as well as some example files to get you started.

You can create graphs and diagrams manually or import external data for analysis. It supports GraphML, Excel XLS, GEDCOM, GML and XML imports.

yEd has a large variety of diagram elementsIt has a large library of ready to use diagram elements. This collection is much more extensive than the one available in Visio. These include:

  • a wide variety of shape nodes and edge types
  • group nodes that expand, collapse, and nest to tame large data sets
  • UML elements for class and object diagrams
  • swimlanes and table nodes to which other elements can be added or nested
  • BPMN symbols for business process diagrams
  • Entity Relationship symbols and crow’s foot connections
  • flowchart symbols
  • people and computer network symbols

One of the most useful features is perhaps the automatic layout feature. yEd lets you automatically arrange complex data sets and diagrams into easy to understand layouts. If you have a large and complicated process map, yEd can help you automatically arrange elements of the process map to lay out the entire diagram in the most intuitive layout.

So the next time you need to create a process map or a UML diagram, give yEd a try, and you may never use Visio again. Please leave your comments and let us know what you think.

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