Flowcharts are probably the most drawn diagram type in the world. Technically a flowchart can include many elements, but a basic flowchart will only have processes, decision and arrows . This simplicity makes them easy to understand and probably the reaons why they are so popular. But very few are using dedicated software to create flowcharts, with many resorting to MS Word or MS PowerPoint, where you have to drag and drop objects one by one and connect everything manually. But don't worry there are much more easier to use tools at a much more affordable rate.
Cloud software is the buzzword these days and Creately is a web-based diagramming software to draw flowcharts and much more. Since it's web-based you can get access to your diagrams from anywhere in the world as long as you can connect to the Internet. Perfect for anyone who travels a lot or work at both home and office.
When it comes to drawing flowcharts Creately offers some unique features not found even in enterprise level drawing tools like Visio. The standout feature is the create and connect functionality. This means you don't have to drag and drop objects separately and connect them manually. In one single click the next object is created and automatically connected. An awesome time saver when creating flowcharts.
Additionally they have some flowchart templates if you want to draw a flowchart quickly. Some common flows are already listed down as templates. And compared to traditional desktop software, it has a much smaller learning curve.
The pricing is also very reasonable. The offer free public accounts with a limit of 5 diagrams. If you're looking for a one off flowchart then it's perfect for you. If you're more hardcore user the personal plans start at $5 per month. Team plans are available for discount rates.
Until the rise of SaaS software Visio was probably the only software to create flowcharts in an efficient way. Although flowcharts are commonly used with little regard for proper symbols , professionals like software engineers and business analysts have to follow certain standards. In the beginning standard flowchart symbols were only found only in MS Visio.
The biggest advantage with MS Visio is its integration with other Microsoft services. You can use MS Sharepoint to enable real-time collaboration, Connect database files to diagrams, generate code in Visual studio and a lot more. If you're developing on Windows platform and use all these services then this integration is priceless.
One downside of Microsoft Visio is that it costs around $300 for a personal license. Professional and enterprise level license are as high as $1000. However with the Office365 program you can get access at a lower cost in the future.
Not the biggest fan of Dia, but it's open source and perfect for techies who love customizing. Like most open source software it's designed with techies, thus have a very poor user interface. The learning curve is also high compared to Creately and Visio.
The biggest advantage of Dia is it's customizability. You can create your own styling schemes, object libraries specific to your project and much more cool adjustments. Needless to say you need to have an understanding of software engineering to do these things, which makes it perfect for techies.
More Software to Create Flowcharts
Mentioned above are some software I have personally used to create flowcharts. But there are plenty more similar software that allows you to create flowcharts in an efficient manner.
If you're looking for SaaS similar to Creately then Gliffy, Lucidchart, Cacoo are good alternatives. For desktop software similar to Visio, SmartDraw and EDraw come to mind. Personally I haven't come across any other open source diagramming software.
The options are there, so don't get stuck using text editors to create flowcharts.