- The best manner to describe complex processes and workflows is through a simple block diagram.
- But choosing the right block diagram software for your needs is not easy given the plethora of options available on the market.
- Adobe Illustrator is one of the best tools to create block diagrams -- as are all the other tools covered in this guide.
- For more useful guides, visit our graphic & design hub. If you need a diagram software for work-related tasks, you might want to check out our business software hub as well.
Block diagrams can help present a complex concept in an easy to grasp manner. Another reason block diagrams are so much in use is that they help track the flow of processes easily. Also, a lot of information can be presented in a concise manner using block diagrams.
It’s not for nothing that block diagrams is the favored means for information presentations by a wide section of the society ranging from students, teachers, researchers, to industry representatives, business community and so on.
Things in fact have become even more easy with the advent of block diagram software as those ensure even lengthy flowcharts are created in a jiffy. You don’t have to have that artistic touch as well to create those perfect shapes as those are already pre-drawn.
You only have to insert it to your project on hand, besides of course filling those up with your own ideas.
Adobe Illustrator (recommended)
Adobe Illustrator is a great tool for creating diagrams, including block diagrams. Most users rely on Illustrator to create logos, vector images, icons, book illustrations, and so on.
Back to our block diagrams now. Not only can you use Illustrator to create diagrams, but you can also edit and customize them afterward.
How to create diagrams in Adobe Illustrator
- Open a new document and draw a square to insert the first block
- Copy the first block to insert a new one. Repeat the action whenever necessary to insert new blocks.
- Now, start drawing lines to connect the blocks
- Click on the Stroke button and select the type of arrowheads you want to use
- In the left-hand pane, click on the Text button to add text on the blocks.
Interested in trying out Illustrator?
Visio is one of the easiest block diagram software to use but is also one that perhaps has the most comprehensive of features. It comes with a tutorial as well, should you still need while an excellent help and support program too can be relied on just in case you face any issues.
Also, the reason Visio is being called one of the easiest block diagram software to use is that it allows you to enter text right into the shapes itself. That is not all, editing is easy too as you can always replace the shapes without needing to delete those first. There is spell-check feature available as well while the symbols resizes on its own to match the surrounding texts. Adding additional connector points is also a breeze.
Visio offers a subscription model of ownership where the simpler version will cost a monthly $5 per user for a year. The more advanced version for professionals costs $15 per month for a year per user.
You might be stumped by the sheer number of templates and objects that the app has on offer. That said, getting started with creating block diagrams using a template of your choice is an absolute cakewalk.
Integration options with the app are equally appreciable so that anything created on Smartdraw can be easily integrated with MS Office programs such as PowerPoint. This makes for an instant head start when say you are making a business presentations and you need to draw upon something created using Smartdraw. Unfortunately, the app does not support the Visio format.
However, all of the goodies come for a price, which stands at $297 for the standard Windows version of the app. Then there is the Business version as well which is priced $397 while the full-fledged Enterprise version starts at $2,995.
The template selection on Creately isn’t as expansive as many in this list but still has excellent features for the templates it does have. That makes it an outstanding platform for creating professional block diagrams with ease.
Creately also allows users to collaborate in real-time when creating a block diagram. Besides, there are both web and desktop versions of the app as well. That is not all as a list price of just $49 makes Creately quite cheap as well compared to its peers. However, the one not so likeable aspect of Creately is that each time you need to change or cancel an account; you will need to get in touch with the company.
- Editor’s Note: If you’re interested in other diagram and chart software, check out our wide collection of guides.
There might not be as diverse a set of template as many among its peers though LucidChart still has enough to help you get started on most projects. Its user interface is also simple and inviting so that you get to start off right away. It can also collaborate with many other apps and services. This together with its plethora of collaborative tools makes it really easy for teams to contribute in creating the block diagrams. That is not all as team members can also make necessary changes in real time.
LucidChart also isn’t one to burn a hole in your pockets, priced as it is at around the $107 mark.
Gliffy is another block diagramming app that you can rely on. It also is entirely cloud based and is compatible with Google Drive, Confluence and JIRA. That makes it really easy for users to collaborate in real time when executing complex projects that involves several teams.
The app also comes in both free and paid versions with the former having less templates and other features to offer compared to the paid version. The browser version is completely free and is best suited for students or others who need relatively simple block diagrams to make. The interface is also extremely easy as you just need to drag and drop the various individual shapes.
For the paid versions, Gliffy will cost a monthly $7.99 on an annual basis for the Personal version while the Team version costs slightly less at $4.99 per month billed yearly.
yED Graph Editor
yED Graph Editor might need some getting used to get started but that perhaps is a small price to pay to get along with the state-of-the-art software. It otherwise is an inviting interface that you are greeted with and once you have got the hang of it, creating block diagrams on the yED Graph Editor will be a breeze.
Another plus with the yED Graph Editor is that it offers a tabbed interface so that you can have multiple files open at the same time. The interface is modular too so that the properties not needed can be closed to liberate more viewing area. You can also save the actual diagrams in several formats which even includes HTML and PDF. Also of course there is no dearth of shapes and connecting lines to create the perfect block diagram while collaborating with other people or computers in a network is also extremely convenient.
LibreOffice Draw is one of the very best free block diagramming apps out there. That it shares a lot of similarity with the MS Office interface happens to be its other big advantage as you have an all too familiar setting to start off with.
Another extremely likeable feature of the LibreOffice Draw is the way it supports groupings to be made. So while different objects can be grouped together easily, you can also move the group around with ease or collaborate with other groups as well. Draw is also compatible with several formats including SWF Flash files with XML being the default format.
Dia is another open source block diagramming app that too seems to have been inspired by Microsoft Visio. A feature set largely similar to the MS Visio explains that. It also supports almost all the file formats you can think of, which include the .vdx format for Visio. The interface is quite easy to use with the left hosting the several controls and shapes while the rest of the display making up the main drawing area.
This happens to be one of the simplest block diagram software out there, one that can be best for simple or less intensive projects. You don’t need to install any specific software for the same as well as Draw.io is browser based. And it’s free too.
The interface is super easy to use as the available shapes and other options shown along the left while the rest of the display being where the block diagram is actually put together. The side panel contains additional formatting and other options. You just need to drag and drop the shapes, enter the relevant text and your block diagram can be ready within just minutes. The diagram can again be saved in OneDrive, Google Drive or on your own drive.
Pencil Project is free open source software that can be easily used to create block diagrams. Active support from the development community also ensures the software is well maintained with new features and other enhancements made available regularly. Getting started with Pencil Project is a breeze too so that you get along with block diagramming in no time, even for a newbie.
Another huge plus with Pencil Project is that it can be used as a Firefox extension as well. That makes Firefox users to get into creating block diagrams even while browsing online. It is compatible with OpenClipart.org, which means you have easy access to any diagrams that you might need for creating really interesting block diagrams. Besides, it also supports almost all of the most popular file formats as well.
So there you have, a comprehensive list of the most popular block diagramming tools out there. Some are paid while some are free and each has its own pros and cons. Go through each to find out which best suits your requirements.
Also, here are some additional resources that you might like to browse.
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FAQ: Learn more about block diagrams
- What are the basic components of a block diagram?
A block diagram is made of a series of blocks that depict key elements in the described system and arrows or connectors that highlight the connections between various blocks.
- What is the difference between a flowchart and a block diagram?
A block diagram is a visual representation made of a series of boxes or blocks and connectors. A flowchart is a block diagram type that describes a process or a workflow or how information flows within a process.
- What are the advantages of a block diagram?
There are two main advantages to block diagrams: they can describe complex processes and workflows in a simple manner and are easy to generate and understand.
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in May 2018 and has been since updated for freshness, and accuracy.