- If you want to visually represent complex data and processes, one of the best solutions is to draw an ER diagram.
- ER diagrams are visual representations of databases, processes, and workflow with a particular focus on highlighting the relationships between the existing entities.
- Adobe Illustrator is a great tool for creating ER diagrams. Check out the guide below to learn what other tools you can use to draw ER diagrams on your computer.
- For more useful guides, visit our hub dedicated to business software.
No matter what role you cover in an enterprise, if it regards intellectual work, at some point, your boss could ask you to design an ER diagram for the company. If you want to be ready for this task, it’s important to have this article saved somewhere on your laptop.
In this guide, we’ll show what software solutions you can use to create ER diagrams.
What is an ER Diagram?
Before listing the tools, it’s important to offer you some background information.
What is an ER Diagram? According to the definition placed within the LucidChart website, an ER Diagram is a type of flowchart that illustrates how “entities” such as people, objects or concepts relate to each other within a system.
Those specific flowcharts can have several sets of symbols. They are also useful to manage and show databases in many fields from research to software engineering.
Now that we have provided you with a definition, let’s dive right in and describe the different software solutions available on the market.
Adobe Illustrator is an excellent tool for creating ER diagrams although most users utilize it to create icons, logos, illustrators, and other graphic design elements.
Creating an ER diagram is Illustrator is as simple as a walk in the park. All you need to do is draw some squares or other shapes that will serve as blocks of information. You can then use straight lines and arrows to connect these blocks of information and describe the relationship between them. To insert shapes, you can use the built-in Shape tools.
To highlight particular blocks of information, you can also color them. Even if you haven’t used Illustrator before, you’ll be able to sketch your ER diagram within minutes thanks to the intuitive UI.
The best part is that you can take your ER diagrams to the next level once you’ve become familiar with Illustrator. You can use the built-in editing tools to play with colors, textures, insert icons, and much more.
If you want to make free charts online, you can also choose to use the famous Canva software. This free online service (also available as an app for Android and iOS devices), allows to create lots of graphic works in an extremely easy and fast way. To use it, simply register, select one of the ready-to-use templates and modify it according to preference.
Once arrived there, select one of the options in the box First time on Canva? Subscribe! to specify the personal or professional reason to use the service. The site will require you to register via e-mail address, Facebook account or Google account, pressing the appropriate buttons.
When registered, start creating the ER Diagram or organization chart. At this point, you have to select one of the templates listed under the Canva Layout entry. You should also modify the organization chart replacing the example text with the names and positions of the people that make up the team.
If other graphics elements need to be added (eg shapes, logos, illustrations, etc.), text or upload new images, you can pick the options on the left sidebar.
When the work is finished, download the project by pressing the Download button at the top right, select the format in which to save the output file and press again on the Download button to complete the procedure.
If you are looking for programs to create amazing free charts and ER diagrams, you should consider trying LibreOffice. This is one of the best free and open source alternatives to Microsoft Office. This software allows also to create organization charts but not for free.
It includes applications for Word processing, spreadsheet processing, database management and drawing. The application designed for drawing – LibreOfficeDraw – allows you to create diagrams, organization charts and other graphs in an easy way. The entire LibreOffice suite is available for all major operating systems: Windows, MacOS and Linux.
To download LibreOffice on Windows, you should connect to the program’s website, press the green button to download the tool and wait for the installation to complete.
When the download is complete, you can open the software with the .msi file. Then, you can press the Next button, check the Typical item and press the Forward button again. At this point, you can click on Install, Yes and End to complete the setup.
After installing and starting LibreOffice, press on Draw Drawing (on the left sidebar) to start the drawing application included in the suite. Then, you can select a geometric shape from the side bar located on the left (e.g. Rectangle, Ellipse, etc.). In this way you can draw the various elements that make up the ER diagram or organization chart.
If you need to add lines and/or arrows, to connect the various elements of the organization chart, you can press the appropriate items always from the side bar. You can find those items on the left and add these elements to the chart.
To add text, instead, you can select one of the shapes drawn and type the text desired, to insert it. Once the work is completed, click on the Save item in the File menu to save the changes made.
Xmind ZEN is one of the most complete solutions for creating ER diagrams, organization charts, concept maps and other types of graphs. It is characterized by a very attractive and, at the same time, user-friendly user interface.
It also includes a wide range of pre-set templates from which you can start to create your own graphics. So, it is very intuitive even for less experienced users.
The program is available in various versions: the free version has no major limitations and allows the user to share projects online. However, it is important to highlight that the software provider applies a watermark to the user work. You can remove this watermark by subscribing to the Premium version. The software is available for Windows, MacOS and Linux and in the form of apps for Android and iOS.
To create free organization charts with Xmind, you must first download the program on a computer. Therefore, you should connect to the online software page and press the Free Download button. Now the opening procedure can start.
When the download is complete, open the installation file of the program and follow the simple wizard to complete its download. On Windows, open the .exe file appearing, press the Yes button and then wait for the installation to complete.
After having installed and started the program, press the Continue button within its welcome window and select one of the proposed models (e.g. Classic, Pure, etc.). Then, press the buttons located at the top, in the toolbar, to add new elements to the organization chart. The elements can be a Newtopic, to insert a new node, a Subtopic, to insert a secondary node or a Relationship, to insert a relationship between the nodes and so on.
To change the content of the nodes, however, just double-click on them and replace the sample text with the names of the people the user wants to insert in the organization chart. When the work is finished, press the Share button located at the top right. In this way, you can choose the format and the location in which exporting the output file.
It is important to remind that the trial version of the program applies a watermark to the works. This watermark is removable only by subscribing to the Premium version.
As its name suggests, Diagram Designer is a program that allows to create ER diagrams, organization charts and other graphs. It does that through a “spartan” user interface but rather simple to use. It includes a wide range of pre-set templates for shapes and arrows, allowing users to create various types of diagrams and graphs very quickly. The program is free and perfectly compatible with Windows.
To download Diagram Designer, go the software homepage. Then, press the link Download installer and, in the page that opens, click on the Diagram Designer Windows Installer link. The latter is located under the heading “Download”.
When the download is complete, open the .msi file that appears, press the Next button twice in a row. To end the procedure, press the Install button and, then, Yes and Finish.
At this point, you have only to shape the ER diagram, “fishing” the various elements you want to compose from the menu on the right. Keep the left mouse button pressed on one of the objects in question (shapes, connectors, etc.), drag it to the work area and change its position and size using the appropriate indicators.
To edit the text in one of the organization chart nodes, double-click on it, type the desired text in the Insert text field in the object and press the OK button to apply the changes made.
When the work is finished, open the File menu and select the Save As entry from the menu that opens. This will allow you save the document in the format and position you prefer. Wasn’t that simple?
- Editor’s Note: If you’re interested in other diagram software, check out our wide collection of guides.
If until now the software described have been all downloadable, now is the time to show several alternative online software. Lucidchart is a simple and well-designed online platform for ER Diagrams.
On the web platform, you can learn what is an ER Diagram, how is created, its history and logic. Besides, it is possible to create a well-done diagram, just subscribing at no cost. There is also a premium version which can guarantee a more complete performance.
Another excellent online option is Smartdraw. This software features four appreciated characteristics.
- True Automation: You can automatically create an ER diagram, just putting the data available, without using time drawing.
- Intelligent Formatting: You can add or remove more than one shape, and the program will be able to realign and arrange all the ERD elements.
- Quick-Start Templates: The platform provides professionally-designed ERD examples and other software design diagrams.
- Free Support: Many users have reported an effective customer service online, carried out via live chat or email.
Other online platforms
Not satisfied with the software solutions listed above? You did try them, but you want to test other software? You can try as well ERD Plus, ER Diagram Tool, Draw.io and Creately.
This article gave you a glance on the hottest software able to create the best ER diagrams. Let us know which software suits your needs best.
FAQ: Learn more about ER diagrams
- What is meant by ER diagram?
An ER diagram is a visual represenation of an entity set and the relationship between these entities.
- What are the major components of the ER model?
Any ER diagram or ER model has two major components: the entity set and the connection between the entities. Secondary components may refer to the attributes of the entities.
- How do you draw an ER diagram?
To create an ER diagram, list all the entities of the system you want to describe. Then, identify the relationship between the entities and connect them. The third step is an optional one and consists of adding attributes to the entities.
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in January 2019 and has been since updated for freshness, and accuracy.