Some drawing and flowchart tools like Omnigraffle and Visio

Today I had to come up with a quick high-level network design diagram to be sent to one of our clients. As part of a small company, obviously I did not had the option of using Microsoft’s Visio or Mac’s OmniGraffle. So I had quickly jump into the bandwagon of searching google to find some similar tools that would get my job done.

As I am using Ubuntu as my operating system, first tool that I came across was, Dia Drawing editor. Even though its is indeed a good tool for sure, as I went through the screen shots, I couldn’t find much of networking diagrams. Moreover I wanted some extra graphics around my design so I had to move on.

The next immediate tool which I came across was, KDE desktop’s Kivio another easy to use flow charting and drawing tool. The tool seemed pretty ok with decent set of networking images but I didn’t go for it as I generally end up using only Gnome desktop most of the times.

The other option which came to my mind was, OpenOffice’s Draw. It had some network diagrams, but again I felt they were not quite impressive.

Overall, the above mentioned options were mostly, installable tools. ie., we have to install the software on our system to work on them. So I decided to take a small detour from the installable version to the on-line versions.

The first on-line version tool which captured my mind was gliffy. The first impression it gave me as I went to the diagram editor extremely great. It is amazingly built with lots of options and cool networking related icons that can used for designing. More than that it was pretty much easy to use. But there was one thing I did not like about the tool is, it claimed, I do not have to sign-up for trying out but as I drew some diagrams and tried saving it, it pestered me with the annoying pop-up asking me to sign up in order to proceed further. Also gliffy is a commercial product and even if I could sign up, I can only use the trail version which is for 30 days and god only knows what other restrictions I would unveil as you use the trail version. So I decided to give up on it.

Finally, I managed to land in a place, where I felt at home. It was Autodesk’s Project // Draw. As I clicked the link, it took me directly to the drawing editor. I was impressed by the bang on target link where I could immediately start drawing my design. The tool was pretty simple and took me no time in getting acquainted to the environment. Every single option seemed quite intuitive, so I did not have to look for any help documentation in order to figure out an option. Above all, it had a pretty decent set of networking icons that I can use for my design diagram. Only thing I figured out was, when I tried saving the diagram, it asked me to sign up. But my need was to just get the diagram exported as some image and send it across to my client. So the export option did not need me to do anything other than just choose what kind of format I needed (yes, you can export your diagram as, JPEG, PNG, SVG, PDF etc.,) and get it downloaded in no time. It was simple, easy to use and quick in exporting the diagram in the format I wanted. I realized, even though it was not as good as gliffy, but it had got everything that I just wanted. In my personal opinion, just give it a try if you in need of a quick design/flowchart diagram. Its worth it.

It took me sometime and effort to look into all these options and finally figure out a right tool for me. Hooking yourself with the right tool itself is like half job done. Hope you guys agree with me. And I wish this blog post could help someone out there looking for a similar faster and simple solution.

Please feel free to share me with any other tool you guys would have come across and that I missed it here in the list. I would love to hear from you guys too.

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