Looking for Good, Inexpensive Flowchart-Creation Software:

I'd like to design a flowchart for the second edition of my First Amendment textbook, to explain how a particular set of First Amendment rules (the one governing the government's actions as subsidizer or speaker) operate.

Can anyone recommend good, inexpensive flowchart creation software that has a free trial period? Please post the recommendations in the comments. Many thanks!

DougB (mail):
We use Visio to create flowcharts for patent applications at my law firm. While it is definately much more than you need, I think that it is easy to use. You can download a trial version of Visio from Microsoft at
4.14.2005 3:26pm
Josh Furman:
If you have a Mac there is the free software
OmniGraffle. I've never used it, but it may be worth a shot.
4.14.2005 3:26pm
Tom Westberg:
Dia is inexpensive. Free, in fact.
4.14.2005 3:26pm
GMUSL 1L (mail):
FreeMind is also worth a try, though I found the interface sufficiently annoying that I went with Visio again.

Also, with visio, you can get the trial version for free, and since you're a professor, you can get an academic license online (check froogle) for QUITE cheap.
4.14.2005 3:36pm
Andrew Kvochick:
Omni Graffle is the best outlining software on the market. You need a Mac, but you should have one anyway.
4.14.2005 3:39pm
Eric Dahlman (mail):
I can second the suggestion for omnigraffle it is a wonderful tool. Another tool that makes beautiful graphs and is free is graphviz. The second one is a bit technical to use and that may be a problem.
4.14.2005 3:45pm
Steve Sullivan (mail):'s Draw program has a full set of Flowchart primitives. Version 2 is in Beta and on my machine, anyway, is stable.
4.14.2005 3:48pm
roy (mail) (www):
I've used's free Draw for software design flowcharts. Visio's better if you want to spend the money or only use the evaluation time.
4.14.2005 3:49pm
GMUSL 1L (mail):
Visio Academic licenses on Froogle.

Like I said, quite cheap. At those sorts of prices, at least for me, cost isn't really an issue if I were making something that I wanted to look "professional caliber" for inclusion in a textbook.
4.14.2005 3:54pm
DiscerningTexan (mail) (www):
Go with Visio. Best in show...
4.14.2005 4:03pm
Ken Rabe:
It's hard to go wrong with visio.

I have used dia and open office in the past, but neither was as intuitive to use nor as easy to use as visio.
4.14.2005 4:15pm
Anthony Rickey (mail) (www):
Smartdraw, at least back in Version 6.0, was about all you needed to make flow charts. It's like a stripped-down Visio in many ways.
4.14.2005 4:46pm
Visio is considered the best of breed for flowcharting software.
Openoffice will work, but you'll have to adapt to it's sometimes unusual interface.
4.14.2005 4:57pm
Moshe Krakowski (mail):
omnigraffle is really great to work with.
4.14.2005 6:55pm
SFAlphageek (mail) (www):
I'd agree strongly with the Visio recommendations - or, if you don't want to spend the money, and if you're using MS-Word to write the book, you can use its built-in flowcharting tool. Use Autoshapes (on the drawing toolbar) and select Flowchart.

But, unless this is a one time deal, you definitely want to go with Visio for your charting needs. Good stuff.
4.14.2005 6:59pm
Josh Orum (mail) (www):
OmniGraffle is the best, but it does require a Mac. Visio does the job on PCs, if it has a trial, or if the academic discount is good.

Frankly, you may want to consider hiring an experienced illustrator to help out, particularly if you're doing this for publication. Not only will an illustrator already have the tools and know how to use them, but the result may be better and the process of communicating an idea to a relatively unversed outsider can uncover ways to communicate it more effectively.
4.14.2005 7:36pm
Butch Howard (mail):
I also like GraphViz. It is a bit technical, but the graphing script is fairly straightforward and lets you produce graphs pretty easily.
4.14.2005 11:20pm
Cornellian (mail):
Omnigraffle if you have a Mac. If you don't, you should.
4.14.2005 11:33pm
I also can highly recommend OmniGraffle. Much better than anything on Windows.
4.15.2005 1:16am
As others have said - Visio (Windows) and Omnigraffle (Mac) are the standard applications in this area. There are others, some probably cheaper, but you'll pull your hair out.
4.15.2005 10:41am
Mike Thyne (mail):
Check out some old posts on He converted to linux years ago and writes books using open source.
4.15.2005 12:35pm
Hi Eugene,
Lynn LoPucki is very good with creating flowcharts and is very into graphic information presentation. I have his bankruptcy flowchart and it's beautiful. I wouldn't mind betting he has or could point you to a resource such as you are seeking. I'm sure you already know him but if not I'm happy to ask him for you what he uses to create his. Let me know. --Leslie
4.15.2005 2:01pm
Honestly, I like text boxes with linked arrows (they are attached to the boxes for easy movement) in PowerPoint. Although it does not automate any tasks, you do not spend half your time trying to undo some automated feature you do not want. You get exactly what you want.

And it's cheap because you probably already have it and everyone else does too, so it is easy to share.
4.17.2005 9:49am