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Is there a free/open source alternative to software like OmniGraffle for designing flowcharts for papers?

Mac OS X or Linux is the preferred OS.

Specifically, I want to include a diagram of a folder layout for a technical report. Is there any good (free) software to do this?

migrated from academia.stackexchange.com Aug 3 '14 at 12:34

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    Frankly from my personal experience no open source tool beat Microsoft Visio, by far, except if you want to code (e.g. TikZ). – Franck Dernoncourt Aug 3 '14 at 23:24
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I've used several free software/open source tools for drawing diagrams and flowcharts in my own papers and presentations. The ones I might recommend to other academics would be:

  • Draw in LibreOffice or OpenOffice — This tool is basic but it's well integrated into the existing office suite and it's more than serviceable. It is a general purpose drawing, drawing, and charting tool and it's really quite excellent.

  • Dia Diagram Editor — This seems most similar to Microsoft Visio. It is specifically designed for flow charts and allows you to lock arrows and such and drag things around.

  • Inkscape — A general purpose vector drawing program. It's not specifically for drawing flowcharts or path diagrams but it does this extremely well and has a bunch of features that make it fantastic for this.

  • TikZ and PGF — A tool that is integrated with LaTeX and Beamer. If you are very comfortable with TeX already and want to "program" your diagrams or flowcharts, TikZ will certainly let you do it. I've used it in presentations but if it's too complicated I usually fall back to doing it in one of the tools above.

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    +1 for TikZ, especially if you want to make lots of figures and if journals in your field use LaTeX a lot. TikZ has a bit longer learning curve but it pays off! – tohecz Aug 2 '14 at 10:04
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    Graphviz doesn't provide much manual layout compared to the list above, but can be automated. graphviz.org – mankoff Aug 2 '14 at 19:10
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The one I like most is the yEd Graph Editor.

It is very easy to use, filled with options, runs on Windows, Unix/Linux, Mac OS X, and FREE. It supports many graph formats, like: - GraphML - GML/XGML - TGF - SVG The SVG export option is awesome for publishing the resulting graph, but it can also export in PNG, JPG, PDF, SWF. It can automatically import Excel XLS files or XML files and generate the graph. Also it can import palettes of graph symbols from graphML palette file (.graphML) or Microsoft Visio Stencils (.vdx, .svx), and you can also create your own or search and download other glyphs using the integrated IconFinder option. The auto grouping and auto layout features are the most complete and easy to use I've found.

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