Monday, November 05, 2012

Mostly Free Diagramming Tools Online

I've been exploring several drawing tools, particularly those for making graphs and diagrams. I'm trying to stick to free and online in this discussion, though a few for-pay tools have some nice advantages, mainly storage space and collaboration.

Among other advantages, drawing tools can help students mind-map and brainstorm; collect and display numerical data in charts and graphs; demonstrate reflective learning in storyboards or networked images; and so on. Graphing skills become increasingly important as an academic tool as students progress through school, but charts and graphs can be a fun motivation even for younger students.

Gliffy is one of my old favorites, but it limits you to just 5 drawings, unless you go for the somewhat pricey paid account (5 users for up to 200 drawings, for about $10, as of this writing). It does very nice Venn diagrams from templates, has loads of pre-formed objects, such as arrows and rectangles, and supports HTML5.

Cacoo is entirely free and looks like a very friendly interface, and one appropriate for middle school kids. You can create:
wire frames, mind maps, network charts, and site maps . . . simply pick and "drag and drop" elements from a large library of stencils.
Cacoo is one of the free programs with a free-hand drawing option, too.

Creately is another free program with great features, and like Gliffy, allows up to 5 drawings with limited collaborative possibilities.  It gives you only diagrams, but offers nice Venn templates, and a large selection of templates for K-12, including:

...Storyboards, Fishbone Diagrams, T Charts, Y Charts, Venn Diagrams, and much more..

Google Drawings has only a very basic toolkit, so don't expect a great deal, but it is quick and easy and the interface will be familiar from Google docs.

If you want a very professional look, but have only a limited project, try Microsoft's Visio or SmartDraw. Both of these have a free trial period and many features.