DRAW.IO – Finally a Suitable Visio Replacement

Since completely moving to Mac platforms about 10 years ago, I have been searching for a suitable replacement for Microsoft Visio, the Microsoft acquisition that has been the tech industry standard for network and systems drawings.

First let me preface this with the knowledge that I did not use Visio to its fullest extent with external data sources, network discovery, etc. My use case in my personal and professional life has always been to create network and systems drawings for static representations of existing networks or other types of proposals. I have also used this kind if software to create flow charts, represent relational data bases, map out OOP designs, etc. 

Listen, I love Visio, and if a native Mac version were available, I would buy and use it in a heartbeat. But Microsoft has refused to port this application over to the Mac platform and as a result, professionals everywhere are faced with a few choices.

  1. Run a copy of Windows in a VM exclusively for Visio and other Windows proprietary software usage
  2. Dual boot your Mac between Windows and MacOS
  3. Try and make Visio work with a cross platform emulation like Wine or Crossover
  4. Use Remote Desktop to a access a machine running Windows and Visio
  5. Use a Mac native application like OmniGraffle Pro 
  6. Use a web based application like LucidChart or Draw.io

I have tried all of these solutions over the last 10 years and have settles on #6, a web based application as my Visio replacement. It hasn’t been perfect.

I was fortunate enough to get an account on LucidChart using my employer’s account, as this was needed as part of my day-to-day job. Lucid chart was almost perfect for me. The strong points were certainly in the area of collaboration. It was incredibly easy to share both documents and stencils with my teammates and coworkers. The weak points, at least in my experience, were latency and lag when moving or interacting with objects in the GUI and the line connections./snapping were maddening.

My Home Network in Draw.io

Network in Draw.io

I recently has a coworker turn me on to Draw.io and what a breath of fresh air! The interface is extremely snappy, I can create documents in 1/2 the time I was creating them in LucidChart and the line connections and snapping were much more intuitive and easier to work with. Couple that with the tight integration with Google Drive, and I was hooked. Oh, and it’s free, both as in beer and as in speech. It’s code is freely available on Github (open source) and completely free to use, as far as I can tell. 

Draw.IO is now my go-to network and relationship diagramming tool. Above, is a simple drawing of my home network and home lab setup. Note that I erased the IP addresses of each device and redacted the SSID and vlan table, as the security nerd in me just couldn’t abide with publishing such internal details. Just because I’m paranoid, doesn’t mean they AREN’T out to get me! 

Cheers to you Draw.io team!

2 thoughts on “DRAW.IO – Finally a Suitable Visio Replacement

  • August 3, 2018 at 10:26 am

    There’s actually a text anonymization plugin if you want to post stuff publicly. Add p=anon to the URL parameters, so the URL looks like https://www.draw.io/?p=anon#GXXXXX, i.e. add “?=anon” before #G.

    Once you load that, under the extras menu appears “anonymize current page”. That should scramble all the text.

    • August 3, 2018 at 10:56 am

      Very nice feature! Thank you for the tip!


Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: