Flow charts and mind maps are useful tools which can help anyone to organise their ideas, but creating them can be a challenge. Choose the wrong package and it’s all too easy to be buried in enterprise-level detail about SysML or entity relationship diagrams.
SimpleDiagrams (Windows, Mac, $29) takes a friendlier approach. It can create flow charts, sketches, mind maps, UI flow diagrams and more, yet has a straightforward interface which anyone can pick up right away.
The program has a familiar design. A sidebar gives easy access to more than 500 shapes and symbols; you drag and drop whatever you need onto the page, then connect them, add text, change properties and more.
Most of the symbols have an appealing, hand-drawn look. Boxes, lines and arrows are slightly irregular, and there are doodle-like stick men, buildings, rain symbols and more.
There are plenty of more practical symbols, fortunately– flowcharts, process, word bubbles, a small but useful set of UI Flow symbols: a login form, chart, form, map, dashboard, shopping cart icon etc. Other libraries are available for download (furniture? yes, really), and you can create custom collections of your own.
You’ll figure out how to work with these in seconds. Drag and drop a couple of symbols; select one or more to view its sizing and rotation handles; double-click to enter text.
Connection lines may be straight, or curved with multiple points. There are various arrow heads and other endings available, and once a line is connected, it automatically adjusts as you drag symbols around.
SimpleDiagrams also supports grouping symbols, enabling them to be aligned or resized together, or layered above or below other parts of the chart.
The finished sketch or diagram can be dressed with photos, sticky notes and index cards. These could be handy for recording details like feedback on an idea, or the person assigned to deal with something.
The completed project may be exported as a PDF or PNG image, and there’s also an experimental “Save as SVG” option.
SimpleDiagrams doesn’t have the shortcuts we’ve sometimes seen elsewhere. Drag and drop a symbol and you’re not able to type its text immediately, for instance– you have to double-click it first. Drag and drop a second symbol and you don’t get any “snap” option or alignment lines appearing, either. You must judge by eye, or use the “Align” tool later.
Despite that, SimpleDiagrams remains easy to use, something you can pick up immediately and produce a good-looking diagram right away. We’re not sure whether it’s worth the $29 price tag, but try it anyway. There’s no signup required and the 7-day trial has no watermark or other restrictions, so you can create as many charts and diagrams as you need.
SimpleDiagrams ($29) is available for Windows 7+ and Mac.