Cheap is good, free can be better

Libre Draw: A Good Alternative to Microsoft Visio for Most People

Many years ago I read that for any product or service, you can have any two of Cheap, Fast and Good. This sits nicely alongside another saying “buy cheap, buy twice”, something I learned the hard way when racing powerful superbikes round my local racetrack, but that’s a story for another day.

Occasionally I forgot, like when I wanted to share my old-but-good USB-only laser printer on my network. You can read about this here. The short version is that the cheap print server failed within a day while the second lasted almost a week. OK, I got my money back, but I was then faced with the prospect of paying over GBP 150 for a print server to share a GBP 45 printer. Not good…..

Happily I then found that cheap can better than expensive if you are prepared to put some time in. The solution: a GBP 30 Raspberry Pi and a several hours of finding and using the various Linux commands necessary to turn the Pi into a pretty decent print server. Even better, it’s still doing that, day in day out, years later.

I remembered this lesson when contemplating the cost of Microsoft Visio against the use I got from it. Visio is a popular diagramming software that is used by many businesses. However, it can be expensive, and not everyone needs all of the features that it offers.

Looking around, I came across Libre Draw as a free and open-source alternative to Visio that offers many of the same features. Given what I was risking – nothing but a bit of spare time – I used it for all my drawing and flowcharting needs for a month.

Was it any good? Here’s a clue: a while back I cancelled my Visio subscription.

It’s easy to use

Moving from Visio, I was concerned about learning a new set of menus and workflows. However, I found the interface straightforward and easy to navigate, and the toolbars are logically laid out according to specific tasks. It also offers a variety of tutorials and help topics that can get you on your way.


Libre Draw and Microsoft Visio both offer a wide range of features, but there are some key differences in the way they go about it.

Libre Draw offers a larger library of shapes and symbols than Microsoft Visio. This makes it easier to find the right shape or symbol for your diagram. Libre Draw also offers a wider range of file formats that it can import and export. This makes it easier to share your diagrams with others.

Microsoft Visio offers more advanced features for creating complex diagrams. For example, Visio has the ability to create 3D diagrams and hyperlinks. Visio also offers a wider range of templates and styles that you can use to create your diagrams.

When deciding between the two, the question is how much use you would make of the features of each. I tried using Libre Draw in place of Visio for a month, and didn’t miss any of Visio’s advanced feature. Your mileage, as they say, may differ.


Libre Draw is free and open-source. This means that you can download and use it without any cost. By contrast, Microsoft Visio is a paid software program. The price of Microsoft Visio varies depending on the version, but the annual subscription for Visio Pro is currently GBP150 while a stand-alone version currently retails around the GBP 630 mark.

That is pretty serious money for those of us paying for it ourselves.


Libre Draw is a great alternative to Microsoft Visio for most people. It is free, easy to use, and offers all the features that most people will ever use. If you are looking for an everyday diagramming tool that is affordable – Free! – and easy to use, then Libre Draw is for you.

Microsoft Visio is for people who need advanced features for creating complex diagrams. However, Microsoft Visio is more complex and expensive than Libre Draw.

If it’s a corporate purchase, as in you are not spending your own money, and want to be seen to at the cutting edge, that Visio is probably right for you.

If you are not sure still not sure, then I do what I did. Try both, parking Visio and using Libre Draw for a couple of weeks. I think you will be pleasantly surprised.

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