Off the Charts

Note:  The following post is excerpted from the 9/15/2009 “ResearchBuzz” witten by Tara Calishain.  The Brown Science and Engineering Library provides no endorsements or guarantees regarding the software discussed below.  While the software appears useful and legitimate, you use it at your own risk.

A Couple of Online Chart Applications

Posted: 15 Sep 2009 04:38 AM PDT

I love flowcharts. I make formal ones and informal ones. I find it helps me think.

The first tool, which I’ve been watching for a while, is called Lovely Charts, and it is.  Available at http://www.lovelycharts.com/, it not only lets you create regular flow charts but also site maps, network diagrams, people charts, BPMN (Business Process Modeling Notation) and more.  The site is nicely designed but the building tool is basic; symbols on the left and then a large area of the screen to play with.  A couple of times I had to look at the help but for the most part it was pretty intuitive.  To get a sense of what Lovely Charts can do, check out the Gallery.  There’s also a blog.

Lovely Charts is free but there is a pro version available; you can see the premium options at http://www.lovelycharts.com/index.php?page=faq.  (Among the premium options: collaboration, export to JPG or PNG, and import your own symbols.)  The premium version is 29 Euros a year, which is a little over $42 USD.  Not bad at all!

The other tool I found out about earlier this week via PRNewswire.  It’s called Creately, and it’s available at http://creately.com/.  It’s similar to Lovely Charts but it appears to be more template-oriented; when you first log in Creately will offer you literally dozens of templates to get started; from flowcharts to SWOT diagrams to Venn diagrams to UML diagrams to electronics templates.  Creately starts with a selection of more generic symbols but you can choose to add more symbols to your toolbox; those you can specify as narrowly as “Miscellaneous Cisco Objects.”

Creately has lots and lots of examples of what it can do, divided into categories with some commentary. There’s also a blog.

Creately has a free version but it has some pretty strict limits. You can create three private diagrams but the rest of them are published publicly.  The pro version, which offers additional perks like unlimited private diagrams, collaboration, and backup, is “name your own price” until September 17th.  I’m a little uncomfortable about that.  They give NO guidelines at all for subscription costs except payment must be at least a dollar.  If you’re better at that kind of thing than I am, check it out.  You could get a year’s worth of charting tool for a bargain… 

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