Cacoo is an easy and inexpensive cloud-based tool for drafting workflow diagrams, network diagrams and UML diagrams.

If you are working on any sort of technical project, you need to provide a diagram or two. Not everyone is capable of reading and understanding what needs to be changed; pictures and diagrams define things in better clarity. The standard tool to use is Microsoft’s Visio product, which I am a big fan, but carries an expensive price tag to own. You could go down the Microsoft PowerPoint route, but that’s kind of like jamming a project plan into Excel. Things break apart to easily when you start to move objects around.

Besides the price tag, another challenge with Visio is sharing your diagram and allowing others to contribute. You can rely on one person to put together a completed diagram, but that can take forever, a luxury you don’t have on time-sensitive projects. Ideally, you would have different teams contribute to the diagram as they have more current information. You can share the Visio file with the teams, but then you’re stuck reassembling. A better approach is taking this to the cloud, sharing the diagrams among the relevant teams for contribution.

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For these reasons, Cacoo makes an excellent choice. They offer a few different pricing options, but the free plan gives you limited sharing with up to 15 people (more than enough), and up to 25 sheets. When you are done with your diagram, you can export it as a .PNG file and drop it into your architecture document. You’re probably not going to need these diagrams forever, so when you reach your 25 maximum, just remove an older one to start with a newer one.

Once you get setup with a new account, getting started is very easy. For your first diagram, find the ‘Stencil’ window and you can select some pre-defined diagram choices. You just drag & drop onto the whiteboard and right-click to edit.

Select your diagram template with 'Stencils'
Select your diagram template with ‘Stencils’
Drag & drop, right-click to edit...
Drag & drop, right-click to edit…

The whiteboard has a menu across the top which allows you to draw connections between objects, add text, images, etc.

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There is also a group of menu icons which allow you to export, save or share the diagram:

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I ‘discovered’ Cacoo while attending college and have been a fan ever since. If you can’t afford Visio and want more powerful diagramming tools, then give Cacoo a shot. Share your next diagram with me, too!

 

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