The next few weeks (months even) will be challenging my free time as I'm working on (too many) projects simultaneously (sadly, only a few of those are free software related, most are house renovations). But that shouldn't stop me from starting a new set of posts, being my application base. In this series, I'll cover a few applications (or websites) that I either use often or that I should use more. In either case, the application does its job very well so why not give some input on it?

The first on the agenda is the Draw.io website.

With Draw.io, you get a web-browser based drawing application for diagrams, flowcharts, UML, BPMN etc. I came across this application while looking for an alternative to Dia, which by itself was supposed to be an alternative to Microsoft Visio (err, no). Don't get me wrong, Dia is nice, but it lacks evolution and just doesn't feel easy. Draw.io on the other hand is evolving constantly, and it is also active on Google Plus where you can follow up on all recent developments and thoughts (I hope I get the G+ link correctly, it's not that I don't like numbers, just not in URLs).

I started using Draw.io while documenting free software IT architectures (such as implementations of BIND, PostgreSQL, etc.) for which I needed some diagrams. Although Draw.io is an online application (and its underlying engine is not completely free software) you can easily work with it from different locations. It integrates with Google Drive to store the diagrams on if you want - and if you don't, you can always save the diagrams in their native XML format on your system and open them later again.

The interface is very easy to use, and I recently found out that it now also supports mobile devices, which is perfect for tablets (the mobile device support is recent afaik and still undergoing updates). The site also works well in various browsers (tried IExplorer 10 at work, Firefox and Google Chrome and they all seem to work nicely) - eat that stupid commercial vendors that force me into using IExplorer 8 or Firefox 10 - you know who you are!

A site/service to keep a close eye on. The service itself is free (and doesn't seem too limited due to it), but Draw.io also has commercial support if you want through Google Apps and Confluence integration. I don't have much experience with those yet but that might change in the near future (projects, projects).


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