Lovely Charts: A Free Visio Alternative That Runs in Your Browser

Last Updated Oct 18, 2010 1:22 PM EDT

This is the first in an occasional series on Web apps that can take the place of pricey (or even free) desktop software.
Need to create a diagram, flow chart, or the like? Microsoft's Visio has long been the go-to business tool for such chores, but there are free and easy alternatives.

For example, the aptly named Lovely Charts lets you design diagrams in your browser -- no software required. It's free, and it's awesome.

To get started, just sign up for an account (which requires nothing more than an e-mail address). From there you'll gain instant access to LC's genuinely lovely interface, which makes it a snap to whip together a flow chart, diagram, organizational chart, or just about anything else involving icons, pictures, and lines connecting them.

Your free LC account allows you save just one diagram (though you can export as many as you want to JPEG or PNG format). Upgrading to Premium (about $46 annually) lets you save unlimited diagrams, export to PDF, import artwork, share and collaborate on your drawings, and more.

This is a really cool tool, one that should be able to satisfy most (if not all) of your diagramming needs. I particularly love the fact that there's nothing to install. Have you found a browser-based diagramming tool you like better? If so, shout it out in the comments!

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    Rick Broida, a technology writer for more than 20 years, is the author of more than a dozen books. In addition to writing CNET's The Cheapskate blog, he contributes to CNET's iPhone Atlas.