We tend to focus on the gaming side of things here at AppTrawler, but some team members recently tried out an HTML5-based web app, Lucidchart, that impressed us with its flexibility and ease of use.
Lucidchart’s creators bill it as a one-stop solution for creating any diagram type–it’s essentially the online answer to Microsoft Visio. Lucidchart will help you create wireframes, mockups, flowcharts, mind maps, and technical diagrams like UML & ER diagrams.
Since this app is built on open web standards, it runs incredibly well in modern browsers, especially Chrome. You’ll have worse luck if you try running it on an outdated browser. There’s nothing to install, and each account type has a free trial option, which is good for our risk-averse readers.
How it works
Lucidchart starts you off with an open grid-based canvas that’s easy to figure out. Your shapes are on the left side, design options are on the right, and a ribbon at the top of your screen allows you to customize fonts, line fill, arrow type, etc.
The app has a whole range of shape libraries, which you can pull up by clicking the ‘More Shapes’ button in the bottom left corner. The interface is drag-and-drop, with almost unlimited opportunities for customization. For example, you can tweak fill color, arrow types, color gradient, line thickness–even the curviness of the line can be customized. I found it quite easy to snap shapes and lines into place, although you do have to spend a few minutes familiarizing yourself with the right-hand dock, where most of the design options are.
Probably the best feature of Lucidchart is its real-time collaboration. Since it’s cloud-based, multiple collaborators can hop on a document and work together in real-time, whether they’re on different continents or sitting at the same table. Edits are synced instantly, which is a huge time-saver, and you no longer have to deal with multiple versions of the same document housed who-knows-where. I can’t emphasize enough how this simplifies team projects, especially when it comes to bouncing ideas off of each other–an activity that usually requires another third-party service like Skype or Google Hangouts. Another bonus of online diagramming is its accessibility–Lucidchart works on any browser, from any location, with any device. Very convenient.
Sharing your docs
Obviously, you can maintain your diagrams in your docs list within Lucidchart. But you can also share them to a variety of places, including popular image files (PNG, JPEG, PDF), a permanent online PDF link, blogs and wiki embeds, and so on.
Final verdict? The experience of a online app is a little different from its desktop brethren, but we really enjoyed it. Drawing was smooth and easy, and the collaboration features are top-notch.
If you’re still iffy about Lucidchart, try it yourself; they offer a free demo of the editor experience. And let us know what you think!