Today we’re featuring another fantastic guest post from Emily Thompson, Learning Technologies Librarian at SUNY Oswego.
Have you ever tried to make a flowchart in Word or PowerPoint? I can feel you cringing from here. It’s kind of an awful experience. Things are hard to line up and they always end up “good enough” after hours of fiddling. It’s a frustrating process that often made me think, “Come on. There has to be something easier than this!”
Lucidchart is that something. It’s a web-based application that makes charts: mostly flow charts, but also beautiful Venn diagrams, mind mapping, and wire-framing. The beauty of the program is that thing that will take a long time in your standard word processor take minutes. This chart (made for a poster on using librarians for SUNY Oswego’s Annual Symposium on Learning and Teaching last fall) took approximately ten minutes. It looks professional and clean, and it was incredibly easy.
After signing up for an account (more on that later), you click on “New Document” and choose a template. I like to start with a blank one. The work space looks familiar, with shapes on the left, choices on the top, and a white space in the middle. To get started, you just need to grab a shape from the left and drag it onto the workspace. You can edit the fonts and colors using the choices. Then to make the next node, hover near the side of your box. The cursor will turn into a +, click and drag and your arrow will appear. Release, and you can pick your next shape.
In addition, you can drag in your own pictures, which can be handy for building instructions that require screenshots. Under File->More Shapes, you find your options for Mind Mapping and Venn diagrams. I find the Venn circles to be particularly time-saving. Rather than spending time on powerpoint trying to get the perfect translucent overlay, Lucidchart just gives you circles. The overlay is automatic. All that’s left is a text box to label them.
When you’re finished, the final product is downloaded from the File menu. Lucidchart gives you a choice of a pdf, jpeg, png, or a Visio. The pdfs are 8.5×11, but the others can be downloaded as a full page or a selected area. After downloading they can be added to any project just like any other image.
You can sync Lucidchart with a Google account and it will show up in your Drive. If your not on gmail, you can still share any chart with anyone else with an account.
The one caveat: signing up for a free educational account is far more confusing than it should be. First you have to sign up for a paid account trial (it doesn’t ask for a credit card though). Then you have to click on your name at the top left of the screen. Once you’re in your account, you should see a grey box on the right that says “Get a free educational upgrade.”
You will only see it if you sign up with an email that ends in .edu. Students can get an individual account (after feeding Lucidchart three email addresses), but teachers and librarians need to sign up for a class account. It’s all sort of confusing and weird, but it’s such a great product that it’s worth it.
Emily Thompson is the Learning Technologies Librarian at SUNY Oswego in Oswego, New York. She spends her days seeking out new tools to help her students make their projects as awesome as possible. She also co-hosts the LiTTech podcast on edreach.us. You can follow her on Twitter @librarianofdoom.