Guest Post: Lucidchart – The online flow-chart app you’ve been dreaming of.

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.

Lucidchart flowchart example

Flowchart created using Lucidcharts.

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.

Lucidchart workspace

Lucidchart workspace

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.

Venn Diagram from Symposium on Learning and Teaching poster

This Lucidchart example is also from the Symposium on Learning and Teaching poster.

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.

Lucidchart icon for setting up a free educational account

Icon for setting up a free educational 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.

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6 Responses

  1. Hi Emily, thanks for the great post! I wanted to reach out to clarify the educational upgrade process:

    1) You can sign up for a free account here: https://www.lucidchart.com/users/registerPersonal

    2) Then you can either follow the steps you provided, or if you are a faculty member / teacher, you can request a group account for free with this form: https://www.lucidchart.com/pages/education/K12.

    3) We then approve these requests in 1-2 business days.

    4) Then you (as the teacher) can easily invite the students via e-mail. They won’t need to go through the educational upgrade process themselves.

    If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out at support@lucidchart.com. We look forward to having you and your students use Lucidchart.

  2. If purely for flowcharts I think Creately is a better choice, with their 1-click create and connect features. So in one singe click you can create the next step of the process and it will automatically does the connecting for you. They do offer a special plan for schools but not sure whether it’s free or not.

    • With any tool, it’s a matter of finding one you like and going with it. Looking at Creately, it seems to be very similar to Lucidchart (just without the mind mapping, Venn diagram, wireframe, etc.) It’s nice that you can use it without signing up. However, I do a lot of 2-finger scrolling on my Mac. Creately has a weird bounce when I scroll that means I won’t be switching (and also, Venn diagrams). It’s not that one is better than the other, it’s just that I like Lucidchart better for what I want to do.

      • I think it’s great that we have several different online, free or low-cost options for flow charts and other diagrams – it means we can pick the right tool for the right job, rather than bending to the demands of a specific technology. We’ve covered several other options on LibTechTalk before, including Creately https://libtechtalk.wordpress.com/tag/diagram/

      • Creately do support all the diagram types you mentioned and many more according to their home page. I pointed to their flowchart page because the topic was about flowcharts. Personally I have used it for mind mapping and some infographics. Also I think you have to sign up to use it.
        I’m on Windows and often use the mouse for diagramming so I haven’t encountered the weird bounce you mentioned. But as Kim pointed out more options you have the better 🙂 .

  3. I agree! I have found How to Make a Flowchart in Word through lucidchart and I found it very helpful and easy to use!

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