OUseful.Info, the blog…

Trying to find useful things to do with emerging technologies in open education

Writing Diagrams

One of the reasons I don’t tend to use many diagrams in the OUseful.info blog is that I’ve always been mindful that the diagrams I do draw rarely turn out how I wanted them to (the process of converting a mind’s eye vision to a well executed drawing always fails somewhere along the line, I imagine in part because I’ve never really put the time into practising drawing, even with image editors and drawing packages etc etc.)

Which is one reason why I’m always on the lookout for tools that let me write the diagram (e.g. Scripting Diagrams).

So for example, I’m very fond of Graphviz, which I can use to create network diagrams/graphs from a simple textual description of the graph (or a description of the graph that has been generated algorithmically…).

Out of preference, I tend to use Mac version of Graphviz, although the appearance of a canvas/browser version of graphviz is really appealing… (I did put in a soft request for a Drupal module that would generate a Graphviz plot from a URL that pointed to a dot file, but I’m not sure it went anywhere, and the canvas version looks far more interesting anyway…)

Hmmm – it seems there’s an iPhone/iPod touch Graphviz app too – Instaviz:

Another handy text2image service is the rather wonderful Web sequence diagrams, a service that lets you write out a UML sequence diagram:

There’s an API, too, that lets you write a sequence diagram within a <pre> tag in an HTML page, and a javascript routine will then progressively enhance it and provide you with the diagrammatic version, a bit like MathTran, or the Google Chart API etc etc (RESTful Image Generation – When Text Just Won’t Do).

If graphs or sequence diagrams aren’t your thing, here’s a handy hierarchical mindmap generator: Text2Mindmap:

And finally, if you do have to resort to actually drawing diagrams yourself, there are a few tools out there that look promising: for example, the LucidChart flow chart tool crossed my feedreader the other day. More personally, since Gliffy tried to start charging me at some point during last year, I’ve been using the Project Draw Autodesk online editor on quite a regular basis.

PS Online scripting tool for UML diagrams: YUML

Written by Tony Hirst

January 5, 2009 at 1:30 pm

Posted in Visualisation

6 Responses

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  1. I’ve been meaning to try out asymptote (http://asymptote.sourceforge.net/) for ages.


    January 5, 2009 at 11:06 pm

  2. Hello, just an FYI, you can now use Gliffy Basic for free with unlimited diagrams.



    January 6, 2009 at 2:13 am

  3. Hi, I’m the developer of both the Graphviz Mac viewer and of Instaviz. Glad to see you like Graphviz for the Mac!


    January 6, 2009 at 9:46 am

  4. @glen – glad to make your acquaintance:-) The Graphviz Mac app is an absolute joy to use, so I have no problem recommending it whenever I get the chance.

    Tony Hirst

    January 6, 2009 at 10:08 am

  5. […] I probably should be able to script a diagram, rather than have to draw it. (See also, for example, Writing Diagrams, RESTful Image Generation – When Text Just Won’t Do and Progressive Enhancement – Some […]

  6. […] time; for example, see Scripting Charts WIth GraphViz – Hierarchies; and a Question of Attitude, Writing Diagrams, RESTful Image Generation – When Text Just Won’t Do or Visual Gadgets: Scripting […]

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