Note: This post is old and out of date. Click here to read our updated Lucidchart review.
A while back I talked about LucidChart, a web-based tool for creating flowcharts online. Today I'm going to review another online flowchart tool called Gliffy.
Before getting into any details, here's my overall opinion of Gliffy: Gliffy is a very solid product , and it's priced fairly for what you get. In my opinion, Gliffy is definitely a better product than Microsoft Visio, but it's definitely not as good as LucidChart. So basically, I don't recommend Gliffy over LucidChart, but it's a great backup option if you don't like LucidChart for some reason.
Comparing it to Visio is a no brainer for me. Flowchart and diagramming applications need to be online. Online applications have better support for collaboration and they're easier to share and present. It also helps that Gliffy is much much cheaper than Visio without sacrificing any of the features that I care about.
Comparing Gliffy to LucidChart is a little bit more difficult. At first glance, they seem very similar. Both are slick online applications. Neither are amazingly polished from a user interface standpoint (there are minor annoyances scattered throughout both products), but they both work very well, and they make things very easy. Gliffy definitely has some UI advantages (more intuitive menus, better layout controls) and LucidCharts has some advantages (easier to draw lines, better labeling options, simpler pricing).
So at first glance, it's hard to decide between the two products. But when you look a little deeper, there are a few very important differences that make LucidChart the obvious winner. Here are the main things that are holding back Gliffy:
Gliffy's collaboration is half-baked
Remember earlier when I said that web apps are good for collaboration? Well, that's only half true with Gliffy. Multiple users can log in and access a document at the same time, but changes aren't merged together, so what's the point? As I said in my earlier post about LucidChart, they handle collaboration seamlessly. When one user makes a change to a document, that change is automatically pushed to everyone else. There are also cool features like chat to help make collaboration a piece of cake. Gliffy falls way short in this regard.
However, even with Gliffy's weak attempts at collaboration, it beats emailing a Visio file back and forth.
Gliffy is a flash app, LucidChart is HTML5
Gliffy was built in Flash, which means it won't work unless you have the Adobe Flash plugin installed on your computer. There are all kinds of problems with Flash which I'll talk about more some other time, but in my case, it basically prevented me from using Gliffy in Firefox, Internet Explorer and Safari. Chrome was the only browser would let me load Flash. Sure, the problems with Flash are entirely Adobe's fault, but if Gliffy won't work on my computer, I don't really care who is to blame. Flash is notoriously buggy, and Gliffy is putting itself at risk by letting Adobe's incompetence disrupt Gliffy's user experience.
On the other hand, LucidChart is built on open web standards that run in virtually any browser without any plugins required. This may seem like a subtle difference, but it's a pretty big deal to nerds like me.
I'm not sure how most people end up sharing flowcharts, but I assume printing is a pretty important feature. Well, LucidChart beats the pants off Gliffy when it comes to printing. Both products allow you to export a document to a PDF, but LucidChart elegantly formats documents to fit on one page (or more if you want). The pdf that Gliffy generated for me was incredibly zoomed in so even the most basic flowchart (only three elements closely bunched together) printed out on two pages. It was a mess.
Those are the three big reasons why I'm sticking with LucidChart. One final note that I want to mention about Gliffy is that it made me enter my password every single time I opened a document. Seriously, I'd log in, refresh the page, and have to log in again immediately. That lack of attention to detail is completely unacceptable. Ok, I'm done ranting. Sorry about that.
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