Create Diagrams Easily with Lovely Charts

I can’t count the number of times I’ve used Microsoft PowerPoint to create charts and diagrams for projects, presentations and articles, and it always made me wonder why there isn’t a decent stand-alone charting program, particularly for web use. Luckily, I wasn’t alone in thinking this – Jérôme Cordiez was on the same page and went a step further to create Lovely Charts, a simple tool to make, well, lovely charts!

Lovely Charts makes it easy to assemble charts for various needs and even allows for collaboration and feedback on your creations. The interface mimics the behavior of desktop apps and has a very small learning curve, making it easy for anyone to use and for companies to adopt. Let’s take it for a spin and see just how lovely we can make our charts, shall we?

Lovely Charts has a simple, familiar UI

Lovely Charts has a simple, familiar UI

Overview

Lovely Charts’ web app is very nicely designed, but it does require Flash player to run. You can use it to create anything from a simple sitemap for your next project to a complex organization chart for your growing company, to a simplex network diagram for the office, to a flowchart for wiring up your parents’ home theater — and we know how complicated those can get!

Getting started

Lovely Charts costs 29€/year for the online edition and also has versions for desktops (59€) and iPads (3.99€). You can try the web app before you commit to the paid plan, with a few limitations (save only one diagram, sharing, commenting and collaborating on diagrams disabled, and no revision history), which is what I did.

The Welcome Screen helps you get to work quickly

The Welcome Screen helps you get to work quickly

The interface

Lovely Charts is actually a couple of years old, and unfortunately, its age is beginning to show. Still, that doesn’t make it any less usable. The interface features an infinite space in which to create diagrams, with a sidebar containing tools, a library of Symbols, and arrangement/alignment controls, and a toolbar at the top with options to save and export your work, as well controls for fill colors and connection types (which we’ll get into later on).

The symbols library contains sets of vector shapes and icons that you can add to your chart and manipulate, which are grouped by chart type — Flowcharts, Sitemaps, Network Diagrams, People Diagrams, BPMN Diagrams and Wireframes. There are also basic symbols (such as text, arrows and geometric shapes) and you can also import your own graphics to use.

Choose a set of symbols and shapes to work with from the Library

Choose a set of symbols and shapes to work with from the Library

Symbols can be dragged and dropped onto the canvas, resized to your liking, filled with colors for easy differentiation and labeled with text. While there are a fair number of Symbols, they look rather dated — which is a shame given that this is an app designed to help you create good-looking charts.

Creating diagrams

To start creating a diagram, simply choose your family of Symbols, and begin dragging and dropping them onto your canvas. Next, label your Symbols appropriately and connect them by activating the Create & Connect tool and dragging Symbols on top of each other.

There are several options for customizing your connectors – from the line type (straight, right-angles or curvy), to line style (dotted, dashed, etc.) to the arrow ends.

Once you’ve done this, you can fine-tune your diagram by resizing and color-coding your Symbols, and grouping them as you need to. The sidebar also has buttons for aligning your Symbols and moving them behind or in front of each other.

Creating and customizing charts takes just a few minutes

Creating and customizing charts takes just a few minutes

You can pan and zoom in and out of your canvas, which makes it easy to work with large diagrams. Lovely Charts also features desktop program-like behavior, so you can use similar actions and commands such as Delete to remove an unwanted Symbol and Ctrl/Cmd+Z to undo a mistake.

When you’re done with your diagram, you can save it online to access and edit any time you want, and export it as a JPG or PNG in a size of your choosing. You can also share the diagram to show clients and colleagues, and have them collaborate or comment on it too.

How lovely are those charts?

I used Lovely Charts to make a few sitemaps, company hierarchy charts and basic computer wiring diagrams. I found the app very easy to use — once you get the hang of the controls, it takes just a few minutes to put together an elaborate diagram.

You can get creative if you want to detail your diagrams — for example, you could create large colored shapes and place them behind a group of employees to identify them as a team. You can also export your chart as a transparent PNG and import it into a graphics editing program to customize the background as much as you want.

A typical company organization chart, made with Lovely Charts

A typical company organization chart, made with Lovely Charts

However, the available symbols aren’t very pretty, so don’t expect your diagrams to compete with today’s infographics in the looks department. Also, I’d have liked a few more controls to group, align and distribute symbols. Still, at least you’ll end up with clear, functional diagrams that are easy to read.

Conclusion

Lovely Charts is very well thought-out and well-built. I like the fact that it only takes a few minutes to get the hang of the app and start building diagrams. It could use some fresh Symbols and more options to dress up your chart, though.

If you find yourself having to create charts for work, you’ll find Lovely Charts to be a wonderfully usable weapon in your arsenal. The price is fair too, especially if you use it with a team for collaboration. And if you’re still in doubt, why not try the free version to get a taste?


Summary

Lovely Charts lets you create diagrams and charts for every need using a simple interface.

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  • This looks quite good just a shame that it runs on Flash and that they didn’t adopt HTML5, I Always worry about an apps future when it runs on flash which seems to be on the way out more and more.

  • There are free apps that do the same thing and ave WAY better interfaces. What an ugly interface to have to stare at every day.