Our contest is now closed, and the winner is James Eisenlohr. Congrats! Thanks for commenting, and stay tuned for more giveaways in the future!
Conventional wisdom would say that web apps generally are less feature-full than their native app counterparts. Google Docs is less polished than iWork or Microsoft Office 2010, but that’s just to be expected. And on mobile browsers and tablets, many web apps are much harder to use than native apps, but hey, it’s just a web app. You can’t expect so much, right?
LucidChart is one app that’s proving the conventional wisdom wrong. They’ve created a web app that runs faster and smoother than many desktop apps. Visio can drive you insane after using it for a few minutes, but we were very impressed at how nice LucidChart was at creating diagrams and more when we first reviewed it. Since then, the developers haven’t rested on their laurals. Instead, they’ve added a Visio file importer, offline support, and amazing integration with the iPad that lets you draw intricate diagrams quicker than ever.
Keep reading for a peek at the new features, and a chance to win a free year of LucidChart Professional!
If there’s one category of desktop software that’s never been as nice as it could be, it’s diagramming software. Visio especially can be frustrating to use, and it can be ridiculously difficult to get your diagram elements lined up the way you want. Plus, it was often hard to find the diagramming object you needed for a specific diagram.
LucidChart was designed from the ground up to offer a first-class diagramming experience in any browser. As we noted in our first review, it’s easy to use yet as powerful as most standard charting apps. You can whip up high quality charts and diagrams quickly, then save them as PDFs or share them with others to collaborate on your ideas. For most charting and diagramming needs, it’s everything you’d need from a diagramming app, except this time, it actually works nicely.
Visio Files Now Welcome, Too
The only problem is, many of us need to work with Visio files. Whether you’re taking a course that requires Visio or are working with a company that’s standardized on Visio for all of their drawings, you’re forced to use an app you don’t want because it’s the standard. We mentioned in our original review that the lack of Visio import was one of the few problems we had with LucidChart. Today, that’s a thing of the past.
LucidChart now can import any Visio VDX document. You can upload your files, then edit and share them in LucidChart format. You can’t export in Visio format, though, so if you need to share Visio files back with others it won’t work yet. If a PDF or online shared diagram would work, though, you can finally cut your reliance on Visio.
Do note that Visio saves files in VSD format by default, so you may need to open your files in Visio first and then select VDX format when you save them again. Also, LucidChart only supports Visio import on Professional and Team accounts.
We uploaded a somewhat complex 2 page Visio file, and it looked great in LucidChart. In fact, some of the default elements looked nicer in LucidChart than they did in Visio 2010. All of the file features worked as you’d expect in LucidChart, and seconds after uploading you could move and edit objects just like if you were working in Visio on your PC.
Drawing Charts on the iPad
Most web apps are rather frustrating to use on the iPad, and you’re usually better off to check out the App Store and see if a comparable native app is available. LucidChart wanted their web app to work just as good on the iPad as it does on the desktop, and then some. They’ve done an impressive job making the app work great on the iPad, and integrating native support for touch right into the web app. To see it in action, check out the intro video below:
Once you’ve opened a document in LucidChart on your iPad, you can add new elements, tweak text and styles, and more just as you would in any other browsers. Then, you can tap items to drag them to where you want, and tap and drag from the corners to add connectors much easier than you can with a mouse. Best of all, tap and hold to activate the drawing mode, where you can draw elements directly with your finger. LucidChart will recognize the shapes and substitute them with the correct standard diagram elements. It’s easily the most impressive web app we’ve every used on iPad!
Keep Charting Even When the ‘Net’s Down
One of the most frustating things about web apps is that they generally don’t work when your internet connection is down. Whether your home internet has an outage or you’re working on your laptop in a plane, you can’t get your work done if your apps require an internet connection. LucidChart has added offline support to their beta version, so for now you can login there and work in LucidChart offline in Chrome and Safari. Once it’s working perfect, it’ll be rolled out to the main version. Even if it’s a beta, though, it worked seamlessly in my tests. You would have never noticed anything was different if it wasn’t for the Working Offline badge in the right corner. That’s how web apps should work, and we can’t wait to see this in more popular apps.
Last But Not Least…
The folks at LucidChart have been kind enough to give us a free 1 year Professional LucidChart subscription for one of our readers. We know you’ll be excited to try out the new features, so just leave a comment and let us know what you find most impressive about LucidChart. We’ll choose a random comment to receive the free subscription after the contest closes at midnight on Friday, June 24, 2011.
Even if you don’t win, you can still try out LucidChart for free. The offline mode and iPad support, as well as LucidChart’s other awesome charting features, all work great even on their basic free account. Or, if you’d like to try out the new Visio import support, you can start a free trial of the Premium or Team accounts.
Either way, we’re sure you’ll be impressed with LucidChart’s desktop-like feel in a web app! Web apps continue to gain more and more advanced features, and we’re excited to see how far you can push the browser!