Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Visio, and another reason I love Linux

Today I had a nice reminder of one of the things I like best about Linux.

I've found myself being forced to draw some UML diagrams in Microsoft Visio 2003, and to be quite honest, I've been totally disappointed with the software. One of the things that bugs me is that Visio seems to have absolutely no intelligence whatsoever when it comes to laying out labels on associations - It'll blindly draw numbers on top of your classes and other diagrams.

You would think after Visio 2000 and Visio 2002 that stupid stuff like this would be fixed, but nope, this is Microsoft, and this is exactly why I love Linux.

Stupid bugs like this get fixed in open source software, because the users are the developers. With each release of Ubuntu (and other good pieces of open source software), there are not only new features added, but also a ton of bug fixes. I've yet to be affected by a bug in Ubuntu that's persisted across releases, and these guys release a new version every six months - not every couple of years (a la Microsoft). That's pretty damn good.

I think another reason why problems get fixed in open source projects is because their software development processes sometimes leave big companies like Microsoft in the dust. Quite honestly, Launchpad and other bug trackers (and the way in which they are used transparently) seems to play a large role in many projects' rapid success by providing developers with organization and a strong continual link to their users. It's this constant interaction, an excellent feedback loop, that some companies seem to lack.

Sure, many open source projects don't follow strict development processes, but you know what?
They not only get their software built, but they get it built faster and better.

Note: If you're looking for a good open source Visio replacement, here's some good ones:


Anonymous said...

Also check out:

Anonymous said...

try visio 2007.

i love it, but still has some bugs and annoying behaviors.

i wish there was an equivalent for linux.

(as of this writing, kivio and dia dont seem to match visio 2007's abilities and ease-of-use.)

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october said...

Yeh, Ubuntu is great. I'm on 8.04, and I've had no problems. NOTE Ubuntu right now is popular with thrift store users, those who don't want to pay for their apps. I say, "Heck, $upport your developer$! Help them make good code, while paying their rent) -- there's an idea -- there are a couple of (cheap/commercial) emulators out there specially designed to install and run visio. (plug: codeweavers). What's cool about Linux so far as I can emulate different versions of windows, so I can run win95 apps (which think they are running native) and win2000, xp etc. What's rad about linux in my opinion aint the free/open source apps, but the fact that you can run mac and pc apps together. -- It's the universal os

Denitsa said...

I would recommend also Inkscape and Krita and for simple diagrams-Dia.

Yesterday I made my first professional astrophysical diagram on Inkscape and I feel great. Sure, it's a scheme of GRB, but it's precisely what I needed and I made it myself. And all that-by using Linux software. Amazing.

Also, GIMP is a great program. Just not for every purpose.

And I'm using Sabayon Linux.

jfr said...

I just found this post and I need to make some Visio diagrams but don't have (and don't want to pay) a Visio License. I want an open source option and hope Dia will do the work.
Will comment how it went

Jeremy said...

I love Linux and the free software movement, but what your saying is somewhat contradictory and untrue - you're bashing Visio for not fixing display bugs, and recommending Dia, when Visio *looks* 1000x better than Dia - and has infinitely more features. You have focused on one drawing bug in Visio, but haven't mentioned the *multitude* of visual abnormalities in Dia (not to mention most other Linux GUI software).

I personally use Ubuntu and have not found a suitable replacement for Visio - esthetically or functionally. Is Visio annoying? Yes. Is it dragging along bugs from *before* Microsoft bought? absolutely. However, it does have more features than any free diagramming software out there. If you can provide an example to the contrary, I would love to see it.

My point isn't to flame you, but in terms of the Linux Revolution, these warts need to be addressed, not glossed over, giving new users inaccurate expectations.

Denitsa said...

Jeremy, first when you're using something for free, you don't ask for perfection. I don't know what expectation a new user might have, but the idea of open source software is that everybody contributes-either by work, or by submitting bugs. That's why if a new user doesn't like something, s/he is always free to improve it.

And after all, it's all about doing your work. If the program you're using does that, then it is perfect enough.

And btw, tell me, what bugs annoy you more - those in a free program or those in a program you bought?

October Jones said...

I've had a lot of success from the app loader Crossover Linux. It has an installer specifically designed for visio.

Anonymous said...

Has anyone able to get Visio 2007 to work with CrossOver? I use both Ubuntu 8.04 and SLED 11 and I have not found a replacement for Visio and need to get this working as I have a lot of work to do on Visio.

As for the previous comments about alternatives to Visio: I hate little buggy issues with Visio too, but overall, it is the one of the best for designing diagrams, layouts, etc. for a small business user. Beyond that, you can do a lot with professional CAD programs too. For UML purposes, there are definitely good alternatives, both free and commercial applications like even the ones from Altova.

As a designer, I could possibly go with Photoshop, but it seems silly when you want the arrows and objects to be connected to each other without making lots of changes. So ... for my specific needs, I really want to get Visio 2007 working on my Linux desktops ...

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. said...

Have you tried Lucidchart as a Linux Visio alternative? Though it's not open-souce, it is SaaS so the development is pretty fast and it also supports Visio import/export.

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Shalin Siriwaradhana said...

I use Creately as a alternative to visio. Its too expensive and complex. thanks for seeing the truth!