It's probably not often that you find yourself needing to produce a diagram, but chances are you'll try and do it in Word, or even Photoshop.

Neither are particularly well suited to this - what you need is a tool that's purpose-built for the job. We’ve looked at drawing diagrammatical mind maps before, but these aren’t the only kind of diagrams that can be helpful to be able to draw quickly and easily.

You might need to create a flowchart, a simple chart or graph, a circuit or wiring diagram. Or, you may be trying to put together a rough family tree. Pretty much any process, thought pattern or sequence can be easier to understand when you represent it in a diagram.

Using Diagram Designer, you can use different shapes and colours. Arrows can show the direction of flow and freehand or other lines can indicate connections that sit outside the basic flow. You can add illustrations or photos to help with clarification, link out to web sites or other documents to add extra layers to information, insert notes and comments which are easy to read and digest. There's even a built-in spell checker.

Diagram Designer is relatively basic freeware tool for drawing diagrams, and you might find you outgrow it quickly. However, we like that it avoids being bloated with features you might not need, is easy to learn to use and if your diagramming needs are straightforward, it could be all you require.

Drawing a basic diagram is a simple matter of dragging shapes from a palette and adding arrows and text. You can import graphics, create links to external data such as web pages, group items together so they can be manipulated as a set, and export diagrams in a range of useful formats. Here's how to use it.

How to make a diagram with Diagram Designer

1. Go to  and download the free copy of Diagram Designer that you’ll find there. This is open source software, but if you like it and continue using it, consider returning to this page and making a donation to the author.

Download Diagram Designer

2. Run the software and maximise the application to fill the screen. Click the zoom area on the menu bar and fix the width of the drawing area in the main window, so that it occupies the full space available and there’s no grey backing visible.

Diagram Designer maximise drawing space

3. The right vertical bar is the templates area. Click the down arrow to see pre-installed templates. Go to the download web site and download any templates you feel might be useful. We added Generalshapes to the standard set. Save templates in the application folder.

Diagram Designer template

4. Select a template to use and drag a shape from it onto the main working area. Resize the shape by dragging the square resize bars, and rotate a shape using the small circle at the top of the shape. There’s a back button on the menu bar.

Diagram Designer shapes

5. Add text to a shape by clicking the ‘abc’ icon in the menu bar then clicking where you want the text to go. A basic box lets you add some simple formatting. There’s a list of symbol codes at the Diagram Designer web site. Add URLs to make any text into a live link.

Diagram Designer text

6. Pass the mouse over several items at once to select them, then right click. These can now all be assigned to a group so that they can be resized, moved or copied all together. This is great if you want to produce a diagram made of complex, recurring elements.

Diagram Designer select items

7. Right-click any symbol and you can perform some basic functions such as aligning it to a particular part of the page, sending it behind other elements or bringing it to the font, even sizing it so that if fills the entire page.

Diagram Designer group objects

8. Lines are added and formatted using the menu bar. Select the option to draw a line, arrow or curve and use the pointer options at the right hand end of the menu bar to select left and right ends for your line or arrow.

Diagram Designer lines

9. You can insert objects into diagrams such as pictures, select fonts and their colour and size, choose landscape or portrait paper orientation, and export diagrams in a range of formats including popular image formats (but not PDFs, unfortunately).

 Diagram Designer save