If you are not an artist and you want to quickly draw nice diagrams I’ve found a very useful and light tool. Earlier I tried to use Visio or other heavy duty tools for my diagrams but their user interface is so complex that I really started to hate using them. Recently, I had to draw some graphs and then I found yEd – a JAVA graph editor application. I needed to give it a try.
Download and run
I downloaded it from the yWorks site. My choice was to download the executable JAR file. I ran it and the first impression was really nice.
yEd has been built using 100% lightweight Swing components. This allows it to run on any platform where a suitable Runtime Environment is available. It uses JGoodies Look & Feel that makes yEd look more like an application. You can easily customize the workspace by freely arranging the panels and many more.
I like the automatic layout of the components by using fully customizable layout algorithms. I experimented with this functionality on many examples shipped with the application (Help > Example Graphs).
yEd Layout menu
What I found useful is adding images to the graphs since the predefined set of images is rather poor in my opinion. The new snap lines functionality that enables instant alignment of graph elements and makes editing a diagram easier than ever also looks promising. I really like it.
Snap lines in yEd
yEd supports many export formats, including PDF, HTML Flash Viewer (see example: http://www.yworks.com/products/yed/features/yworks-products-flash.html), HTML Image.
yEd is ideal if you need to create nice looking graphs very quickly for your technical documentation. You can also use yEd to create simple UML diagrams (class, use case, activity) but in that case I prefer the one provided either by Eclipse or Netbeans.
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