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A review of 7 software architecture visualization tools

Visualization tools like Visio and can provide a lot of benefits when it comes to software architecture design and management, but choosing the right one is important.

Visualization tools are essential to successful application development and software architecture management. Whether through graphical code rendering or diagrams of systemic relationships, visualizations provide software teams a common blueprint for projects, a clearly defined breakdown of individual modules, and dynamic documentation of application functionality.

However, before committing wholeheartedly to one visualization tool, it's important to understand that tool's standout strengths, its potential weaknesses and its suitability for a particular project scenario. The following software architecture visualization tools -- listed in no particular order -- reflect a range of options, including both paid subscription and open source tooling.

Enterprise Architect

Enterprise Architect provides a centralized, single source of truth for architectural specifications, code-based details and meta information. It offers features specific to the development process, such as modeling, reverse-engineering, model transformations, code generation and documentation.

Developers can extend Enterprise Architect's features through a model-driven approach and Unified Modeling Language (UML) profiles. It also offers a platform for modeling, visualization and design based on UML. This tool is suitable for large-scale enterprise environments, but it's also useful for individual or private projects. Newer versions of Enterprise Architecture include a collection of icon sets specifically calibrated for AWS and Google Cloud Platform users.

Microsoft Visio

Visio enables developers to easily create flow charts, diagrams, organizational charts and more. The tool is adept at charting process flows and creating system diagrams. Users can share charts and diagrams with fellow programmers and engineers, and it generates accurate data flow documentation. Visio is available either through the Office 365 suite or via a standalone web platform.


Lucidchart provides a web-based interface and a wide range of templates to create development flow charts and diagrams. Users can collaborate in real time to create architectural designs, and it provides great support for creating process flow charts. Via free user accounts, developers create unlimited numbers of diagrams, albeit with a limit of 60 objects per diagram.

Part of Lucidchart's appeal rests in its ease of use and intuitive functionality. Programmers who work in complex software environments will like that Lucidchart connects with a diverse set of platforms and tooling, such as Atlassian, Salesforce and AWS.

Visual Paradigm

Visual Paradigm enables DevOps teams and individual programmers to efficiently model the overall development process. It provides code engineering features and supports modeling languages and standards like SOA, UML and Business Process Modeling Language. Developers can use the template designer to create system documentation or to design class diagrams.

Visual Paradigm automatically ensures that all project versions remain in sync when any classes in the architecture experience an update. It also offers support for process analysis and database design. This architecture visualization tool works for diverse projects, which offer effective resources for building large-scale systems. Newer versions offer specific support for plugin management, project templates, team collaboration and logging processes. is a free, web-accessible tool with a responsive interface and a workspace for creating diagrams and architectural layouts. It provides collaboration tools via Google and allows multiple developers to work on diagrams simultaneously.'s diagramming features are easy to use, though some feel the free version lacks the comprehensive feature sets found in other software architecture visualization tools on this list. While good for individual developers, it might not be the best choice for enterprise use.


Graphviz is an open source visualization tool that uses a command-line utility and the DOT graph description language. Architects and developers can export graphs and access different layouts, including hierarchical, radial and multiscale.

This tool enables developers to enter large amounts of code that can be instantly transformed, organized and used by other developers. Users can highlight connections between various nodes and generate graphics that illustrate those connections. For example, a developer could assign particular attributes to nodes, identify related attributes, and then diagram those relationships for the team to review.


Mermaid.js (also known simply as Mermaid), is a JavaScript-based tool that resembles other open source modeling tools like Graphviz. With Mermaid, software teams can simplify documentation and create models that follow Markdown and ASCII-style documentation formats. The tool supports different output styles for diagrams but also emphasizes strong version control.

The Mermaid Live Editor, available through the Mermaid.js project site, allows users to generate diagrams and experiment with the tool's functions and command syntax without having to install local versions. Mermaid also allows developers to download their diagrams and share them as image files. With recent additions, Mermaid syntax makes it easier to dynamically create graphs and diagrams inline. However, even though you can write Mermaid diagrams in a basic text editor, some users find it better to use an editor with plugins specifically designed to review output.

Editor's note: This uninfluenced, unranked list of visualization tool providers was curated using research garnered from a combination of vendor information pages and other independent sources.

Kerry Doyle is a freelance writer experienced in topics such as technology, business and higher education. His current focus is on issues relevant to IT and enterprise leaders across a range of topics, including nanotech, the cloud and microservices.

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