Robust Flowcharts in Adobe CS?

7 Dec 2010 - 3:21pm
5 years ago
7 replies
10082 reads

I've been working as an interaction designer for less than a year (student, interning) and have struggled with finding a good tool to use for creating product flows.  Programs like Fireworks and Flash Catalyst are great for making clickable prototypes.  And programs like Visio are decent for creating flowcharts showing the overall organization of an application.  But the two remain largely separated.

Does anyone have any experience creating flow charts in any of the Adobe CS software?  It would be nice to be able to create flow charts using the screens used in prototypes, rather than having to make the screens twice in two different software packages.  In other words, it would be great to import a file into both a prototyping application and flow-chart application, and have both change when that file is updated in Illustrator, for example.

Any feedback or comments would be great.  Thanks!!


7 Dec 2010 - 4:05pm
Joel Eden


One way to do this is using InDesign, where you can use the place command to link files/visuals created in other software (Fireworks, etc, even other InDesign files). When the linked file/visual is changed, it is updated in the InDesign file. Therefore, you can create things like wireflows where each "box" in the flow is a linked version of some other design you've already created.

By the way, this type of modularity is what Nathan Curtis talks about in his book, Modular Web Design. It's more difficult to do this in tools other than InDesign, but I'm interested as well to see what other solutions people are using.


7 Dec 2010 - 5:05pm
Douglas Brashear

I have used InDesign for this purpose in the past, but was dismayed by the fact that InDesign can't anchor line ends to handles on shapes as is possible with Visio and other tools. I don't get the impression that it was ever intended as a diagram/flow chart tool, though (like with any graphics or page layout application) it can certainly be used as one. I just find that the resulting images are more time consuming to maintain.

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7 Dec 2010 - 4:13pm
Josh B Williams

I will second in design. The use of master pages works better than master pages in visio I think. You can set up libraries of elements similar to stencils in visio or omnigraffle too.

The only downside to using it is that for some reason adobe has not figured out how to paste text into indesign. So you will need to link files or recrete any text elements if you want to edit a file in idesign.

You may also want to play around with omnigraffle. You can place PDFs into an omnigraffle document for documentation and they will update when you save a new pdf. You can copy paste from illustrator rather seamlessly.

7 Dec 2010 - 5:05pm

We've used Axure and had great results using it.  I find using InDesign a bit more work.

7 Dec 2010 - 5:05pm

You should check out Unify, by EightShapes. I think it might be just what you're looking for.

Dennis Breen
Senior User Experience Consultant

7 Dec 2010 - 6:28pm

Matt, you should definitely try Axure. I think it will provide you exactly the solution you are after. They offer at least a 2 week trial, so give it a try ;) Personally, I can't wait to see version 6 released in January!

10 Jan 2011 - 12:28pm
Joe Sokohl

Expounding on Axure: You can generate a flow diagram consisting of all your pages. While the image itself won't contain a thumbnail of the page, it will contain the page's name. See for mor info. I've found this approach very helpful.

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