How to open Visio files without Visio software

Man using his laptop to open Visio files without Visio software

Every once in a while, someone will send you an attachment you can't open on your computer, usually because you don't have the right software

This often happens with Microsoft Visio files. Used to create diagrams and flowcharts, Visio is a complex piece of software that most people have no need for on a day-to-day basis. If you don't have a copy of Visio software, what do you do when someone sends you a file in Visio format?

Here are three options for opening Visio files:

**Note prices correct on 07/05/24


1. Use Visio Online

A version of Visio is included in Microsoft 365 enterprise plans. If you already license Microsoft 365, you may already have access to Visio. This option is sufficient if you simply want to view diagrams or make minor edits.

There are two Visio Online packages available. Plan one allows you to open, create and share simple diagrams online for just £4.10 per user/month. If you only need to open or create simple Visio files, this is a budget-friendly option.

Plan two is perfect for users who need to create industry standard diagrams which can be connected to live data. Plan two costs £12.30 per user/month.

2. Use the Visio Viewer

You can view and comment on Visio diagrams for free without a Visio licence.

Simply download the free Microsoft Visio Viewer app from the app store. The app will allow you to view the file, make comments and share the files from any device, including iPhone or iPad. This might be sufficient if you don't need to make any changes to the Visio file.

Once you have downloaded the app, simply sign in to Microsoft 365 and open the Visio file in any browser.

3. Use other software to edit Visio files

It has been tricky for software developers to decode Visio files, which is why it has been difficult to open Visio files without Visio.

However, a couple of packages have added Visio support. They don't always work perfectly (especially if your files contain complicated diagrams) but they're worth a go:

  • LucidChart claims to be 'only online diagramming application that offers Microsoft Visio import and export.' You can try it free.
  • LibreOffice is a free alternative to Microsoft Office 365. It includes a package called Draw, which can open and save Visio files.

Failing that, ask the person who sent you the file to use their copy of Visio to save it in a different format. Visio can export to PDF files, which are ideal if all you need to do it review the diagram.

Written by John McGarvey

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