How to open Visio files without Visio software

Male office worker removes his glasses whilst looking at an online diagramEvery 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.

At £309 for the Standard version of Visio, it's too expensive if you only need to open Visio files occasionally. But 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:

1. Use Visio Online

There are two Visio Online packages available. Plan one allows you to open, create and share simple diagrams online for just £4.50 per user/month or £3.80 per user/month if you take an annual subscription. 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 £13.60 per user/month or £11.300 per user/month if you take an annual subscription.

2. Use the Visio Viewer

This is the straightforward method, if all you don't need to make any changes to the Visio file.

Just download Microsoft's free Visio Viewer software, and run it to install the viewer on your computer.

This free software will let you open and view Visio files without Visio. However, you won't be able to make any changes to the file.

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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:

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

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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