Sometimes, when you’re putting together a diagram in draw.io, you just have to go with the flow. You need to get the right elements in there. You need to get them all properly connected. Sometimes, though, you end up with a diagram that doesn’t look exactly how you’d like. Now you’ve got to spend a lot of extra time making things look good, right? Wrong. Here’s how automatic layouts in draw.io can quickly dress up your rough diagrams so their good looks match up to their intelligence.
draw.io automatic layouts allow users to quickly rearrange their diagrams on the draw.io canvas. Depending upon the layout you choose, your diagram can be reorganized following the rules and spacing information that are appropriate for your needs.
For instance, if you’re like me, your flowchart’s first draft may look like this:
But with the simple click of an automatic layout, the same flowchart can look like this:
Automatic layouts don’t change the content of your diagrams. They simply clean up the way they’re laid out. They make your diagram easier to read.
The process is simple. Just select Arrange > Layout from the draw.io editor, and then select your layout.
When creating your diagrams be sure to use floating connection points. This will allow connectors to dynamically adjust the points at which they attach to the shapes in your diagram. Floating connections will help prevent a mess of crisscrossed connectors when automatic layouts are applied.
What are your layout choices? Here’s a little about each option:
Horizontal and vertical flow
You’ve already seen these! These are the layouts we used to clean up the messy flowchart above. The first option was horizontal. Another option would be vertical flow.
These layouts are useful for any diagram that has a flow-like structure.
Horizontal, vertical, and radial trees
Tree diagram structures show how items relate to one another. The tree’s trunk represents the main topic, and relevant topics “branch out” from there.
The tree chart aids in arriving at a decision by listing the possible options as well as the pros and cons of those options. Tree charts combine the probabilities, decisions, costs and payouts of a decision and provide a strategic answer.
If you’re working with a diagram that consists of a single “root” shape with all connectors branching out away from that root, a tree layout is an effective choice.
Circle layouts are just what they sound like. They’re useful for things like infographics or even social graphs.
Take a look:
Got a type of diagram in which things are arranged in discrete clusters? An organic layout’s a good choice for you. One good example of this type of layout is network diagrams.
Sometimes, as you’re diagramming, some connectors may become overlaid. This can make it appear that there’s only one connector instead of two or three. Applying the Parallels layout will separate and expose those overlapping connectors to make each one visible.
Org chart layouts
You get a variety of choices when applying an org chart layout to your diagram. Select “Org Chart” from the Layout menu to see layout options. Layouts to choose from include linear, hanger, fishbone, single column, and smart.
We recommend you try them out to see which one best fits your needs and aesthetic.
Layouts are formulated according to the current state of your diagram. If you apply one layout after having already applied a previous layout, you probably won’t get the structure you want. The best practice is to apply a layout, and if you don’t like it hit Ctrl+Z (Cmd+Z for Mac) to clear that layout before applying another.
Visit our YouTube Channel for a constantly updated playlist of how-to videos, visit our one-stop tutorial shop to pick up all the ins and outs of draw.io diagramming, or book a free demo to learn more about the limitless ways in which draw.io can make life easier and more productive for you and everyone in (and outside) your company!
Brad Boesen is a writer and editor of books, theses, blogs, articles, web content, and online educational material. His work covers topics ranging from AI to Web Development to Biological Science, Photography, meditation for children, and much more. He spent his formative years working for Gallup, IBM, and the Nebraska State Legislature before setting out on his own as a freelancer, doing the bidding of clients like Walmart, Expedia, and Oxford University. He's now the full-time content creator for draw.io.
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