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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.

Automatic layouts

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:

Automatic layouts in draw.io - rough flowchart

But with the simple click of an automatic layout, the same flowchart can look like this:

Automatic layouts in draw.io - Horizontal flow

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.

Pro-tip

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.

Automatic layouts in draw.io - Vertical flow

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.

Automatic layouts in draw.io - Tree layout

Circle layout

Circle layouts are just what they sound like. They’re useful for things like infographics or even social graphs.

Take a look:

Automatic layouts in draw.io - Circle layout

Organic layouts

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.

Automatic layouts in draw.io - Organic layout

Parallels layout

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.

Pro-tip

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!