Writing a commercial proposal, I want to create a nice graphic showing the clients the architecture I thought of for their IT network, with servers, network connections, firewall, load-balancing, etc.

For years I have been using dia, but I am tired of it because: the results are not satisfying, very few network elements are available, and each element's graphic representation is really ugly.

Question: How to create nice network diagrams?

If a better set of elements was available for dia, that would be a solution.


14 Answers 14


Try these LibreOffice/OpenOffice galleries with Draw: http://www.vrt.com.au/downloads/vrt-network-equipment

CC licensed, also available in Fedora repos and the libreoffice extensions site.

UPDATE: v1.1 release added new darker variants (like VMware's shapes), and a set logical network symbols added - now near 200 symbols in 5 gallery themes.

sample of shapes in gallery

  • These are excellent for a basic diagram for a small business owner who isn't super tech savvy, good find, thank you and to those who made these and posted them. Sep 28, 2014 at 2:56
  • LibreOffice crashed for me twice in 5 minutes with 4 of those logos above, guess i'm gonna look for something else
    – nhed
    Feb 16, 2017 at 1:01
  • For anyone who wants to use these in Dia, I've exported them and posted the link in my answer here. Apr 23, 2020 at 0:08

Inkscape is all you need. For additional clip art graphics ('elements'), use openclipart.org. OpenClipart is actually built into Inkscape these days. There's really no need to resort to non-free apps.


I decided to move my diagrams to the cloud after I saw Cacoo. It's a very intuitive tool, having a lot of diagram and icons choices and mostly it has options for online collaboration. The only downside is that is a proprietary software :/

Here is my sampleDiagram

  • 1
    I don't really like using proprietary apps, but I have to admit this one is the nicest tool I have found so far. I was lucky enough to find the elements I need, with very nice graphics! Dec 7, 2010 at 2:08
  • 2
    Unfortunately, having proprietary/sensitive data in the cloud can be a problem for some who would use this.
    – belacqua
    Dec 6, 2012 at 4:57
  • 1
    -1 This "solution" requires flash. When a solution of my problem in 2017 requires flash I want my problem back.
    – Noir
    Apr 10, 2017 at 22:36
  • Don't like having my data stored somewhere outside of me,... Cloud storage, is as far as I would go for my data,... I want my drawings, pictures, documents, to be in locally readable format,... !
    – kravemir
    Mar 30, 2018 at 6:35

By looking in the Dia official FAQ, I discovered there is a way to extend Dia and its elements set.

Extending Dia

Q: How do I add new shapes/sheets? A: An explanation is given in doc/custom-shapes in the source distribution on how the shape format works. However, Dia now also has the capability of exporting a diagram as a shape. Each collection of shapes (called a sheet) should be kept together in a subdirectory of ~/.dia/shapes, e.g, ~/.dia/shapes/Engines. To make a shape, first design it in Dia. Then export it into your subdirectory. Two files will be generated, a .shape file and a .png file (the icon).

From version 0.90 and up, Dia features a Sheets and Objects editor which will allow you to load the shape into a sheet. It will also update Dia's loaded objects on the fly.

If you still want to do things by hand, update the corresponding sheet file in ~/.dia/sheets, in this case called Engines.sheet. Example contents of a sheet file is:

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="iso-8859-1"?> <!-- -*- xml -*- -->

<sheet xmlns="http://www.lysator.liu.se/~alla/dia/dia-sheet-ns">
  <description>Mechanical Engines</description>
    <object name="Engines - Gas">
      <description>A gas engine</description>

Each new object should be added to the sheet by adding an object section. Next time you restart Dia, the new objects should show up in the list of sheets.

So I suggest you to add your own shapes to Dia and live happily:)

  • For anyone who wants nicer looking shapes in Dia, I've exported the VRT shapes from this answer and posted the link in my answer here. Apr 23, 2020 at 0:06

yED Graph Editor is a desktop application that can be used to quickly and effectively generate high-quality diagrams. It can also be used to generate network diagrams. Here is a sample diagram that was created using this software.

Network Diagram

Source for the above image: yED image gallery

  • +1 Very nice! Controls (like moving/creating objects) are a bit different than usual, but I feel that it could be more efficient than Cacoo with a bit of doc reading. Even though not open source, unlimited files is a great plus over Cacoo. Website says both yED and yEd so not sure about the capitalization. Feb 18, 2013 at 10:45
  • 1
    A little warning for everyone who's interested: The latest Linux release at the time of this post contains almost no network related shapes. Maybe there are more steps required to draw stuff like on the provided picture but it doesn't look like you get things done with this quickly. I haven't tested the browser version of this because it's either broken or it requires java enabled in the browser (If this is the case: WTF dudes? It's 2017)
    – Noir
    Apr 10, 2017 at 22:52
  • Checkout my stencil set, so you can easily import this into yEd: github.com/danger89/yEd_cisco_network_icons @Noir Oct 21, 2018 at 2:26

I still find dia to be a great option, and I'm curious to know why you find that the network diagrams don't look adequate.

In my experience, there are a large number of traditional network diagram shapes such as the conceptual drawings for routers, switches, etc., as they are used on documentation (like what comes from Cisco)... and it looks just the same. Please let us know what you find is missing in Dia, so that someone can go ahead and create the shapes we may all find really useful :)

There are, admittedly, a number of issues with connecting things and other aspects of using dia that are different if you come from a Microsoft Visio background, but to me, it still seems to work great. When I researched it, it was still the best diagram editor around for this type of work.

As far as I know, all the elements I described there are available in the stock dia. You will want to look for the shape sheets with names starting with "Cisco".

  • 1
    +1 The Cisco elements are indeed more numerous and a bit nicer, but still b&w pixel-by-pixel drawings, and there is no rack-shaped server. btw: I never tried Visio. Dec 7, 2010 at 2:03
  • Right. I do have them in color though, maybe you just need to use a newer version of dia? FWIW, lucid has the color drawings. That said, few applications ship with rack-shaped servers if you're trying to do visual plans of what goes where from the front of a rack -- images for this are either shipped by the hardware vendors, or you get to have to take a picture of your hardware :) Dec 9, 2010 at 17:15
  • For anyone who wants nicer looking shapes in Dia, I've exported the VRT shapes from this answer and posted the link in my answer here. Apr 23, 2020 at 0:07

I recently found a Dia package called gnomeDIAicons and although not a large set of icons they do look good.

Here's an example I just put together:

enter image description here

To install, download the archive and in the terminal:

cd /usr/share/dia/
sudo tar xf ~/Downloads/rib-network-v0.1.tar.gz

In case you are using Ubuntu 14.04, 16.04, 17.10 or 18.04, the package dia-rib-network is available (see here). You can install it with:

sudo apt install dia-rib-network

Then open Dia and choose the RIB-Network sheet.

  • +1 Very nice! I would love to see this set extended. It seems to be Open Source, so I wonder why it is not included by default in Ubuntu's Dia. Jan 8, 2013 at 1:18
  • For anyone who wants additional nicer looking shapes in Dia, I've exported the VRT shapes from this answer and posted the link in my answer here. Apr 23, 2020 at 0:07

Another tool to create nice network diagrams in real 3D is MaSSHandra.

It has all Cisco symbols as a external download and includes autodiscovery and access features inside the diagrams. It's free and you can see how it works before install it from here.


MaSSHandra web site

  • 2
    This looks like the one they used in the movie Jurassic Park!
    – Aaron
    Jun 21, 2014 at 20:43

An alternative to Cacoo might also be Gliffy, although I'm not certain what their shape/stencil support is like though. Worth a look nonetheless.


Though may seem like an odd choice, I find inkscape to be a great tool for diagramming, particularly network diagramming. Its output is svg, making it very portable and attractively rendered. And underneath, there is xml -- which you can manipulate programmatically (e.g., parse, search, edit, or even tie into other data sources for descriptions or other variable attributes). And it is Open Source.

By the way, here are the Cisco stencils, for those who might be interested. Formats include svg, jpg, bmp, tif, eps, wmf.


kivio Install kivio is a diagramming application within koffice (the office suite of KDE) called kivio, which comes with a set of stencils for different types of diagrams. Additional stencils can be purchased, but the program itself has the basic set. NB: Kivio is now called 'Flow', and is part of the Calligra office suite 3.

Jgraph is Java based and it is a commercial product. But it has a free version for basic use.

See the screenshots of kivio here


I agree that the in-built shapes in Dia are a bit aesthetically lacking. To come up with a solution, I have taken the VRT Shape Gallery linked to in this answer and exported them from LibreOffice to SVG files and to Dia sheets. I've created a Git repo for it with installation instructions for Dia:


I've been using them and found it offers a nice compromise between Dia's easy to use diagramming features and VRT's nice looking shapes.


I use the graphviz utility, but it is not for the faint of heart. It has a steep learning curve, but I am satisfied with the results I get.


Recently I began using a Chrome Application called CREATELY . It includes a lot generic network icons and also has nicer and more modern Cisco shapes than Dia.

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