Thursday, 2 July 2015

Gliffy vs Plantuml

At work we have used Trac3, especially it's wiki, as well as PlantUML2, which fitted seamlessly inside Trac.

Recently we have moved over to Confluence3 and a different diagram tool called Gliffy (which company makes an excellent plugin for adding Gliffy to Confluence)1.

After working with both PlantUML as well as Gliffy, I thought I'd write down some points in favour of both.
UML Images are generated by interpreting a simple and intuitive language.
a Web-based drawing tool for diagrams


Pro Con Comments
Layout is handled by the tool itself Influence of user on layout is limited makes it easy to create diagrams quickly
software with required libraries without UI
possible integration via commandline, for example batch jobs, software buildscripts to generate documentation automatically (javadoc for example) difficult integration with Confluence
a simple and intuitive language makes it easy to create diagrams quickly it is a markup language, and therefore more suited to software developers
strong focus on UML limited number of diagram components, strong focus on UML
very easy to change existing diagrams, even very complex ones


Pro Con Comments
Layout can be adapted in every little detail You get stuck having to draw instead of simply create diagrams makes it difficult to create or change diagrams quickly
Web tool - no obvious software needs to be installed (only on the server) Responsiveness is not great in a web browser
excellent integration with Confluence by means of a plugin
even managers might be able to use it which is a really really bad idea.
lots and lots of diagram components, including UML
very difficult to change existing diagrams, sometimes things need to be redrawn5


If you wish to draw UML diagrams quickly, and integrate them into your build process, PlantUML is the way to go.

If you need all the flexibility you can get and you don't mind having to draw and layout things yourself, Gliffy is the way to go.


[1] Gliffy
[2] PlantUML
[3] Confluence
[4] TRAC - Integrated SCM and Project Management
[5] impossible to change the type of a component in Gliffy
work around is to delete the entire component, and create a new component of the correct type


  1. There is another tool that can be taken in to a comparison. Its called creately and its an online diagram and collaboration tool to create 50+ diagram types. There are 1000s of diagram templates and examples are available in the diagram community to be used freely.

    1. I shall have a look. It seems like a direct competitor of Gliffy. It also has a Confluence plugin available.

  2. There is a free confluence plugin for plantUML... and it is way more simple to use: it is just text to enter. Gliffy in the other hand requires you to open and create your graph in another web tool...