Around two weeks ago, nulab Inc. announced the launch of Cacoo, a new service for making wireframes, sitemaps, and other diagrammish things. It’s available at http://cacoo.com/. It’s in beta and is currently free, though a premium plan is expected in the “middle of 2010”. For making diagrams and charts online I like Lovely Charts, but I decided to review Cacoo because it allows multiple people to edit charts together in real time. I’m glad I did; this is a great tool!
You have to register, of course. Once you’ve done that, you get a Flash application that allows you to build charts/diagrams using drag and drop images from a variety of libraries, including people, flowcharts, networks, office equipment, etc. Dotted blue lines appear and disappear as Cacoo shows you how your new images line up with other images that you already have in your chart area.
Once you have an image in the chart window, you can resize it, rotate it, add text, etc. There are also tools for rotation, arranging, layers, etc. A line tool makes connecting images very quick and easy. Once the Flash was loaded I experienced very little lag in using it. Here’s a screenshot of some different elements from the libraries connected together randomly.
Once you’ve created your masterpiece, you can save it to the service (a simple checkbox allows you to indicate whether you want your item to be public and gives you the public URL) or you can export it to the PNG format. There’s also a Share window that lets you invite other people to use and work on your diagram; you can either search Cacoo IDs or send invites to specified e-mail addresses.
Between the easy-to-use text and connection tools, and the lines show you how your new elements are lining up with everything else, I am extremely impressed with Cacoo. I am not at my best with these kinds of tools but Cacoo was intuitive and when I got stuck, a right-click or closer look at the menu usually set me on the right track. The only tiny little thing is that sometimes the English on the menu isn’t quite perfect (nulab is based in Japan) but who cares? It was never enough to make using the service confusing. Highly recommended.