My Favorite Text Diagram Tools

I love that diagrams can make difficult concepts intuitive. I hate that generally they're stored in opaque binary formats, which make them difficult to version control, and that generally they're created by clicking and dragging buttons and boxes around. Typing is generally much faster and less frustrating.

With that in in mind, here are some of my favorite diagram-to-text tools:

Quick Database Diagrams

Quick Database Diagrams lets you quickly prototype schemas for SQL databases. It's really helped me out at times.


PlantUML is a textual description to diagram generator that features several types of diagrams. My favorites right now are the state diagram and the sequence diagram (both images here sourced from

Using PlantUML with Visual Studio Code

There is a really nice plugin for PlantUML for VSCode. Install it with:

ext install plantuml

Use it by creating a .wsd file to get syntax highlighting and (not so great, but stil useful) auto-completion.

See the commands it provides with Cmd+P, then typing > PlantUML. One very useful command I've found is PlantUML: Preview Current Diagram. Just keep in mind that it can take a few seconds to turn a change into a live preview.

Exporting PlantUML diagrams to Confluence

This method even preserves clickable links

  1. Export to SVG: plantuml -tsvg <name>.
  2. Paste text into HTML macro in Confluence.


graphviz and its associated layout tools dot and neato are tools to generate graph images from text input files. So I don't really use them like I use the previous tools, but I figure they're worth a mention.