Complex diagramming on an online whiteboard

diagrams.net 19 Oct 2021

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Many people prefer a minimal interface for diagramming, as there are fewer distractions. While online whiteboard applications often have a limited set of available tools, diagrams.net lets you use its advanced features in a less cluttered diagram editor theme.

As the interface is simpler at sketch.diagrams.net, the advanced diagramming tools are in less obvious places.

There are many additional tools to create more complex diagrams and customise the sketch.diagrams.net online whiteboard
To work with a dark background, select Dark from the sketch.diagrams.net menu

Display and hide panels and floating dialogs

Click on the arrows to the right of the title of panels and floating dialogs to expand or collapse them, or click on the cross to close them. Drag them around the drawing canvas to get them out of the way of your diagram.

  • Shapes: Click on the Shapes tool in the toolbar on the left.
  • Format: Expand the panel on the right.
  • Layers: Click on the menu icon in the top left, then select Layers.
  • Tags: Click on the menu icon, then select Tags.
  • Freehand: Click on the Freehand tool in the toolbar on the left.

Create multi-page diagrams

Multiple pages are useful when you need to drill down into details or explore alternatively solutions, but keep all the diagrams together in one file. You can also add links on shapes that open another diagram page when you click on them.

  1. Enable Preferences > Pages in the menu.
  2. Click on the three vertical dots in the lower right. The pages in your diagram are listed on top, with the current one indicated with a check mark.
    • Insert Page adds a new diagram page.
    • Remove … deletes the current diagram page.
    • Rename … lets you rename the current diagram page.
    • Duplicate … makes a copy of the current diagram page.
      Work with multiple pages in your diagram in the sketch.diagrams.net online whiteboard

Learn more about working with multi-page diagrams

Set additional diagramming features

In the menu under preferences, you can enable or disable a number of features.

  • Theme: Switch to another diagram editor theme. This requires you to refresh the browser tab - make sure you save your diagram first.
  • Language: Change the language used in the editor.
  • Units: Choose a measurement unit - points, inches, millimeters or meters.
  • Ruler: Display or hide a ruler to the left and top of the diagram editor.
  • Sketch: Enable or disable the hand-drawn rough ‘sketch’ style on shapes, globally (enabled by default)
  • Search Shapes & Scratchpad: Display or hide these features in the Shapes floating panel.
  • Configuration: Set default styles for shapes, custom fonts, custom templates, custom shape libraries, and more. Learn how to configure the diagram editor
    Set preferences to enable some of the more complex diagramming features on the sketch.diagrams.net online whiteboard

Some options are available in the format panel on the right. Make sure nothing is selected in your diagram so you can see the Diagram tab.

  • Grid: Display or hide the drawing canvas grid. Disabled by default.
  • Page View: Display the drawing canvas as a printable pages, or as an infinite canvas. Disabled by default.
  • Background: Change the background colour, set a background image, or use one diagram page as a background image for other pages. You must enable Preferences > Pages to use this feature.
  • Shadow: Add a shadow globally to shape outlines, connectors and stand-alone text shapes. Disabled by default.
  • Connection Arrows, Connection Points & Guides: Display or hide the features that appear when you hover over a shape, or move a shape near other shapes on the drawing canvas.
  • Mathematical Typesetting: Enter LaTeX or AsciiMath to render equations neatly using MathJax. Learn more about using maths in diagrams
    Additional diagramming features can be enabled or disabled via the Diagram tab in the format panel on the sketch.diagrams.net online whiteboard

Do more with shapes

Right-click on a shape to open the context menu, then select Edit. From there, you can work with shapes in many different ways.

  • Edit Style to define a specific shape style with key-value pairs.
  • Edit Data to add custom properties (metadata) and placeholders to shapes.
  • Edit Link to add a URL or a custom JSON link.
  • Edit Image to change the image used in a shape label.
  • Edit Tooltip to define a tooltip that appears when you hover over the shape.
  • Edit Geometry to change the shape’s geometry.
  • Edit to highlight and edit the shape label.
    Right-click and select Edit, to specify custom shape styles, properties, links, image labels, tooltips, and geometry

Create a diagram from CSV, text, UML and SQL

  1. Open the menu, then select Import from to see the various advanced diagram creation tools.
  2. Select one of the options to open a dialog with an example. Replace the example with your own text, and click Insert.
    Import from various text formats to automatically create, connect and style diagram elements

Learn more about these import options:

Share and comment on diagram files

If you are using cloud storage platforms - Google Drive on Microsoft OneDrive - to save your diagram files, you can share your diagrams with others.

  1. Click on the person icon in the top right and select Share.
  2. Choose the sharing option you want to use and make sure you have set the permissions appropriately - public lets you share a link to the diagram file with anyone.
  3. If you are using Google Drive to store your diagram files, click on Comments to view, respond to, edit and delete comments on your shared diagram file.
    Share diagrams stored in online storage platforms and comment on diagrams stored in Google Drive

Work with complex tables

Create complex tables with table, row and column titles (such as cross-functional flowcharts) using the Table tool in the toolbar on the left.

When you have selected a table or a row, click on the Table tool again to add or remove columns and rows. These tools are also available in the Arrange tab in the format panel. Hover over any tool to see a descriptive tooltip.
Work with complex tables in the sketch.diagrams.net online whiteboard

Drop shapes and text into the table cells, then drag connectors between them to create complex flow charts.

Use tags to display or hide related shapes. Display the Tags dialog in the whiteboard-style editor via the menu.

Work with layers in a diagram. Display the Layers dialog in the whiteboard-style editor via the menu, or press Ctrl+Shift+L on Windows, Cmd+Shift+L on macOS.

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