Dia is a powerful free open source flowchart diagramming software; and it would be a true alternative to Visio if it wasn’t for a rather unfortunate flaw: the lack of nice, easy to understand network shapes. Let face it, network diagramming not only serves as a tool to help IT staff visualize a network but also, to impress other people (e.g. the boss), who may or may not be as proficient visualizing these diagrams. Dia, unfortunately, totally fails in the “impress” category. Its crude network icons seem made more for super nerds than for regular human beings. That being said, there is an alternative: Dia allows for installation of additional 3rd party shapes. There is, however, no easy way of porting Visio stylesheets to Dia but you can install similar shapes which would serve the same purpose and would make your network diagrams look just as nice.
The following instructions will show you how to install the gnomeDIAicons, a set of network and database shapes that will make your network diagrams look as nice as Visio’s. We are assuming that you have Dia properly installed in the default directory.
Note: Icon edges look jagged only in Dia. Final outcome is smooth.
– Create a new directory.
– Double click on the gnomeDIAicons tar file and uncompress it to the directory you just created using your favorite compression program. The shapes come compressed in a tar.gz format which any of the popular compression programs like Winzip, Winrar or 7zip should be able to handle.
– Enter the new directory containing the uncompressed shapes and copy the “RIB-Network” directory to the “shapes” directory in your Dia installation folder. The path should be C:\Program files\dia\shapes.
– Copy the “rib_network.sheet” file to the “sheets” directory. The path should be C:\Program files\dia\sheets.
– Open the shell prompt and issue the following command to enter the dia installation folder:
– Once inside, issue the following command to copy the compressed file to the Dia directory:
cp PATH/rib-network.tar.gz .
Note: Do not forget to include the dot at the end of the command.
– Finally, run the following command to uncompress and install the gnomeDIAicons.
tar zxvf rib-network.tar.gz
How to Find the gnomeDIAicons in DIA
– Open Dia, and on the toolbar, click on the sheet selection drop down list.
.- Click on “Other Sheets“.
– Click on “RIB-Network” to select the gnomeDIAicons.
GnomeDIAicons are certainly not complete; some important icons are noticeably missing like the firewall and laptop icons, but it is a good start in the quest for a real alternative to Visio. It is such a shame that these icons have not been updated since 2009.