Tool Review: Cacoo

Thursday, February 17, 2011 at 9:54 am
Jennifer Dick's picture


What’s the first thing you do when you’re trying to figure out how to think through a complicated problem with lots of information and steps? I don’t know about you, but I tend to reach for pen and paper to visually organize my thoughts. Drafting a flowchart can be a really helpful way to work out what tasks are dependent upon others, where you need to get your information from, and other factors. Sometimes in the middle of your chart creation, you realize that you forgot an important step — and it’s back to the drawing board. Literally. Unless you used a digital tool like Cacoo, that is.

Features
Cacoo is a web app that makes many kinds of diagram and charting tasks as simple as drag-and-drop. Their menus include basic shapes, call outs, room floorplan items, site maps and wireframe tools for webpage design, and iOS and Android app design elements. The interface is very intuitive and user-friendly. You can change an object’s properties, such as line and fill color, using a simplified inspector window that will make sense to Adobe CS users and neophytes alike. In addition to drawing from the vast library of shape options provided by Cacoo, it’s very simple to add your own images from either your computer or elsewhere online.

Because Cacoo is a Web 2.0 application, they’ve also made it very easy to collaborate with others. Sheets can be shared with team members, and if they’re logged in at the same time, you can IM them through the in-browser chat window. You can also share entire folders.

Sample Classroom & Youth Program Applications

  • All Subjects: At the beginning of a project, have student teams create a chart of what steps they need to go through in order to complete the project. This helps them learn backwards planning and deal with project management in the future!
  • Computer Science — Programming: As part of the program design process, have students create flowcharts showing the flow of data and operations required in the finished program. They share their flowcharts with each other (or actual programmers if possible) to get ideas for improving their design prior to coding.
  • Computer Science — Networking: Cacoo also has quite a few icons for charting a computer network, so if your students ever have to design their own network for a real or imagined client, they now can quickly create a polished network diagram.
  • Digital Media: Cacoo makes storyboarding films and wire-framing websites easy!
  • English Language Arts: Students chart out their essay arguments starting with the thesis and adding support and analysis — good for helping visual learners construct a strong argument.
  • Math: Have students create a flowchart to model the process of solving a particular type of problem.





Breakdown

 

  • Price Structure: Free & Premium ($4.95/month or $49/year for unlimited sheets, unlimited collaborators, and increased file-type export options)
  • Pros:
    • Very easy to create clean and polished-looking diagrams
    • Can export final diagrams (PNG format only for free accounts)
    • Lots of useful templates
    • Ability to collaborate with other people on your project
  • Cons:
    • If you choose to buy a premium account using PayPal, it will automatically renew, so mark your calendar. At least they’re upfront about this, though.

 

Do you use Cacoo or another diagram creator with your youth? Do you have any activity suggestions, tips, or tricks to share? Comment below or contact us!

Comments

Submitted by Nishadha (not verified) on

A good open source alternative is http://projects.gnome.org/dia/ but they do lack in the collaboration part. A similar web based service is http://creately.com/ , they also have a special pricing scheme for educational institutes. I think ability to collaborate would be a requirement in the future and we will definitely see a rise of web applications.

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