June 15, 2008 at 9:16 pm 5 comments

What is it? What does it do?

Gliffy ( is the world’s first net-native business software. Net-native means that the software was built specifically for the internet and is found only on the internet. It was founded by Chris Kohlhardt and Clint Dickson in San Francisco, California. Gliffy comes from the word “glyph,” meaning a symbol or character that displays information non-verbally. Therefore, Gliffy is an online diagramming service that helps users communicate with a combination of shapes, texts, and lines. Using Gliffy, users can create various flowcharts, floorplans, and diagrams. In an article on Edutopia, Gliffy was described as “a combination flow-chart and brainstorming tool mixed with a social, collaborative wiki” (O’Neal 2008).

What are the infrastructure and technical requirements for this tool?

In order to use Gliffy, an individual needs to have a web browser with Macromedia Flash 7 or better. However, according to Macromedia, 99% of U.S. web browsers are configured with Flash 7 so most individuals who are interested in using Gliffy already have the technical requirements to use the software. Gliffy works on Macs, Linux systems, and Microsoft Windows. Individuals may sign up for a one month free trial of Gliffy Basic, which includes the use of up to five public diagrams. A public diagram is a read-only version of the diagram that anyone on the internet may access. However, only those whom the individual invites may edit the document through the Gliffy Online Editor. An individual may also choose to sign up for Gliffy Premium, which is $5 a month for unlimited private and public access. That is, a diagram may be set to private and viewed only by the creator of the document and those whom the creator specifically invites. Those who are invited to view a private document may also forward or publish the document to others. Larger organizations and academic institutions and/or groups may receive Gliffy Premium for volume prices. For example, an academic group may pay $12.50 a month for 10 users. All pricing information is clearly stated on the gliffy website.

How can you use it effectively in instruction?

Gliffy is an excellent tool for differentiating the content, process, or product within a lesson. The variety of shapes and tools contained within the diagrams are also great for visual learners and they offer a way for content information to be organized for special needs students. It has rich text features, including various font sizes, styles, and colors. Gliffy may also be used for a teacher or student to take notes on during a lesson. Students may use it in the prewriting stage of a written composition. Since it is easy to use, requiring individuals only to drag and drop symbols to create the diagrams, it may also be used as part of a “Must Do” or “May Do” activity during reading / language arts independent work.

What are other education applications for this tool?

A huge benefit to Gliffy is that it can be used for collaboration. Once a Gliffy diagram is created, e-mail addresses of those whom an individual would like to share the diagrams with may be entered. An e-mail is then sent to those people, which contains a link for them to create a free basic account and a temporary password that can be used to allow them to login and see the diagram. The diagrams may also be placed on a wiki or a blog. If a Gliffy document is linked to a blog, the Gliffy document is a live one, allowing others to make changes and additions. Any changes to the original are reflected within the blog links so the most recent document is always the one being viewed. However, a copy of the original document is always maintained in case the creator wants to restore the diagram back to the original version. As a result of these features, students may use Gliffy to collaborate on ideas for projects. Teachers are easily able to track the changes made through the blog.

What are the limitations and cautions related to this tool?

Unlike Kidspiration and Inspiration, Gliffy does not require any software purchases and it is, therefore, more accessible to students, parents, and schools. However, there are some limitations to Gliffy. There are a limited number of projects that can be worked on without signing up for the Premium Service, which requires money. Also, when using Gliffy, it can be a bit challenging to align objects placed in diagrams.

What are the management considerations for this tool?

In order to effectively use Gliffy, students need to have an understanding of how to read and interpret a flow chart. Students are able to import their own images and backgrounds so teachers will need to monitor the appropriateness of the images. Teachers will also need to be aware of any changes made by students who are using the collaborative feature of Gliffy and make sure the changes are content-focused and productive.


O’Neal, C. (January 21, 2008). Get Graphic with Gliffy: Sharing Mind Maps Online. Edutopia (Online). Available: (Retrieved: 2008, June 8).

You Tube Video. Gliffy: Create Great-Looking Drawings in a Snap. Available:


Entry filed under: Collaborate.

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5 Comments Add your own

  • 1. skbrown537  |  June 16, 2008 at 1:19 am

    Oh, this one sounds fun! I like the idea of using it as a collaborative tool as well as all the differentiation capabilities. Thanks for sharing all the information!

  • 2. Debi K  |  June 17, 2008 at 6:30 pm

    Wow! Thanks for the thorough review of Gliffy. We appreciate all the details and your time in explaining our features. Our basic version is always free and some people find easier alignment by selecting multiple shapes and using the alignment functions to the right of the drawing stage. Do you have suggestions for where we might improve given your use and thorough review of Gliffy? We’d love to hear them! Thanks again, debik at gliffy dot com

  • 3. gmdevos  |  June 20, 2008 at 7:17 pm

    This sounds like a fun way to create activities for our writing assignments. Furthermore, it is free! This makes it more available for students to access at home. Any time we can make homework fun it is worth a try!

  • 4. vlockwood  |  June 21, 2008 at 2:07 am

    Your review made me want to visit the site – and I did. Very interesting. I was still playing with – well exploring – it when I stopped to leave this comment. I must admit I was distracted by the floor plan feature. Guess that relates back to my saying I’d like to be an interior designer if I wasn’t teaching. But I will go back in a moment and redirect my focus to education at some level! I can’t believe all the programs out there. I like how Debi K from Gliffy responded to your Blog. That is really interacting!

  • 5. dmorrison2  |  June 23, 2008 at 10:32 pm

    This site seems similar to which is a mind mapping site. One advantage this site seems to have is the ability to use visuals and allow others to respond.


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