Best ER Diagram Tools

While old-timers might enjoy putting together an ERD in a drawing tool, most people just don’t have time to spend on perfecting the entity-relationship diagram manually and just want a tool that can generate the ERD as part of the design process.

As databases become more complicated, trying to create your database object without an ERD is going to result in missed indexes and badly normalized data.

It is difficult to spot all of the objects that you are going to need in the database just by instinctively drawing up a list of tables and keys.

Here is our list of the seven best ER diagram tools:

  1. Dataedo EDITOR’S CHOICE A database documentation solution that automatically generates an ERD from the current state of a database schema. This is a SaaS system and is charged for by subscription.
  2. DataGrip An IDE that includes database management services and an instant ERD generator. It installs on Windows.
  3. Lucidchart An online chart creation and editing tool that includes an ERD symbol library.
  4. SqlDBM An online database design system for teams that includes a reverse engineering facility.
  5. dbForge Studio A range of database design and script development support tools available in flavors for MySQL, SQL, Server, Oracle, and PostgreSQL.
  6. DbSchema A package of database design and management tools that includes ERD tools and SQL development support. It is available in free and paid versions.
  7. Dbdiagram.io A web-based ER diagram tool that enables design sharing. It is available in free and paid versions.

The ER diagram will extend over many “pages” and that means you will need to generate views of different areas and also get a tool that enables you to scroll around a much larger design area. Straightforward utilities that enable you to zoom in or out, query each entity for its attributes, and try out different relationships really help. A tool that supports the entity-attribute step, suggests attribute groupings, and generates the ERD with all keys and relationships automatically identified is even better.

The best ERD tools

Not everyone has the same process for designing a database. Some people like automated ERD tools, while others are going to start unpicking features in a generated ER diagram. Some people just like to be able to create an ERD, while others just want one created automatically so they can move on to other tasks.

Thanks to the endless varieties of human nature, there isn’t one ER diagram tool that would suit everybody. Therefore, when looking for the best ER diagram tools, we selected a range. Some are little more than graphics packages, while others support the entire database design process and can even connect to the database and set up the schema for you.

Similarly, the price range for ER diagram tools is very wide. There are free tools and some very expensive systems. As with all things, you get what you pay for, so the price of each tool reflects its list of features. Free tools are more basic than paid tools and very expensive tools keep working throughout the service life of the database and end up being an automated database management system. We have tried to address the full range of requirements for ER diagramming systems.

Our methodology for selecting an entity-relationship diagrammer

We reviewed the market for ERD creation tools and analyzed the options based on the following criteria:

  • Must have an ERD symbol library
  • Ability to spot many-to-many relationships
  • SQL generator to create database objects
  • Drag-and-drop facility for entity movement
  • Identifiers for candidate keys and primary keys
  • A free trial or a demo package to allow assessments to take place without payment
  • Good value for money from a time-saving tool delivered for a fair price

Using this set of criteria, we looked for a range of ERD editors that make database planning easier.

You can read more about each of these tools in the following sections.

1. Dataedo

Dataedo

Dataedo is a database management system that will automatically document any existing database. An ERD is part of the document set that this system produces.

Key Features:

  • SaaS package
  • Generates an ERD from an existing schema
  • Allows adjustments
  • Updates the database for design changes
  • Generates documentation

When the Dataedo service reads through a database, it interprets tables into entities, columns into attributes, and constraints/indexes into relationships. This is a reverse engineering strategy that gets you a clear image of a database schema’s layout, which is a great help if you are taking over a badly-managed database. Once the ERD has been compiled, the console allows you to make changes to all objects and implement those changes in the database on demand.

The Dataedo service includes other database documentation systems. The service is a cloud-based system and is available in two plans: Pro and Enterprise. While the Pro version focuses on documenting databases, the Enterprise service includes schema change tracking and data discovery and classification. The data discovery utility is useful for businesses that are implementing a data security standard, such as PCI-DSS because it enables personal information to be located.

Documentation, including entity-relationship diagrams, can be extracted as reports and saved in HTML, Excel, or PDF formats for distribution. It is also possible to extract a part of the ERD into a separate diagram to focus on that subsystem in cases where you want to explain the database to others or create a revamp project. It is also possible to show relationships across databases.

Pros:

  • Offers a great visual representation of database dependencies and workflows
  • Supports a wide range of databases such as Google Cloud SQL, Azure SQL, and Amazon Aurora
  • Supports drag and drop organization
  • Automatically builds an ERD from database schema

Cons:

  • Would like to see a longer trial period

Dataedo is a top-end tool. The quality of its user interface and its database mapping functions are second-to-none. This is a subscription service with a rate per user per month. You can experience the service on a 14-day free trial.

EDITOR’S CHOICE

Dataedo is our top pick for an ER diagram tool because it deftly extracts the current data dictionary of a database schema and represents it as an ERD. This service is very useful for those who need to get a good overview of a database that has no existing documentation. The tool enables the DBA to redesign a database and update objects through the ERD. Dataedo can extract sections of an ERD and also show relationships across databases.

Get a 14-day free trial: dataedo.com/free-trial

OS: Cloud-based

2. DataGrip

DataGrip

DataGrip is an integrated development environment (IDE) so it is aimed at developers as well as DBAs. The tool is very feature-rich. It gives you a live data dictionary view of a database schema with drill-down views of each object. Clicking on a table, for example, brings up a drawing of that object and all of the relationships it has with other objects.

Key Features:

  • Runs on Windows
  • Well organized editor
  • Interprets existing schemas live
  • Generates SQL

The console includes an ERD view of a database schema, which is generated automatically. These ER diagrams are just for viewing – you can’t alter the database by changing features on the ERD. However, it is possible to create objects within the data dictionary list view and every change you make in the console will be implemented in the database. In turn, those changes show up on the ERD view. So, DataGrip can be used to create a database as well as view or modify an existing schema.

As it is designed to support SQL creation, this tool also includes an SQL editor that provides access to a command list, and clause prompts assist in the correct formation of a query. Scripts can be created within the IDE through an editor that checks syntax and automatically formats code to make it easy to read. The IDE then saves a completed script to a file and lets you run it on an attached database.

DataGrip can interface to MySQL, Oracle, SQL Server, MariaDB, PostgreSQL, Cassandra, Amazon Redshift, and SQLite DBMSs. Reporting tools in the dashboard enable the ERD to be stored and printed for distribution.

Pros:

  • Supports automatic ERD generation
  • Allows administrators to create and manage their database from inside the tool
  • Automatically formats code and checks for syntax errors

Cons:

  • Could use more data visualization features

The software for DataGrip installs on Windows and it is available for a 30-day free trial.

3. Lucidchart

Lucidchart Data Flow Diagram

Lucidchart is a diagram and chart editing package. In this software package, you can create, update, and import ERDs to develop a database schema.

Key Features:

  • Online tool
  • ERD symbol library
  • Integrations with Slack and Dropbox

The Lucidchart system is a general diagram editor, so it isn’t able to interact with an actual DBMS. Instead, you use it to create your ERDs and then translate that into tables in the database manually.  As such, you are not limited to the creations of ERDs with Lucidchart. As well as being an ER diagram tool, this is a flow chart creator and can also support the creation of Data Flow Diagrams (DFDs) for your database optimization projects.

A big benefit of Lucidchart is that it has a good list of integrations that make ERD sharing very easy. So, if your main need for an ERD tool is to provide a basis for discussion, then this software is a good option. It integrates with cloud file storage systems, such as DropBox and team collaboration systems, including Slack.

Pros:

  • Supports ERD creation, editing, and imports
  • Supports a wide variety of database types
  • Is highly visual and scales well even in enterprise environments
  • Makes collaboration easy by integrating with tools such as Google Drive, Dropbox, and Jira
  • Offers four plans, making Lucidchart accessible to any size team

Cons:

  • Has many different options that can take time to fully explore

Lucidchart is a cloud-based service and it is charged for by subscription. The lowest edition is Free. This gives access to one user. The three paid editions are Individual, Team, and Enterprise. The Individual version and the Free version only allow one user per account. The Team version allows three users and the Enterprise edition is a customized service.

4. SqlDBM

SqlDBM AdventureWorks v25 - Diagram Explorer

SqlDBM supports the creation of database schemas through E R diagramming. The software is available online, so it can be accessed from anywhere, enabling distributed teams to work on the database.

Key Features:

  • Cloud-based
  • Generates an ERD from a databases
  • Writes back changes

The SqlDBM system is able to connect to databases run by SQL Server, MySQL, PostgreSQL, Snowflake, Oracle, and Amazon Redshift. The user assembles an ERD with the assistance of prompts from the environment.  Once the design has been settled, the service connects to the database and generates all of the described objects.

Rather than creating an ERD from scratch, it is possible to import an existing database and get that interpreted into an ERD for editing.

Each account can be accessed by several users. This enables many people to work together on the creation or alteration of the ERD. All changes generate a new version of the design and it is possible to revert to an earlier version. The created design is held in the account and so can be accessed regularly by team members.  It is also possible to create a web page of the ERD to let third parties see the database design without being able to change it.

Pros:

  • Supports ERD import
  • Designed for enterprises and larger databases
  • Supports multiple database types including PostgreSQL, Redshift, and MySQL
  • Features an elegant interface that leverages color to keep things organized

Cons:

  • Lacks ERD creation

SqlDBM is a subscription service with three plans. The Basic plan is for access by one user. There are many higher functions that aren’t included in this plan, such as automated database documentation. However, both design and reverse engineering functions for databases are included. The Business plan is for multiple users – you choose how many. That edition includes database assessment and documentation. The Enterprise plan includes extra DBA tools. There is also a free version, which allows only one project to be developed at a time.

5. dbForge Studio

dbForge

dbForge Studio is available in flavors for SQL Server, MySQL, Oracle, and PostgreSQL. Each is a full database management suite that includes diagramming utilities for the creation of ERDs. The system will also generate an entire documentation library for an existing database.

Key Features:

  • Database manager
  • Extracts database design
  • Live database structure changes

ERDs based on existing databases can be altered by adding entities and connecting them with new relationships, identifying foreign keys. ERDs can be annotated and it is possible to create packages of functions and procedures within the database structure. You can zoom in and zoom out on the viewer. The ERD can be printed in part or in its entirety.

Once an ERD has been settled it can be translated into database objects and implemented. The objects of this new database are made available to developers through the IDE interface. This is able to autocomplete statements as they are written in the editor. The development editor also offers a visual query builder from a library of functions and clauses.

Pros:

  • Offers ERD diagramming and creation
  • Users can create diagrams through a simple drag and drop workflow
  • Automatically pulls database properties and dependencies
  • The preview pane makes it easy to search different columns and indexes

Cons:

  • Designed specifically for SQL Server

There are three versions of each flavor of dbForge Studio: Standard, Professional, and Enterprise. The ER diagram tool is included in all editions. You can try any version of dbForge Studio on a 30-day free trial.

6. DbSchema

DbSchema

DbSchema is a database design and management system that is based on an ER diagram tool. The software is able to create ERDs for relational and NoSQL databases. The diagram editor provides a library of ERD symbols and the designer places them on the canvas to create an entity and add attributes to it. Nominating keys, foreign keys, and setting relationships are very easy too.

Key Features:

  • Free option
  • Available for Windows, macOS, and Linux
  • Design version control

As well as enabling the creation of ERDs for new databases, DbSchema can connect to a database and extract the data dictionary to automatically generate an entity-relationship diagram. This is a great help when trying to manage an undocumented database.

DbSchema provides access to multiple users, allowing design by a team effort. The ERD tool is able to merge several diagrams, which lets individuals work on separate sections of the ERD to be amalgamated into one design. The ERD is saved as a model and it is possible to store several models of the same schema. This is a necessity in situations where there are different objects in different database instances. Such a scenario is common – for example, a development or test database will have new objects in it that haven’t yet been rolled out to live.

The ERD model storage system is a useful aid for DBAs because it acts as a database instance version management tool. DbSchema is also able to compare models and produce different reports, which enables DBAs to keep track of which development objects need to be rolled out to live.

When the ERD is ready, it can be saved to file in PDF or HTML format and it will continue to be available within the ER diagram editor for adjustments.

Once the ERD has been finalized, it can be implemented as database objects. DbSchema performs database table creation through the generation of scripts. DbSchema also includes support tools for developers, which include the Visual Query Builder, an SQL Editor, and a Data Generator. The tool can also manage the import or export of data.

Pros:

  • Works with both local and cloud-based databases
  • Offers built-in collaboration features for teams
  • Lightweight tool
  • Supports reverse engineering schemas

Cons:

  • Could use a longer trial time
  • Could benefit from an improved UI

DbSchema installs on Windows, Linux, and macOS. It is available for no charge with a Free edition. This includes the data dictionary extractor, the ER diagram tool, and the SQL Editor. A paid version, called DbSchema Pro adds on the data management and schema synchronization services. There are three license levels for DbSchema Pro: Academic, Personal, and Commercial. Even the top license for businesses is very economical. You can get a 15-day free trial of DbSchema Pro.

7. Dbdiagram.io

Dbdiagram.io

Dbdiagram.io is a web-based service that focuses on the creation and distribution of ERDs. The diagram creator has a main panel with a design canvas and a side panel for a coding interface. The ERD can be created by commanding objects in the code panel and then dragging elements around on the canvas.

Key Features:

  • Online system
  • Free version
  • Generates DB creation scripts

The ERDs created in Dbdiagram.io can easily be shared. A completed diagram can then be implemented into database objects. On-demand, the tool will generate SQL scripts for object creation, which you just run in your database to set up the schema.

Pros:

  • 100% web-based service – no install or deployment required
  • Can automatically generate scripts for object creation
  • Offered in both Free and Pro editions – great for small operations

Cons:

  • Could benefit from more visual reports and monitoring

Dbdiagram.io is available in Free and Pro editions. The free version enables the creation of up to 10 ERDs at any one time. The paid edition has more design presentation features and no limit to the number of ERDs that can be stored in the system. The Pro version also allows for individual user accounts and version control.

ER diagram tools FAQs

Which tool is used for ER diagram?

You can use any editing system you like to create an ERD as long as you remember to create your own library of boxes and arrows. However, finding a system that already has those graphic elements built in saves you time. A package that can extract a design from an existing database is great if you particularly need to alter a database design.

What is the best ERD tool?

Recommended ERD tools are:

  1. Dataedo
  2. DataGrip

    Lucidchart
  3. SqlDBM
  4. dbForge Studio
  5. DbSchema
  6. Dbdiagram.io

How do I create an ER diagram in Excel?

Excel’s appearance can be altered with format templates an there are flow chart templates available. However, in order to use Excel for creating ERDs, you would need to set up your own template and it just isn’t worth the effort. Look for an editor that already supports ER diagram creation.