I don’t want to buy Visio — for one thing, I’m using it for work, and I don’t want to buy anything for work. But I don’t use Visio frequently enough to warrant paying for a license. I tried a few open source iterations with no success (OpenOffice Draw gave me the exact feeling I remember when trying to use the spreadsheet product — halfway there, but missing a LOT of features that are important to me). I happened across a free-but-not-open-source program called yEd. It’s got a basic shape gallery, I can draw lines between shapes, I can add labels to my lines and shapes. Perfect!
Their sample diagram, though, had a cool gradient effect. Not something I’m apt to use on a serious diagram … but I wanted to know how to achieve the same look. A lot of clicking later:
Select two nodes where the gradient starts. Select “Tools” => “Colorize Graph”. On the “General” tab, set “Highlight Feature” to “Graph Distance”. On the “Graph Distance” tab, ensure “Rainbow Interpolation” is unchecked. Pick your starting color, ending color, and a max distance (I used 250). Apply and you’ll have a vertical gradient across your document.