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network diagram/picture tool recommendations?

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I suppose the real question here is how I worked with computers this long without learning how to be proficient with powerpoint or some suitable facsimile there of. But, however it happened, I have no real skills with any of the software tools commonly used to create a diagram consisting of text in boxes and lines.

But now I want to create a legible diagram of an ethernet LAN consisting of around 20 PCs and at least 4 switches ranging from simple 5 port Netgear boxes to 12 and 24 HP Proliant boxes.

Does anyone know of a (free) tool which makes this easy? (I can dream, can't I?)

Since the above seems unlikely, any recommendations, links, or suggestions on how to not make creating a simple network diagram into a lot of (pointless) work would also be appreciated.

I figure it never hurts to ask, no? Just trying to avoid the scenario where I look back and say, "Wish I'd thought of that before I started this".

-irrational john
Thank you very much!

Thank you very much for the links. I haven't found the time yet to look into them, but I already feel I'm further ahead than I otherwise would have been.

I've never used Visio since it's not something I can afford, especially for a "hobby (sorta)" project like this. (Heck, even if I had the money to pay for Visio, I'd probably spend it on some other toy that I'd figure I'd enjoy more. :))

But, just out of curiosity, what does Visio bring to facilitate a job like creating a network topology diagram? To put it another way, what does it add that makes it an arguably better than something like powerpoint or a powerpoint facsimile?

-irrational john
I'm no Visio wizard....but its ability to export and import drawings with other IT related apps, and its huge amount of available objects you can import into it (pictures from the major vendors). Instead of having bland boring objects that somewhat represent your computers/servers/switches, etc..you can get fairly exact pictures in there, detailed, down the brands and models.

It has set the industry standard.
+1 ! It's the ability to import real world representations of the equipment [as supplied by all major vendors] which makes your diagram(s) mean more with less error in interpretation. That's why Visio is considered the best IMO.

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