Monthly Archives: July 2006

Visio for OS X – OmniGraffle

Abstract

OmniGraffle is a great tool for OSX. You know you want it. If you don’t know, try it out and then you will. If you don’t have a Mac, then buy one, and use OmniGraffle.

Introduction

When architecting a solution for a client, diagrams provide a good way of communication. A picture or diagram(often worth a thousand words), can help communicate concepts and ideas well. In Windows land, the tool of choice for doing these diagrams is Visio. Visio has templates and tools for doing all the standard IT diagrams that an architect needs. Visio is owned by Microsoft, and is a Windows only solution.

What about OS X?

Windows only is bad. I have drunk the koolaid, and do almost all my work on my shiny OSX laptop. Unlike Cedric I am a very happy switcher, and am working out how to get things working the way I want them to.

So when picking up the need to do diagramming, I took a dig around at the options on Mac, and ended up with OmniGraffle. It works great. I’d describe it as a Macified Visio. It has really done a good job of working mac like and has a very good interface. A nice touch is that OmniGraffle supports Visio VXD documents.

Nice features

It really is a nice tool to use. A bunch of the bits that I like are listed below (in no particular order).

The pro version provides canvasing, and layering support. My mental picture is that a canvas is like a printed page. Layers are bits that you can reuse nicely across pages.

I have setup a layer that is the master background. For doing processes it has swim lines set up.

Then the canvases can be used to work on top of the layer. The nice part of this is that the background layer doesn’t get picked up by default when selecting items. I can leave the background there and move around the processes easily.

One can easily select items of the same type using the inspect tool.

There is nice support for grouping items.

When dragging and dropping items around, there are snap points, and guides appearing to help line things up into the right spot, making it easy to give nice vertically and horizontally aligned items.

Magnets on shapes (spots where lines connect to) are able to be changed quickly to any number of different options—and the selection of these is quick and easy.

Templates for all the standard diagrams exist. For the so-inclined there are the standard IT/IS/business process elements, world maps, lego style building blocks, and even CISCO network elements.

Conclusion

In case you didn’t realise, OmniGraffle is good. Go and buy it already.

Principal Solutions Architect at OmniEffect

I’ve just joined the team at OmniEffect as a Principal Solutions Architect. It’s a funky sounding title, but does translate to reality nicely.

Principal—number one – top – senior – important guy.

Solutions—I’m about providing solutions to peoples needs. As OmniEffect has a tagline of being an “Information Company”, this focuses around providing IT solutions.

Architect—I’ll be picking up the lead role in working out the solution to build. I’ll be hands on, performing tasks from analysis to cutting code, and helping people to build solutions.

So basically I get to come in and help businesses Information problems. I go onsite and work out where peoples pain is at, then design and develop solutions that remove the pain (integrating with the existing infrastructures wherever possible).

I’ve been on the team at OmniEffect for a few weeks now, and I’m loving it. We have a strong emphasis on delivering working IT solutions, particularly deploying RIAs that glue together various back-end Information pieces for an organisation.

Take a look at the OmniEffect Showcase site for more information about OmniEffect and why I’m having fun.