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