If you’re still creating graphics or diagrams from dull, basic objects, chances are you haven’t tried OmniGraffle Pro 7 yet. Sure, the app still allows you to quickly create such basic graphics, but even if you’re under a lot of time pressure, the new version makes it easy to make something that will stick in people’s minds. Something that goes far beyond rectangles and circles interconnected by arrowed lines. OmniGraffle 7 is a dream to work with for designing interfaces, diagrams, infographics and dynamic, data-rich graphs. I had the opportunity to try out the Pro version.
I’ve known OmniGroup’s OmniGraffle since I first started using a Mac and believe me: that’s a long time ago. Since that first version, OmniGraffle has come a long way. The first versions were really only about creating presentation graphics and organisation diagrams. Version 7 is far more broad-minded. It allows you to create website wireframes, electrical systems, office layouts, family trees, maps of software classes and other vector art as well.
New in OmniGraffle 7 are the infinite canvas, the point editor tool, keyboard shortcut sets, basic SVG import, a new sidebar and export panel. Pro users also get Artboards and Artboard layers, point conversion to Bezier curves, conversion of text and of lines to shapes.
OmniGraffle 7 Pro Artboards
The Artboard and Artboard Layer functionality is the biggest new feature. Artboards are objects that reside on a new type of layer, an Artboard Layer, that sits beneath your design. They’re used to define export areas for objects on the layers above and act as containers of objects.
In OmniGraffle you can drag all the objects on an Artboard Layer around a bigger canvas — even if they are only partly included — by defining an Artboard shape. This is directly accessible from the toolbar or by using the “Make Artboard” option. As Artboard Layers only define the export of objects on the layers above them, you can have multiple Artboard Layers, with the bottom one exporting all of the layers above it, the one above that, less objects than the one below, etc.
Since OmniGraffle’s Artboard Layers define what gets exported, their concept also allows for basic support of animation. I defined two Artboard Layers. The top one had one Artboard on it, while the lower one had three on it. The first included only a star, the second the star and part of a circle and the third part of the star and the whole circle. The export dialogue enabled me to export these three “states” to three PNGs, JPEGs, PDFs, GIFs, etc. If the export capability would include an animated GIF feature, I could have created an animated GIF in the simplest way possible. But even without, you can easily see how powerful OmniGraffle 7 Pro’s implementation of Artboard Layers is.
Other improvements and new features
A new Infinite Canvas is now available too. Using a user-friendly graphical icon you can resize a canvas to any size you want. Activating the four arrows gives you infinitely growing space along the four sides.
An exciting new feature of the Pro version is the ability to convert text and lines to shapes. This allows you to create a logo from an existing font, for example. With lines that means you can quickly and effortlessly create variation in line thickness and form.
In addition, OmniGraffle 7 Pro adds a dedicated tool for editing Bézier points on shapes and lines, the Point Editor tool. When this tool is active, selected objects show their Bézier points and Bézier control handles. Now if you select a shape or line that is not yet Bézier, its points will be visible and any change to its points will automatically convert that shape into a Bézier shape.
These four new features take OmniGraffle 7 Pro close to a vector drawing tool the likes of Affinity Designer, although the app stays true to its origin as a presentation graphics application by letting you connect shapes with no effort using ‘magnetic’ points.
Another new feature that takes OmniGraffle into more general-purpose vector drawing waters is the measurement capability. If you select one or more objects, holding the Option key, you can see how far the objects that you now mouse over are located from your selected objects. To make this really useful, OmniGraffle now lets you set distance measuring to anything from Apple points to kilometres. I did notice the Measure feature sometimes doesn’t seem to notice you’re hovering over an object — it will then measure the distance to the canvas edges instead. This could be a bug and if it is, it will be fixed soon.
The export interface has been re-designed. It now includes the ability to export to multiple resolutions up to 1000%. You are in control of resolutions in that you can set up your preferred sizes yourself.
Importing SVG files is now supported as well. You can also copy as SVG, which enables a much more efficient workflow if you’re working with SVG files.
Keyboard shortcuts are another improvement. In the Pro version you can even create your own shortcut sets.
There are more new features and improvements than I have listed here, but OmniGraffle 7 Pro looks even cleaner than its predecessor. It now has the most powerful features I’ve ever seen in a presentation graphics application. In fact, I think you can use OmniGraffle 7 Pro for general purpose vector drawing, although its main purpose remains drawing structured graphics — user interface prototypes, floor layouts, diagrams, etc.
For existing users of OmniGraffle, version 7 is more than just another update or upgrade. The new version may look familiar, but it is far more powerful than it used to be. OmniGraffle 7 costs $99.99 (about €91.50), and the Pro version is $199.99 (about €185). If you can afford it, buy the Pro version. Its features are really worth it. Upgrading is possible too at a discount.