Omnigraffle for iPad, or I really wanted to like you

I’m a fan of Omnigraffle for Macintosh, so I’m sad to report that the iPad version is so poor.

A palette from OmniGraffle for Mac

Omnigraffle for Mac has always been a clunky but useful product. It’s optimized for arranging pre-made shapes (called stencils) relative to one another. This makes it easy to create basic drawings, and makes the product very useful in certain phases of the design process. Flowcharts and wireframes (schematic user interface drawings) are this app’s sweet spot.

But Omnigraffle for Mac has always had a weaknessin its interaction model. Although most of the basic work in the application can be done by direct manipulation, you very quickly find yourself working in a chaotic blizzard of palettes–secondary windows that allow you to set the properties of a selected object. To be fair, this is a problem that a lot of drawing programs share, but some manage it better than others. And many have refined palettes to the point where the major problems (window pollution and mode shifting) are reduced or eliminated. Omnigraffle palettes are old-school by comparison.

Omnigraffle for the iPad though takes this basic structural problem and simply ports it to iPad. There’s a problem though: no palettes on the iPad. The result? Palette interactions are now handled as “popovers,” essentially modal pop-up property windows. Some of us remember the days before palettes were invented, and we remember our pleasure in first using them because they were so much better than modal pop-up property windows! But now we’ve taken a giant leap backwards!

Omnigraffle for iPad should be so much better. It would be lovely to be able to take my graffle drawings with me on my iPad. But to make the app successful, Omni is going to need to radically rethink the interaction model, kill all of those popovers, and aggressively replace them with interactions based on two-handed multi-touch direct manipulation.

1 comment Write a comment

  1. I have to agree with you. I bought omnigraffle on the ipad hoping to do some sketch wireframes with it (like I do on my mac). Unfortunately it doesn’t do it. It’s a pretty app, but completely unusable for my purposes.

    For $50, I wish apple offered refunds.

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