OmniGraffle for Bureaucracy

by William Van Hecke on March 9, 2007

Good day.

It took me a while to realize this, but almost every time I need to put some kind of stuff on a page, and it makes a difference where on the page that stuff is, OmniGraffle ends up being the best tool for the job.

Let me 'splain: OmniGraffle might not be the first thing that comes to mind when you need to fill out some official forms for the U.S. Government. Or, say, some character sheets for your weekend Dungeons & Dragons session. But it should be. Check this out:

  • Grab an electronic version of the form you need to fill out. Scan it if you have to, but most official forms are available as PDFs these days. Some of them even claim to be fillable, but I've never gotten them to work properly in Preview or Acrobat.
  • Copy each page from the document (in Preview) and paste it onto a fresh OmniGraffle canvas.
  • For each canvas, lock the layer that has the form on it, and create a new layer for your information.
  • Make text objects all over the canvas to fill in each blank. Once you have a text object you like, you can Option-drag it or paste it all over and just replace the text.


Why this is so much handier than filling out forms by hand:

  • You can use the alignment inspector and smart guides to make sure everything is lined up just right and perfectly legible.
  • If some of the boxes are really tiny, you can play around with the font to get everything to fit in there just right.
  • Filling out the same info over and over is easy: just copy and paste the existing text objects with the info you need.
  • Once you've saved the file, you automatically have a backup copy for reference or revision.
  • You can make an OmniGraffle template that has the right paper size, two layers per canvas, and a nice grid for keeping things orderly.

When I was going through the process to get someone a visa to live in the USA, this technique saved me heaps of time and stress. And now I have backups of every form (there are lots of forms involved).

Have you found any weird or unexpected uses for Omni apps? Maybe next time I'll tell you about how I'm using OmniGraffle as a level editor for a video game I'm working on…


OmniPlan 1.1 beta 4

by William Van Hecke on March 8, 2007

This beta release contains plenty of stability, import/export, printing, and AppleScript support improvements. We have completed the AppleScript changes that were planned for 1.1, so if you run into any problems there, be sure to let us know.

Please keep in mind that this release is still under development. Your feedback will help us improve the software, and we apologize if it crashes, corrupts your files, steps on the piano keys at night, or otherwise misbehaves. A more stable release is also available.

As always, please let us know if you have any questions or comments. You can contact us directly via our support page or by using the Send Feedback command in OmniPlan's Help menu.

Download and enjoy.


Omni goes skating, skating rink wins.

by Rowan on March 5, 2007

To celebrate the launch of OmniPlan, the Omnis went to the Lynwood Skate and Bowl, where we had way too much fun.  What we discovered is that Ken has an alternate life as a professional roller skater (or something), and proceeded to skate circles around the rest of us (usually backwards, on one skate).  He then took us to the bowling alley, where he showed me how to throw many strikes in a row.  I did not fare as well, but at least I beat my old record of 27.

There were unconfirmed reports of some morning-after sickness which may or may not have been related to the food, though apparently people not even present had some problems, which tells me that the food served was of a truly spectacular and long-reaching variety.

Liz decided that she didn't need her wrist guards that she uses for rollerblading, she was wrong:

liz broken


It's hard out here for a weasel

by Linda Sharps on March 5, 2007

You know, it's tough to be a marketing weasel in a company like Omni. I'm forbidden from telling outright lies, or padding product copy with too much rich, delicious, creamery hyperbole. I can't email all of our customers with Enticing Limited Time Offers because Omni has this totally RESTRICTIVE belief that spam is evil and only people who deliberately join mailing lists should hear from us and even then, I'm forbidden from using the phrases “reverses aging” or “consolidate debt”, and the word “enlarges”.  (Which is too bad, because I had this great campaign idea about OmniPlan Enlarging Your Productivity 2 To 5 Inches, but apparently that's a NO GO.)

Omni actually cares about being as genuine as possible, and not dripping sales-slime all over the place as we conduct our business. Then again, we are a business, and even though we don't want to trick people, even though we want you to make your purchase because you're happy with what we're offering, we do sort of have to, you know, ask for the sale.

So I'm hoping you can give us some feedback on an issue we've been struggling with lately. As you may know, we offer demo versions of all our software. Currently, we've got a few different unlicensed-mode strategies going on: OmniWeb lets you try everything for 30 days; OmniOutliner, OmniGraffle, and OmniPlan limit you to 20 items or less, and OmniDiskSweeper disables the “delete” button. You can download one-day trial licenses for any product on our website, too.

Here's our challenge:

• We'd like to have a consistent approach to these demos

• We'd like to allow a potential customer to adequately try the features of a given app

• We don't want to be too annoying

• We do want to encourage people to make the purchase if they like it

• We can't let people use our software for free (well, except for OmniDictionary)

What are your thoughts? When you use demo software, what system works best for you—that is, doesn't drive you nuts, helps you determine whether you like it, and ultimately makes it easy for you to buy it?