New Tutorial: Getting Started with OmniGraffle

by Chuck on April 12, 2016

UPDATE: October 2016
The Getting Started with OmniGraffle tutorial is based on use of OmniGraffle 6 (version 6.6 to be exact). If you have recently purchased OmniGraffle 7, you can still use this tutorial to learn about OmniGraffle; however, there will be some noticeable changes in the user interface. In particular, the Sidebar, Resource Browser, and the Inspectors have all been greatly improved in OmniGraffle 7.

Work began on a new OmniGraffle 6 tutorial a few months ago. We wanted this to be something that was visually-compelling; something that showed off OmniGraffle’s strengths as a diagramming and design tool. Ultimately, we swung for the fences by creating a “family tree” of sorts based on Greek mythology:

The Gods & Goddesses of Greek Mythology

The result is a new tutorial, titled Getting Started with OmniGraffle. This step-by-step guide goes beyond creating a basic flowchart. Rather than just showing you how to connect boxes with lines, you will layout and design a fairly complex diagram, apply a color palette, and explore new ways to work in OmniGraffle 6—and your Mac—as a designer.

While working through this tutorial, you will:

  • Use the Resource Browser to choose a template and create a new document
  • Use the Outline Editor to enter hierarchical data for creating structured diagrams
  • Discover how to open a structured OmniOutliner file in OmniGraffle 6 and use Auto Layout to “flow” your diagram
  • Use the Diagram Layout inspector to explore and choose a layout style for your diagram
  • Create Workspaces from the Inspectors you need to make your design work go faster
  • Add a custom color palette and discover “hidden” features of OS X’s Colors window, and then…
  • …apply those colors to the objects and connecting lines in the diagram
  • Learn how to use layers and create “pseudo-guides” for aligning objects in various patterns
  • Discover how lines connect to objects and reconfigure their positions with object Magnets
  • Apply a color to the canvas
  • Create and style text objects to add a title to your diagram

When you’ve finished working through the tutorial, there’s a bonus section toward the end—Where to Go From Here—where you’re encouraged to push the limits even further. To change up the diagram, either by changing the design or adding more Connection Lines to denote relationships. (And if you’re familiar with Greek mythology, you could end up adding a lot lines to Zeus and his various partners.)

You can read Getting Started with OmniGraffle on our Support site, and there’s also a Zip file to download, which contains the following assets for working through the tutorial:

  • GreekMythology.oo3 — Hang on to this OmniOutliner file for the end of Part 1. This file contains the hierarchical list of prominent members found in Greek mythology, and you will open this file in OmniGraffle prior to starting Part 2.
  • NSColorPanelSwatches.plist — If you so choose, you can add this file to ~/Library/Colors on your Mac to get all of the color swatches you need in the Colors window when applying colors to objects and lines in the diagram.

And, as always, please let us know what you think about Getting Started with OmniGraffle, as well as your thoughts on other tutorials you’d like to see from us.

Summertime Reading from The Omni Group

by Chuck on June 20, 2014

Or, “What’s New in Documentation Land”.

Last December, we started packaging the in-app documentation for many of our OmniApps and distributing those in EPUB3 format through Apple’s iBooks Store. These books are DRM-free and freely available to anyone—not just users of our apps. To date, nearly 30,000 copies have been downloaded; thank you!

Earlier this week, we reached a new milestone by publishing the OmniFocus 2 for iPhone User Manual, in the following languages:

  • Chinese (Simplified)
  • Dutch
  • French
  • German
  • Italian
  • Russian
  • Spanish

These, too, are freely available worldwide on the iBooks Store. We decided that, rather than limiting distribution to the countries or regions in which these languages are predominantly used, that we would make them available to everyone.

This is just the first step; a trial to see if this is doable (and to see how our customers react to these releases). Meantime, the Documentation Wranglers are busy at work at packaging up the translations for all of our apps with the goal of making these available on the iBooks Store as they’re ready to go (pending Apple approval, of course).

Can’t Find Our Books on Your iBooks Store?

Apple allows us to distribute our EPUBs in 51 countries, and we promise to make our books available in every iBooks Store to which we have access. However, a number of you have let us know that, while you can purchase our apps from your local App Store or Mac App Store, our books aren’t available in your country’s iBooks Store. We have been keeping track of the countries as you let us know (thank you!), and want to provide that list here again:

  • China
  • Croatia
  • Hong Kong
  • India
  • Israel
  • Russia
  • Singapore
  • South Africa
  • Turkey

While the iBooks Store is our preferred download method (we’ll get to that shortly), we want to ensure that all of our users can get to the EPUB versions of our documentation wherever you are. If you reside in one of the above countries, or if you can’t find our books on your country’s iBooks Store, you can download any of our books from our downloads site:

Within that directory, you’ll find region folders (for example, de for German, es for Spanish, and so on) for the various translations we have published.

Direct Download vs iBooks Store

So, you’re probably wondering whether you should just use our downloads site instead of the iBooks Store. Sure, you can do that, but there are a few huge advantages to getting our books from the iBooks Store:

  • If you have “purchased” your copy from the iBooks Store (they’re free!), you will receive a notification in iBooks whenever we release an update. If you are getting our books from the downloads site, you’ll have to check that regularly, or keep an eye out on Twitter for when we update a book.

  • One of the many reasons why people want our documentation in a different format is so they can make notes and annotations to things they regularly refer to. And while you can do this with a PDF, once you’ve added a bunch of notes to a PDF file, all of your notes and annotations are stuck in that one file. There is no easy way for you to take the notes and annotations from one PDF file and inject them in another. When you download an update from the iBooks Store, iBooks preserves your notes, annotations, and bookmarks from one version to the next.

  • The final advantage of using the iBooks Store is iCloud Sync. If you are using iCloud to sync books across your iOS devices and with your Mac, all of your notes, annotations, and bookmarks are also synced. This means that a bookmark you make in iBooks on your Mac will show up as a bookmark in the same book on your iPad, iPhone, or iPod touch.

We ask that you first look to the iBooks Store in your country to see if our books are available. If so, please download them from iBooks. If not, then please feel free to use our downloads site.

A Final Note About PDF

As you may have noticed, we have slowly phased out distributing PDF versions of our documentation. The advantages of EPUB (as noted above) far outweigh what you get with a PDF. We are continuing to work on our documentation process and toolchain, with the goal of making our docs more accessible—and printable—soon.

New Books Available on the iBookstore for OmniOutliner 4

by Chuck on February 11, 2014

When we first released OmniOutliner 4 for Mac, we made the tutorial, Working in OmniOutliner 4, available as a free downloadable EPUB from our website. With a few weeks—and a few bug fixes—under its belt, we’re now ready to make all of OmniOutliner 4’s documentation freely available from Apple’s iBookstore. We have created a separate book for OmniOutliner 4’s in-app help, titled OmniOutliner 4 for Mac User Manual, and we’ve made Working in OmniOutliner 4 available in the iBookstore as well.

Both are freely available—and DRM-free—in all 51 territories to which we can publish and distribute our books. The exceptions we know of so far include China, Hong Kong, Russia, and Singapore. If you live in one of those countries, or if you discover that the books aren’t available in your country, please email us at and we’ll provide you with a copy of the book you need.

Meantime, stay tuned for more books from us.

OmniGraffle 6 User Manual, Now Available in the iBookstore

by Chuck on December 4, 2013

At Omni, we’re constantly looking for ways to improve the user experience for our customers, and today we are pleased to announce the release of the OmniGraffle 6 User Manual, freely available on the iBookstore.

We’ve produced the OmniGraffle 6 User Manual using EPUB3, so it can take advantage of everything iBooks for iOS and OS X Mavericks has to offer. Not only is the book free, it’s also DRM-free. By offering the book through the iBookstore, you’ll receive notifications whenever we update the manual, just like you do when we update one of our apps.

EPUB3 makes it easy for us to “version” our documentation, so that when you download an update, all of your notes and annotations aren’t lost. If you’ve enabled iCloud syncing in iBooks on iOS and OS X, the notes you make are available wherever you go.

This release on the iBookstore is part of a new initiative to improve the relevance and accessibility of our documentation. We value your feedback and want to hear from you about what you like, dislike, or would like to see from us in the future. Drop us a line at

  • iBooks:
    • OS X Mavericks: Available for free on the Mac App Store
    • iOS 6 or 7: Check Settings > General > About > Version on iPad, iPhone, and iPod touch.
  • OmniGraffle 6: Available direct from The Omni Group, or the Mac App Store (requires either OS X Mountain Lion or OS X Mavericks).