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Hands on with OmniGraphSketcher


Retailing for a relatively hefty US$14.99, OmniGraphSketcher may initially leave you scratching your head and wondering exactly who the app's target audience is. OmniGraphSketcher offers a free-form drawing application for creating graphs and charts. With it, you can illustrate many kinds of numeric information, just as you would by using the chart features in a normal spreadsheet. However, OmniGraphSketcher isn't powered by spreadsheets. It's powered by human drawing, and that's a rather odd combination; it's also the application's main feature.

There's not a lot you can customize creatively when working with a standard spreadsheet graph. OmniGraphSketcher helps build persuasive illustrations that break the cookie-cutter sameness of pie-charts and bar graphs and hopefully brings design excellence to the table. This app isn't about mathematical precision, it's about beauty.

You choose the axes, the labels, the drawing style, and so forth. Like OmniGraffle, most of the functionality is placed into a pair of modes (line drawing and filled drawing, which I used to create the graph at the top of this post). An inspector popover lets you customize how each feature is colored.

The software is, clearly, first generation. I ran into a fair number of bugs both before and after Omni issued a bug-fix 1.1 release. Even now, you cannot easily move labels within a shape. I worked around this by creating separate labels and dragging them to where I wanted them to be rather than where the app wanted to put them. I could not order my objects back to front, but I realized that deleting a shape and undoing that action moved each shape to the front. (I initially drew the shapes purple, then red, then green, but wanted them ordered in the sequence you see above.)

I admit readily that I'm an engineer, not an artist. (The picture shows this quite clearly.) While the idea of creating artistically enhanced illustrations appeals to me, I have no talent whatsoever to really make the most of this application. I'll stick with spreadsheets, I'm afraid. For anyone who does have that artistic spark, you may find that this application will help you build those persuasive graphics, even when you're on the go.

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