- Friday April 28th, 2006
I draw/create a lot of diagrams - logical architectures, network diagrams, flowcharts, process workflows and a huge number of exposition diagrams designed to explain complicated concepts in visual form (I am currently particularly proud of my ISO17799 exploded framework diagram). To create these diagrams I have become a Visio master. Now unlike most of the other Office products becoming a guru in Visio is a lot harder than it looks. Visio is Office’s little lost cousin. It was acquired in 2000 from Visio (formally Shareware and before that Axon and founded by a crew of ex-Aldus people) and thrown into the Business Products Division and then ‘integrated’ with Office. Whilst generally it behaves like a good Windows/Office application - uses the right shortcuts for Print/Save/Open etc - it also has quite a few quirks (bad habits) that date from its previous owners. It has also not always been the world’s most stable application. It is certainly not easy or intuitive to learn to use and trying to get it to do some seemingly basic things can be most troublesome. Indeed the general process of constructing diagrams can be time-consuming and painful. In summary, Visio mostly looks like other Office products, smells kinda like other Office products but occasionally leaves a bad taste in your mouth. Then I bought a Powerbook and it came with a trial version of OmniGraffle - the Mac equivalent of Visio. Now I had no desire to learn a new product but last week on short notice I had to produce a logical architecture and only had my Powerbook with me. So I opened up OmniGraffle and started to work. Thirty minutes later I had my architecture. It was quick and easy and unlike almost every Visio diagram I’ve ever drawn it actually looked good without me needing to spend hours tuning colours and layout. I was quietly stunned. Simple, intuitive and generates great diagrams. I have since gone out and purchased a full license for the Pro version (which allows the import and export of Visio diagrams) and consider it money well spent. It sadly doesn’t run under Windows.
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