Tools for Enterprise Architects: OmniGraffle for iPad?

Well, I have to admit to being a bit of an Apple fan and, of course, and early adopter of gadgets and technology in general.  So, when FedEx showed up with my iPad 3G last week, I was a kid in a candy store.  One of the apps that my “buy finger” was hovering over for a while (like all of 3 days) was Omnigraffle for the iPad. 

I imagined that it would be very cool to use this with a customer’s EA’s to sketch out Business, Application, Information and Technology architectures.  Instead of using the blackboard, this seemed to offer promise as a white-boarding tool with obvious benefits over a traditional white-board.  I figured I’d get a VGA adapter, plug it into the customer’s projector and off we would go with a great JAD tool.  The touch pad approach offered an additional hands-on kind of feel.

So, I made the $49.99 purchase + the $29.99 VGA adapter and tried to give it a go.  Well, I was both pleasantly and unpleasantly surprised.  It is both powerful and easy to use.  There are great stencils included for shapes, software icons, Visio shapes, and even UML notation.  There is even a free-hand tool that works well.  I created some diagrams pretty quickly.   The one below was just a test and took all of 10 minuets to do.

The only problem was that Onmigraffle does not recognize the VGA output, so I was stopped dead in my tracks, as it were.  My use case was as a collaborative diagramming tool with other architects, though I can still use it off line.  I called Omnigraffle and they said that VGA support is on the feature request list so, hopefully, in a short amount of time, I can use the tool as I envisioned.

NEW UPDATE: A question I got from Todd Biske “…was whether the touch interface has sufficient resolution. I've tried some basic sketching with Adobe Ideas, and I must admit, I find myself longing for a stylus. Can you comment on this?”

So, the answer is yes.  You can use the 2-finger pinch motion to zoom in and out to well over 600%.  At that resolution you can make all kinds of intricate connections and refinements.  Hope that helps :-)

 

 

Review:

Criteria

Result

Is it fun? Yes
Is it Useful? Yes
Does it Show Promise? Yes
Did the VGA Output Work? No
File/diagram Formats PDF, Onmigraffle proprietary, image

 

Quick Sample:

photo

Stencils

 

 

 

OmniGraffle for iPad - Products - The Omni Group

Comments:

My biggest concern with OmniGraffle (and other drawing tools on the iPad) is whether the touch interface has sufficient resolution. I've tried some basic sketching with Adobe Ideas, and I must admit, I find myself longing for a stylus. Can you comment on this?

Posted by Todd Biske on May 14, 2010 at 02:30 AM EDT #

Slightly off topic, but have you considered using SysML for higher-level EA modeling? One of my colleagues was unsuccessful with finding SysML stencils for OmniGraffle and I was curious if you had any luck.

Posted by Eric Stephens on May 26, 2010 at 03:46 AM EDT #

I'm still cherry-picking reasons to buy an iPad. I like the idea of using the it as a whiteboard tool. Have you tried OmniGraffle over webex? Regarding the VGA connector issue, an ugly interim hack might be to use a VNC viewer with another laptop connected to the customer's projector. At least you can save off whatever gems you create while on-site.

Posted by Gautam Gopal on June 08, 2010 at 02:54 AM EDT #

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