Hands on With OmniGroup's iPad Apps

June 17, 2010

Within a few days of the announcement of the iPad, OmniGroup published a blog post declaring their intentions to fully support the iPad with all of the products. At the time, I still wasn’t sure the iPad would a great device for productive work, but they thought it was. And they were right. The two apps they have already made available are part of the reason for that.

OmniGraffle for iPad
I consider OmniGraffle to be a sleeping giant on my laptop. I use it for making site maps and the occasional chart or illustration. But I know it can do so much more. OmniGraffle for iPad brings the same experience to the iPad.

I think what I appreciate the most about OmniGraffle is the diligence and workmanship that OmniGroup put into it. OmniGraffle was available the day the iPad was released, so it was developed before OmniGroup they had access to an iPad of their own. From what I understand, the 1.0 release had a few issues (I didn’t use it until 1.1), but for the most part they did a lovely job of thinking through how the app would work. (Take a look at their demo videos to see what I mean.)

My use for OmniGraffle on the iPad is a little different than it is on my laptop. While it can serve as a stand alone app, I find it most helpful as an extension of the OS X version. For intricate work, I find I still prefer the pixel precision of a mouse. Here are the main uses I’m finding for OmniGraffle for iPad — most of them are related to my design and development work:

  • I love using my iPad in meetings. It’s low profile feels like less of a barrier between others and myself. With OmniGraffle, I can bring along a site map to show a client, and even change and manipulate it on the spot. Saves the hassle of going back later and trying to decipher all my scribblings and arrows on a piece of paper.
  • OmniGraffle is my favorite sketching program. Even freehand drawings become movable objects, so it is easy to sketch out a layout by hand and manipulate it as I please. There are stencils that offer elements for wireframing, but I like to scratch it out, and then do something between a wireframe and a design comp in Photoshop.
  • I’m not much of a mind mapper, but I find that it is helpful to cluster and see ideas visually. Again, this is a use I’ve found handy.

I know that there are specialty apps available for wireframing, mind mapping, and sketching. They all might serve their unique purpose better than OmniGraffle, but the combination of these purposes, the thoughtfulness of OmniGroup, and the ability to open documents between my laptop and iPad has found OmniGraffle a place on my home screen. And in my heart.

OmniGraphSketcher for iPad is a slick app, though I have to admit that I don’t find much use for it. In short, it allows you to sketch out charts and graphs with your finger. It smooths the curves as you go, and easily manipulates lines and fills. As you would expect from OmniGroup, it is well though out and works beautifully. (Again, a demo video gives you a feel.)

If you have a need to create charts and graphs for presentations or documents, it’s worth a look. I don’t, and so it sits a few screens deeper in my iPad, just in case I need it someday. Something tells me I’ll be glad to have it come fantasy football season, when I want to visually talk smack about the superiority of my team.

Wrapping Up
One gripe about both of these apps is their price. OmniGraffle comes in at $50, while OmniGraphSketcher sneaks $20 out of your iTunes account. Are they worth it? That’s up to you, and unfortunately, the app store doesn’t have a means for demos so that you can try them first.

OmniGroup tends toward premium pricing in all of their apps, but they consistently craft some of the most useful and reliable apps. There are a lot of not so great apps being cranked out for the iPad…it’s nice to know that OmniGroup, among others, is making great ones. (Yes, I do have a crush on them, okay?)

Disclosure: I received promotional licenses for each of these apps. I was not required to post a positive review, or any review at all, in return.

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