I’ve been wanting for the past year or so to do sketch style wireframes in OmniGraffle. My first requests for sketchy line styles were made to OmniGroup in the Spring of 08 along with a few other users, and I posted this comment to the OG List about this feature. I knew how to do this in Visio, and had read that CAD users have something called a “Jitter” line style, so I quietly campaigned for this feature.

Balsamiq launched, and I love it, and would use it in the right circumstances. But I still use OG for documents, so I felt in between places, and unsure how to bring that unrefined look into my UI prototypes. Then David at Design Commission told me about a method he uses to make sketchy wireframes in OG by exporting into Illustrator and importing back into OmniGraffle. David was definitely onto something there.

Today I figured I would play a little bit with the drawing tools in OG. Just because no one knew how to tell me how to do sketch style in OG, didn’t mean you can’t do it. So I looked at my tools. The pen tool is a tool (keyboard shortcut “e”) I use to make irregularly shaped objects. I’m sure very few people use it. I knew that I could make curves and shapes with oddly placed anchor points with it. I also knew that you could add anchor points to regular shapes like elipses, circles, rectangles by making them editable, and then command double clicking on their lines.

Today I had my Eureka moment as I was walking down to Dumbo. I thought, “What the hell, why don’t I just add points to squares and move them around?” I don’t know how I could have missed that as a possible method. So I quickly put together the screencast above. Sorry about the poor audio quality. I was in a huge room with lots of people around talking while I recorded.

I really think OmniGroup could do a better job at explaining their software. If I worked there, I’d be doing screencasts like this all the time. I do a pretty regular job answering readers’ and friends’ questions about OmniGraffle.

Some of you may already know this, but I’ve been planning on writing and ebook for a long time now–one that helps you get the most of OmniGraffle. I think it’s often dismissed as being too light or whatever, but believe me, there is a lot this thing can do. Sadly, some of these things aren’t well documented, and probably many of the uses and applications we’ve come up with were not predicted by OmniGroup. So I feel like it’s up to me start showing others publicly what I’ve been playing at rather than doing it on a one to one basis.

I’m going on vacation in a week and am taking my netbook with me to get ideas organized. Over the past year or so, I’d been outlining all of the advanced features I use in the event that I could find time to publish them in a useful manner. I feel like that time has come, so while I’m away, I’m going to start the work of looking at what I’ve got so far, and preparing to write. Stay tuned.