OmniGraffle does the trick

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Between lots of other things I’ve been working on updating the org charts for my part of the world here in Computing & Communications.

For years I’ve done org charts using Visio. I’ve been using Visio since it first came out. The early releases of Visio were small, fast, easy to use, and reliable. Over the years, since Microsoft acquired the product, it’s had more and more features layered on to it, and it’s become (for my purposes at least) far harder to use and far less reliable. Why is this story so familiar with Microsoft applications? The original version of Word for Windows was one of my favorite pieces of software ever – now I can rarely fire up Word except to read .doc files that come attached to emails.

As an interesting aside, Jeremy Jaech, UW alum and one of the co-founders of Visio, is now working on a social calendaring effort called Trumba.

The other day I fired up Visio on my WinXP box and worked away at the charts for a couple of hours. When I went to save, Visio crashed – poof – all my work, up in smoke.

After spending a couple of days resolutely ignoring the problem, I decided yesterday to think about alternatives.

I went online and bought a copy of OmniGraffle 3 for Mac OS X (I bought the professional version).

After spending a couple of hours I now have updated versions of my org charts (pending a couple of edits to get the latest job titles), and I’m sold on OmniGraffle. It’s easy to use, the features all seem to work as you think they ought to (or at least as I think they ought to), and it hasn’t crashed on me yet. I am particularly taken with the way centering lines just appear as you drag objects around to try and align them with other objects on the page – brilliant!

The current version of OmniGraffle has a Visio XML import/export feature – I haven’t tried that yet, but it might encourage people to try OG.

A really fine product from an even more local company – they’re even on this side of the lake!

And for creating the web links between the layers of the organization, I used the nice Taco freeware html editor, which makes a breeze of creating image maps!

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