Speed Up Your UX Work: Tables in OmniGraffle 6
OmniGraffle 6 comes with a new feature called Tables. If you use OmniGraffle for wireframing or creating mockups, this feature might come in handy whenever you want to graffle any sort of tabular data. A tabular view on data is a common requirement for enterprise software. Another use case would be the creation of repeating patterns. In Axure, these use-cases are realized using a Repeater Widget, but it is hard to find a similar function in OmniGraffle. Here’s how it works.
Be sure to check out my follow-up post about creating flexible stencils with tables.
Note that there are new menu entries under Edit→Tables.
Also note that tables are actually fleshed out groups. In fact, you can ungroup a table at any time using
cmd+shift+u. This is probably the reason why so many features that we know from other table-supporting software is missing in OmniGraffle. For instance, there is no way of reordering rows or columns.
Tips and Tricks
The tables-feature is not flawless. I’ve come across some issues and shortcomings. Here are my top 3 grievances and workarounds:
- Creating a table „post hoc“
You can make a table out of multiple shapes but not grouped of items. This can stump you when you have drawn something that includes stencils and think „Great, now I need that 10 times in a row!“ Experienced grafflers will reach for the stamp tool and miss out on the handy table features. Table enthusiasts, however, will have to create a new table from scratch.
- Icon support
Icons or other stencils are usually grouped shapes. Because groups can’t be made into a table it is somewhat awkward to include icons in your table. A novice may resort to arranging icons over the table but as soon as the table needs to be resized or moved, all the icons have to be moved as well. This is no way of living and robs us of one of the key advantages of tables. OmniGraffle has a little known feature though that makes tables support icons after all: text fields can contain shapes. Simply paste the icons (or any shape, really) into the cells in editing mode and you’re golden. I have shown this in the steps above. Be aware that the shapes can’t be changed anymore once they’re pasted. Positioning them correctly can become tedious. One solution is to give them their own column. That way, you can at least position them using the type inspector.
This workaround is not without problems though. Oftentimes, the cell margins will change unpredictably. When that happens, try to edit a neighboring cell (i. e., add a random character, leave the cell, remove the random character). This can make the offending cell snap back to normal. Also, sometimes shapes will appear to be cut off at the edges. I have not yet found a satisfying way to repair that. Try emptying the cell and pasting the shape again.
- Cell management
The OmniGroup people have been careful to avoid feature creep. They have left out a way to create single cells. This wouldn’t be so bad had they not included a way to delete single cells. My advice would therefore be: never ever delete single cells unless you really mean it. The only way to get them back is through cmd+z or ungrouping, repairing and remaking the table. Instead, empty the cells in editing mode.