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Master elements: on the feature roadmap at all? Thread Tools Search this Thread Display Modes
As an information architect, the single most valuable improvement to OmniGraffle would be master elements -- for objects that are used frequently within a document, such as headers or footers. A change to a master is reflected everywhere the master is used.

This has been requested many times before, e.g.

In none of them have Omni representatives responded. Could you please let us know whether this feature is on the OmniGraffle roadmap?

If not, as much as I like Omnigraffle, for my next large wireframing job I'm going to move to Axure.

Take a scenario: Let's say in my website wireframes the search box design needs to change, adding an Advanced Search link, say. That means I have to copy and paste the thing about 90 times across my entire document. Master canvases do not solve this problem. At best, I can use them for the header, as that's the only element that usually doesn't change position on the page.
You can used Shared Layers for this very purpose. That said, would you prefer a master objects scenario or a named styles kind of feature?

Master objects (at least to my mind) would be a cloned object, change it once, it changes everywhere else that it is cloned at.

Named styles would be a little different, you assign a named style to N number of objects, then change the style in its own little bit of UI and those style changes propagate.

Both of these are being looked at, and they are similar in a lot of way, we're curious as to which would be preferred by the community asking for something along these lines.
"Vroom! Vroom!!"
Additionally, you can use LinkBack to handle this as well:

1. Make the object or objects you want to use over and over again
2. From the Edit Menu -> Copy As submenu, choose PDF

(the copied PDF now is embedded with the LinkBack information)

3. Paste wherever and however many times as desired
4. Double-click the PDF and you will get a new OmniGraffle document with the original objects in it; make desired changes, save, and it will update everywhere

Not the most optimal solution, but for the purposes of wireframing it should work well.
"Vroom! Vroom!!"
Sorry, when I referred to Master Canvases in my post I actually meant Shared Layers. I use those lot, but they're not really a substitute. As I mentioned, I can use them for a page header, but only because that always stays in the same place.

Named styles would be nice, but it's not a feature I'm desperate for. It also doesn't solve the same problem.

So yes, it's Master Objects I'm after. A cloned object (which could consist of any number of drawing elements) that, when edited, updates all other instances of that object.
Thanks for the LinkBack tip! I'll try it out, and see if it solves my problem.
I've started using PDF LinkBacks in wireframes now, as a way to get what I'd call "master elements". When it works, it's exactly what I need, but it seems buggy.

Very often when I double-click a LinkBack element to edit it, I get an error message. Currently this one:
-[OGGraffleDocument count]: unrecognized selector sent to instance 0x1376fe50
It seems to depend on which part of the object I double-click. Some bits give the error, others don't.

This makes me very nervous, because if I rely heavily on this, I fear I may end up with corrupt documents where I have no way of editing some elements without recreating them.

The user interface for LinkBacks is also rather weird. If you open the LinkBack document, and make a change, and Cmd-W to return to your document, you're prompted to Save. If you do, you get a standard Save dialog, which is completely what you *don't* want to do. Instead, you're supposed to just Cmd-S to save, then Cmd-W to return to the master document. This is hardly obvious!
For me:

1 Master Objects, not styles.

2 The Link-back is great but different. I would say clean it up and name it for what it is, instead of this "linkback" and unnamed business. Clean it up means make it render perfectly (as a group, not a PDF or a TIFF). Just think about it for a minute. Forget that it is available through the CopyAs function. What it really is, is a master object, across all your OG docs. Give it a name and save it as such. Then I can go to it (named location) and fetch it, and paste it anywhere I want. Right now it only exists contextually.

3 For Master objects, once I clone them, they are no longer Master objects, they are clones, as at the date of cloning, local. If I change the Master object, the NEXT clone is changed, but not all existing clones. Now I realise this is exactly the opposite of what others need, so we need a setting on the Master Object inspector: ChangeAll or FutureOnly. And it gets rid of the weird "change any instance, and all instances are changed" function.

Last edited by DerekAsirvadem; 2010-05-24 at 02:35 PM..
First of all, thanks for the link back tip, Ken. Although it isn’t perfect (e.g. actual shape sizes are changed by the stroke size and shadows), it certainly is a great way to fake master objects until you guys can implement something better.

Regarding Joel’s inquiry, I think that master objects are a must for people who will use OG as an wireframing tool. I’m sure you guys have a better breakdown of how people use your software, but if a large percentage are indeed using it for web/print/software wireframes, they would LOVE this feature.

Named styles would be great too, but it doesn’t strike me as too radically different from the style inspector you have now. Perhaps just allow users to name those styles. It’s already pretty powerful IMHO.
I'd just like to toss a vote in the hat for this functionality. To be honest, I was pulling my hair out trying to find this when first using OmniGraffle as it seemed like such a bafflingly obvious feature! I actually expected Stencils to act in this way for the sake of sharing object libraries within an organization.

Ideally for me, we would be able to place an external graffle as a sub-graph or stencil within a new document. Each placed instance inherits from the original document, but deltas are saved in the current graffle (with a contextual menu and/or inspector command to clear "local" deltas, and "bake" selected objects to remove inheritance).

This would allow one or more people on a development team to share a master library of re-usable components across many documents, while accommodating tweaks and content "branches" for testing revisions or moving between projects with unique requirements.

For wireframing, beyond maintaining objects like headers, footers, logos, etc, we could then for example stub in "gray box" content/navigation areas, and iterate individually, delegate to different content owners, etc. (not to mention maintain consistency across company or project documents).
I have also been trying to figure out how to do this exact thing before realizing it just doesn't exist yet. I've played around with the Linked Object functionality, but I too am nervous about it for the same reasons as fjordaan.

Would love to see this feature! Would improve my quality of life so much :)

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