OmniGraffle 5: Shape Selection, Re-Styling and Color Picker in Detail


OmniGraffle 5 Diagramming Essentials

OmniGraffle 5 Diagramming Essentials

Create better diagrams with less effort using OmniGraffle

  • Produce high-quality professional-looking diagrams that communicate information much better than words
  • Makes diagramming fun and simple for Macintosh users
  • Master the art of illustrating your ideas with OmniGraffle
  • Learn to draw engaging charts and graphs to grasp your viewers' attention to your presentations
  • A hands-on guide filled with visual step-by-step examples that cover both the basics and the advanced features of OmniGraffle
        Read more about this book      

(For more resources on OmniGraffle, see here.)

Easy shape selection

When diagrams become complex and you want to change the appearance of many of the same objects, you can either hold down the shift key on your keyboard and select the shapes you need to change, or you can use the built-in selection functions in OmniGraffle.

There are three built in methods of selecting shapes:

  1. The Edit | Select | Similar Objects menu command.
  2. The context sensitive menu when right-clicking on selected shapes (Select | Similar Objects).
  3. Using the Canvas: Selection inspector.

If shapes are connected to each other, it's also possible to select connected shapes from the application menu or the context sensitive menu. You will deal with connected shapes later.

What OmniGraffle defines as similar shapes

Similar shapes are shapes that have exactly the same styling, not the form, type or size of the shapes. The styling can be; the fi lling color or blend of the shape, the stroke thickness, the corner radius, the stroke color, the shadow, if the shape is filled with a picture and if the shape has an associated text.

Neither the size of two or more shapes, nor the content of the text will make OmniGraffle define the shapes as dissimilar.

If you change the font type, weight or color–then OmniGraffle will define the shapes as dissimilar.

As the few examples in the table below show more often than not, shapes that are of the same type (rectangle, circle, and so on) are dissimilar.

Shapes Explanation Result
Same font, color and weight, but different text. Similar shapes.
Difference in the fuzziness of the shadow. Dissimilar shapes.
Different font size. Dissimilar shapes.
Different color.
Different text, but same font, color and weight.
Dissimilar shapes.

Let's explore how easy it is to select similar shapes.

Create an OmniGraffle document with only 4 shapes: Rectangle, Circle, Diamond, and Triangle. Mix them all together so it's not easy to manually select various shapes.

In the download bundle, Ch:7, there is a file named Experiments in shape selections.graffle—you can open this if you do not want to create your own version.

In the Canvas: Selection inspector (seen in the previous screenshot), you will see the four different shapes. Under each shape, there are two numbers separated by a forward slash (/). The number on the left indicates how many of the given shape are selected, and the number to the right of the slash is the total count of shapes on the current canvas.

As you can see in the Selection inspector, we have 11 rectangles, 9 triangles, 10 circles, and 10 diamonds.

To select all the diamonds on the canvas, click on the diamond shape in the Selection inspector. Notice that the numbers below the shape are now reading 10/10. If you click on the Fill style inspector and use the color named Honeydew from the Crayon color palette—all the diamonds change into this color.

Now, click on the rectangle in the upper-left corner and right-click to get the context sensitive menu. Then select then use the Select | Similar Objects menu command, as seen next:

Now all the rectangles are selected.

Fill the rectangles with the color named Tin from the Crayons color palette.

The next thing you are going to do is to select four of the circles and fill these with a yellow color.

Notice that the Selection inspector now has five different shapes:

You can now continue on your own to experiment changing various style properties to the shape groups.

Selecting connected shapes

You are now going to perform some experiments with connected shapes. Start with a diagram like the one next. You can either create this by hand, or you can open the file named Experiments in shape selections.graffle found in the Ch:7 directory in the download bundle.

The diagram is found on the second canvas. Notice that all shapes are connected to each other.

If you look at the Selection inspector, you'll see four shapes, where the lines are one of those shapes.

OmniGraffle defines descendants to a selected shape as all shapes that are either connected to the right of or below the selected shape.
OmniGraffle defines ancestors to a selected shape as all shapes that are either connected to the left of or above the selected shape.

The following table lists a few actions and their corresponding results while working with connected shapes.

Action Result
Choose (select) circle number 1 and execute Descendants from the Edit | Selection menu.
This action results in the selection of the shapes connected below and to the right of the chosen shape.
Select circle number 2 and choose Ancestors from the Edit | Selection menu.
This action results in the selection of shapes connected to the left of the chosen shape.
Select circle number 3 and choose Ancestors from the Edit | Selection menu.
This action results in the selection of shapes connected above and to the left of the chosen shape.
Select square B and choose Descendants from the Edit | Selection menu.
This action result in every shape except circle number 1 and square A being selected.
Select square C and choose Ancestors from the Edit | Selection menu.
The shapes connected to the left of the chosen shape are selected.
Select square C and choose Descendants from the Edit | Selection menu.
The shapes connected below and to the right of the chosen shape are selected.
Select any shape and choose Connected Objects from the Edit | Selection menu.
This action results in the whole diagram being selected since every shape is connect to every other shape, either directly or indirectly.

Selecting all these shapes—either by form or by connections seems like a very powerful tool, and indeed it is.

With this way of selecting shapes, you can easily change the look and feel in a consistent manner throughout your whole diagram.

Easy re-styling of shapes

Instead of selecting similar shapes, and then changing their appearance by using the style inspectors, you can also drag and drop styles from the Style Tray directly onto the Selection inspector.

Start your experiments in the easy re-styling of shapes by creating various shapes, and fill some of these with various colors.

To save you some time and get right into the experimentation, you can also open the file named Experiments in re-styling shapes.graffle, which is found in the Ch: 6 folder of the download bundle.

We're not quite happy with only having four yellow circles.

Your first task is to make the rest of the circles yellow. Unfortunately, you do not know which yellow color these circles are – you could work with the color picker to get the right yellow. This is too much work. Let's do this the simple way.

In the Selection inspector, you will see all the different shapes, including the four yellow circles. If you use the file from the download bundle, you should have the yellow circles as the first shape in the inspector.

To select all the yellow circles, you could click on one of the circles and then use the Edit | Select | Similar Objects menu command. This is too much work really.

Just click on the shape inside the inspector.

What happens now is that all the yellow circles have been selected.

In the Style Tray, the styling for these shapes is now shown:

You can now drag the color chit (//Image 43) on to the white circle in the Selection inspector.

Suddenly all your circles have this shade of yellow.

And it's not only the color we can change in a second like this. In fact, your next job is to eradicate all of those gray and boring squares and instead replace these with the green and happy diamonds.

This is also just a two-step process.

Start by clicking on one of the diamonds in your canvas.

Now, drag the Complete Style Chit (the leftmost of all the chits) onto the gray squares inside the selection inspector.

Not only does this change the color of the square shapes— but it also changes the shapes into diamonds.

You can thus drag any chit from the Style Tray onto any shapes both on the canvas , and also onto the Selection inspector.

This is a very powerful tool to aid you in getting a consistent look for your shapes.

You can also use this method to search and replace a lot of shapes in one go. No need to manually hunt around on a shape-by-shape basis.

        Read more about this book      

(For more resources on OmniGraffle, see here.)

Color picker tricks

So far in the book you have changed the color of a shape, lines and text by first clicking on a color well, and then selecting the preferred color. This process can be quite tedious, and OmniGraffle will, for most tasks involving color-change, let you drag a color from the color picker directly onto a shape, the text or a line.

Start by drawing a rectangular shape on your canvas – and place the text This text belongs to this shape inside. The stroke thickness is set to 5 points, and the font is 18 points Helvetica.

You are now ready for some color picker magic.

Hide all the inspectors by using the Inspectors | Hide Inspectors menu command . If you prefer to use the keyboard shortcut, this is .

If the color picker is not visible— use the Inspector | Color to make it visible (the keyboard shortcut command is ).

You should now have just the color picker and the shape on the canvas visible.

Select the Color palette () on the color picker. Then select Crayons in the Palette drop-down list.

Click on the Cantaloupe color and drag this over the oblong. Notice how the inner side of the oblong will pulse in a red hue. This is an indication that you are about to fill the shape.

When releasing the mouse button, the shape is now filled with the Cantaloupe color.

Dragging a color onto the border of a shape, will in fact color the border with the chosen color. If you drag the Lavender color onto the border, the whole border will glow with a red hue.

Finally, you can drag and release the Honeydew color onto the text inside the shape. Notice how not only the text will glow with a red hue, but the whole shape.

If you have dragged and dropped the three colors as suggested in the text above, you'll see that the text (Honeydew color) on the background (Cantaloupe color) is not very readable.

This is a very clear example of two colors that do not have enough contrast when put together. A better color for the text may be a dark color like Eggplant, Midnight, Licorice, or Lead:

The color picker in detail

The color picker consists of five sections.

The Color Picker Selector lets you choose the various ways to pick colors.
From left to right you can choose between:
. Color Wheel
. Color Sliders
. Palette
. Image Palettes
. Crayon Palette
If you are using OmniGraffle Professional, the last selection lets you choose between various patterns.
This section is divided into two tools.
The magnifying glass can be clicked and then used anywhere on your screen to pick a color.
The area to the right of the magnifying glass is the Current Selected Color.
You can drag a color from this tool and onto parts of your shape as you did in the previous section.
The next section on the color picker is dependent on which tool in the Color Picker Selector you have chosen.
From top left the selection tools are as follows:
. The Color Wheel
. The Color Sliders
. The Color Palette
. The Image Palettes
. The Crayon Palette
. The Pattern Palette
The Pattern Palette is only available in OmniGraffle Professional. Excepted for the Color Palette, where you can drag color chits directly onto your shape, you must use the Current Selected Color for all the other palettes. So basically, you choose your color, and then drag the color from the Current Selected Color onto your shape.
The Opacity Slider controls the transparency of the Current Selected Color.
The Color Picker Chits are where you keep your favorite colors. The color palette will be kept for each time you start OmniGraffle or start a new diagram. This is where you should keep your own preferred color palette.
You can at any time drag any of these colors directly onto your shape to fill the background, change the stroke color or the color of the associated text.
To save a color for later use, just drag the Current Selected Color into any of the small squares in this section of the Color Picker.
Clicking on any of these colors will place that very color into the Current Select Color for further manipulation.

The Color Wheel

The Color Wheel lets you choose colors and adjust their brightness. Unfortunately, there is not much tactical feedback, so for all practical purposes you lose the fine tuned control on the variables that make up a color.

If you are a graphic designer, and you have to work with a set of predefined colors, this is definitely not the tool to use.

However, if you want to play around with any colors, any shades and any opacity – this is the tool to use.

The Color Sliders

The Color Sliders let you choose color based on a bit more control.

You have access to the following kinds of sliders chosen from the drop-down list—all giving a different tactical screen based on which color space you have chosen.

Unless you are a graphics professional, you will be more than content using RGB Sliders.

If you are a graphics professional, you have the following color spaces available: Gray Scale, RGB, CMYK, and HSB.

If you are using OmniGraffle Professional, you will have support for Apple's ColorSync technology. You can use the ColorSync Widget () to easily switch between the various ColorSync profiles that are available on your system. If you are unsure what to use here, select Generic RGB. If you print your OmniGraffle documents or export these to other programs, the color may be incorrect. The probable mistake is using the wrong ColorSync profile.

The Color Palettes

For most people, this is probably the best tool to use when creating diagrams. You have access to a fair number of different colors with several predefined palettes available.

The predefined palettes are Classic Crayons, Web Safe Colors, Crayons, Developer, and Apple.

You can also easily create your own palette by choosing New using the Action button ().

The same Action button will also let you rename and remove a user-defined palette.

To add colors to a user-defined palette, just drag the Current Selected Color into the palette. Double-clicking on such a color will let you rename it as whatever you like.

The Image Palettes

This palette will let you choose colors from images you load into the palette by using the Palette | New From File drop-down list.

You can then select colors from these picture-palettes to use in your diagram. When selecting a color, this will appear in the Current Selected Color tool.

If you have not loaded a picture, the Spectrum "picture" will be shown.

Using the Palette drop-down list you can also load a image that you have previously copied to the clipboard.

The Crayons Palette

This is the basic Crayon palette, which you will find in a lot of other Macintosh software titles.

A nice thing about this palette is that you have a clear overview of all the colors available.

The Patterns Palette

The Patterns Palette is only available if you are using OmniGraffle Professional. If you are using the standard version of the software, you can skip this section.

The patterns palette lets you choose between a set of predefined patterns. You can change the foreground and the background colors along with the respective opacity settings.

The patterns work the same way as colors do: You can fill a shape with a specific pattern, and you can apply a pattern to a line or a text.


In this article, you have learned to quickly select similar shapes by using the Edit | Select menu commands.

You have also learned that the Selection inspector can take on shapes, colors, and other style formatting.

Finally, you learned a few tricks on using the color picker so that you do not have to use the various color wells to select and apply colors.

Further resources on this subject:

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OmniGraffle 5 Diagramming Essentials

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