A Diagram A Day?

A while back I started using Drafts to write every day. But that just turned into a diary. (Nice but not particularly creative.)

I’d like to do a diagram (or sketch) a day. That would

  1. Improve my diagramming skills.
  2. Help me stockpile diagrams that might actually be useful.

I have a ton of diagramming app across Mac, iPad, iPhone. (I also have a Raspberry Pi or 3 though these needn’t feature.) With Drafts I write across all 3 Apple devices (but rarely the Watch).

Question is: What should I consider as a low friction casual diagramming environment? I’m prepared to redraw any diagram that “has legs” but obviously I’d rather not.

Another question is: Has anyone tried this?

Note: I’m not interested in improving my drawing skills.

My default answer would probably be to keep going with OmniGraffle but on a daily basis.

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What sort of diagrams are you after? You could use DOT - there’s Graphviz on the Mac and Instaviz on iPad. In reality though, I’ve not really used this since I finished my PhD and have rarely used LaTeX since then (DOT and Graphviz worked nicely with LaTeX compiled docuemnts).

If I’m after a quick and dirty diagraming software, I used Yed. But that’s partly because I can’t justify Omnigraffle for the times I do have to do a diagram.

Thanks @drezha.

I’m familiar with DOT/GraphViz as I recently taught filterCSV to emit it (with input coming from e.g. iThoughts). I actually generate a lot of tree diagrams for iThoughts as CSV up on the mainframe.

(yEd looks nice, by the way.)

I’m more thinking the sort of thing that Omnigraffle can do, with other alternatives being definitely available.

I’m not sure that Omnigraffle is “low friction” for an ad hoc diagram. I should probably start by using it - as I have it - but people might suggest lower friction alternatives.

They might also give their experiences, or tell me this isn’t such a good idea. :slight_smile:

I think diagraming is a great practice since by involving both tactile perception and verbal perception you can spark imagination in a different way than when writing journal entries. Because of this, I suggest it’s best to diagram on an iPad than on a laptop. The reason is you want to get your thoughts from mind-to-hand as quickly as you can – reduce the friction. There’s always the issue of “I can’t draw worth a hoot”, so software that can convert hand drawn shapes to something more polished is nice to have.

For these reasons, I prefer Grafio for personal diagramming. It’s simple, not bloated like OmniGraffle, rather frictionless, and does a nice job of accurately converting hand drawn shapes. It’s easy to export drawings to some other app or with Air Drop back to a laptop.

You might want to consider using Notes for your journaling when you use a drawing app for diagraming alongside your journaling practice. Notes can combine the two modes whereas Drafts cannot do that easily.


Thank you. I have Grafio. I’ll give it a try.

I think the major barrier is thinking of a diagram to do each day. And that’s part of the point of the exercise.

On the Notes point, I think I’m OK with the diagrams being standalone until the point they’re needed in a presentation or blog post. Then I can export them and do the necessary:

  • Upload to blog if they need to be referenced in a blog post
  • Add them to the presentation if they’re needed there
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See also Indexed, although it’s a (quirky) graph every day.

A key question is the fidelity you’re aiming for. The authors of Drawing Ideas, while not focused on diagrams exclusively, argue that there’s a sweet spot when using drawing for thinking. Too polished and focus is on unimportant details, plus it seems like you’ve finished the work so it’s hard to critique. Too loose and the concept you’re aiming for isn’t clearly communicated.

So! I also support OmniGraffle/Grafio/etc., but be careful about the features they provide for polish.

You might also consider using Paper, Concepts, or their kin. They provide fabulous UI for sketching or pasting shapes and then moving objects around afterwards.

I personally do most of my diagramming in Concepts, and then create polished items in OmniGraffle as necessary.

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You raise a good point. My bias at present is to stockpile diagrams I can use - so I would expect them to approach polish. And on some days I might be polishing another day’s idea.

The ideas are twofold:

  1. To get me diagramming on a regular basis and so to increase my skill.
  2. To build a stockpile.

I’m highly inclined to actually do something with Grafio, given I must’ve spent money on it once. :slight_smile: But OmniGraffle is where I would naturally prefer to be.

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Totally agree. I think drawing is one of the most neglected potential sources of cognitive productivity. So “natural” now with the iPad. I can’t wait to see it on iPhone – am a bit surprised Apple has not yet introduced this. And of course there’s the potential for an Apple Whiteboard, but I hate to think of how much that would cost…

So, my experience so far is one diagram completed and one in my head. The former is vaguely useful, the latter not so much.

So, pick myself up, dust myself off and start all over again…

… I’ve learnt a few things:

  1. The “problem” is generating the idea, not so much the execution.
  2. Diagramming or drawing is time consuming - which ups the ante on 1. - generating good enough ideas to bother.
  3. I didn’t get on with Grafio - and found OmniGraffle on iPad a bit frustrating to use.

But I shall persist - and it ought to get easier. With OmniGraffle as that’s where I do my regular diagramming (when I’m not constructing trees with iThoughtsX and adjusting them with filterCSV).


Martin, please let us know if you have found something on the iPad that works for you. I have a similar issue with Grafio and I’m still looking for alternatives.

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Seems that “a diagram” has not been defined.

Bunch of boxes with links between?

Something more complex?

Inspiration Maps is good for both on iPadOS/iOS. $9.99 for all features.

Inspiration has a companion app on macOS, but avoid it. As nice as the iPad app is, the Mac app is horrible.

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Deliberately not defined. Gives latitude. Gets me expressing myself in other than words - as my output tends to be word-heavy.

Except it doesn’t… :slight_smile: :frowning: