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Issue 12.5 ('Yosemite')
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REVIEW

Grafio for iOS

Issue: 12.5 (September/October 2014)
Author: Marc Zeedar
Article Description: No description available.
Article Length (in bytes): 5,469
Starting Page Number: 14
Article Number: 12503
Related Link(s): None

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I've explored a number of diagraming apps for my iPad, but usually come away feeling frustrated. With all the limitations, it's more work to create such documents on an iPad than on my Mac. Grafio, however, is a pleasant surprise.

No, it's not as powerful as a desktop application, but it gives you 90% of the features you actually use and need. For example, I couldn't find a way to adjust a gradient fill—you can only use the pre-defined choices. But that's just fine, really.

Best of all, barring a few nitpicks, Grafio is so easy to use that it makes a chore fun. I can actually see myself choosing to use Grafio over my Mac which is right next to me simply because Grafio is more relaxing.

Another key feature is that Grafio isn't just for traditional diagrams (such as a flow chart). Since it includes enough graphical capabilities (as well as a large symbol library, mostly available via an in-app purchase), you can use it to create user interface designs, website mockups, presentation graphics, and much more. It's even really easy to use Grafio to create a quick logo. (Just grab a shape such as a shield or starburst, color it, add some text, and place an icon in the middle. Instant logo.)

Grafio supports automatic shape recognition, so, supposedly, you can draw a rough box or circle and it will turn it into a perfect object. But either it's not that functional or I'm a terrible artist, because often when I drew a simple box it would stay a drawing and not convert it. Sometimes it worked and sometimes it didn't; I never could figure out why. But when it does work, the feature is really nice.

You can also add connecting lines and arrows between objects just by drawing a line with your finger between the two. At first I was frustrated because I couldn't figure out how to copy an existing line: I didn't like the way the default line would revert away from my customized version. But then I discovered that you can set your own defaults by simply tapping on the line settings at the top of the screen while no objects are selected and, after that, all new connecting lines you draw take on those characteristics. Nice. I am really pleased by all the choices for connecting, too: from angled lines to curves, simple to complex. It's your choice.

Despite its power, the app is amazingly simple. There are a few common gestures for enlarging, rotating, and zooming, and the simple menu at the top handles everything else. It's really very nicely done.

Grafio comes with a library of a few shapes and drawings, but you can unlock more via in-app. Individual sets are 99 cents, but you can unlock all of them for $4.99. The app promises that if you do the latter, you'll get any new images added for free!

The quality of the libraries is excellent, however. (A lot of these kinds of apps use really cheap and cheesy clipart style graphics.) I was really glad to see that the maps can be ungrouped so you can break out individual countries or states. One flaw I noticed, however, is that if you group something, the entire group takes on a single characteristic. For example, when I selected a single country on the map of Africa and made it red, the red went away when I grouped the map again. Not a huge deal as you can just leave the object ungrouped to preserve individual characteristics, but hopefully that is a bug that will be fixed in the future. (Traditionally grouping should not change an object's appearance.)

When you're finished with your diagram, you can export it in several formats (PDF, PNG with transparency, JPG, etc.), either to your camera roll, email, or another app. Grafio also supports directly uploading to services such as Dropbox.

The bottom line is that Grafio is an excellent diagraming app. It's missing a few high-end features (such as the ability to customize gradients), but that's okay. I'd rather have the app simpler and easier to use. The less creating diagrams feels like real work, the more likely I am to use this app and do more work on my iPad. I suspect you'll see Grafio diagrams in xDev in the future!

End of article.