How to: Applying styles to multiple objects at once, Omnigraffle

Posted by on Jul 16, 2012 in howto, omnigraffle, shortcuts | No Comments
How to: Applying styles to multiple objects at once, Omnigraffle

I occasionally use Omnigraffle for wireframes (other wire-framing tools are available). I like it, it does what I need and it’s relatively inexpensive. Whether or not you believe in wireframes is another matter.

This post isn’t about the various pros and cons of different wireframe tools or why or when you should wireframe. It is a quick “How-To” on something I’ve often wanted to do and finally had five minutes to learn. Hopefully, writing it down might help you (and help me remember how).

You’ll often have an object (a rectangle, a piece of text, etc.) that has styles applied to it that you’d like to copy to many other objects. In the example below I have a number of grey headlines (top and bottom bars) that I’d like to change to the new “Your-details-blue”:

Applying styles in Omnigraffle

Method 1. One-by-one

At the bottom of the main Omnigraffle document window, you’ll find the very useful “Style Tray” with individual style “chits” (to use the official Omnigraffle term):

The Style Tray in Omnigraffle

In the screenshot above, I have selected my new heading and so the Style Tray shows each of the object’s individual properties, from left to right (starting with the purple box to the right of the cog icon):

  • A summary of all the object’s styles
  • Fill: Evening Blue (Oooooh, get me!)
  • Stroke styles (in this case none are applied)
  • Image styles (in this case none are applied)
  • Shadows (in this case none are applied)
  • Shape:Rectangle
  • Text alignment

What’s really nice is that I can click and drag any of these chits over another object and that object will acquire that style. So for example, I could drag just the Fill chit to another object and that shape (or text) would become “Evening Blue”. Alternatively,  I could drag the first summary chit over another object and all the styles of my selected object would be applied (fill, stroke, image, shadow, etc.).

This is how I used to apply styles: slowly; one-by-one. If you’re only updating a few objects this is fine. When you have lots of objects to update it quickly gets boring.

Method Two: Using the Style Brush

The Style Brush, Omnigraffle

I discovered the Format Painter in Microsoft Word many years ago and it quickly became a favourite. The Style Brush in Omnigraffle does much the same job:

  • Select an object
  • Click the Style Brush once
  • Select another object

This will copy all the styles of the first selected object to the second. Very handy!

If you want to copy styles to more than one object (the purpose of this post!):

  • Select an object
  • Double-click the Style Brush
  • Click on as many objects as your heart desires, one after another

Double-clicking any Omnigraffle tool selects it permanently so you can use it again and again (until you select another tool). So in this instance, I can copy all the styles of the first selected object to all of the objects I subsequently click on. To stop the Midas-like style-changing, click on any other tool to de-select the Style Brush.

Method Three: Using the Canvas Selection Inspector

I’ve only just discovered the Canvas Selection Inspector, but it looks really powerful.

The Canvas Selection Inspector in Omnigraffle

The first square in the screenshot tells me I have 3 objects that have a grey background only (no text or borders etc.) and that none of them are currently selected (0/3). Clicking on that first square will select all three objects that match that style description (0/3 will become 3/3).

In the screenshot above I’ve clicked on the tenth square and that has selected the new Evening Blue heading style. (Unfortunately there’s no way to resize that Inspector so I can’t take a screenshot showing the whole of the third row, but rest assured the tenth square reads 1/1 indicating my one new heading is selected.)

So with my one Evening Blue object selected (and knowing that first square represents all my old headings) I can go back to my Style Tray (see #1 above) and drag the summary chit over the first square – and hey presto – all my boring old grey headings become Evening Blue in just a few movements!

Applying styles to multiple objects at once in Omnigraffle? Done!

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