Getting Omnigraffle and Visio to Play Nice with Each Other

Sep 16

Sometimes in a mad scramble to meet deadlines, we “have” to get Omnigraffle and Visio to play nice with each other. Here are some workarounds for those pesky issues to make the best of a tough situation. Please add to the list based on your own experiences.

Set a Master Template

Use either Visio or Omnigraffle as the master tool with the other contributing only on page level design. Standardize layout, fonts, stencils, alignment and grid on one master page that is imported and followed closely on the other. Obviously, ensure the fonts are compatible across the two platforms. Check out for reference.

Avoid Transparencies, Gradients and Shadows

In the slave application keep things as simple as possible. For instance, transparencies, gradients and shadows don’t translate well. So adjust these properties after importing to the master application. The following illustration highlights the issues.

Example Omnigraffle Screen

Example Omnigraffle Screen

Example Visio Screen

Example Visio Screen

There is a lot lost in translation, apart from the usual Mac vs PC differences. Some text is missing, spacing is different, gradient becomes solid, and the background color is of a different shade.

Use a Single Layer

Delete all hidden/unwanted layers when exporting from Omnigraffle. And remember that Visio compresses all layers into one when exporting.

Export as XML

XML is the standard format for collaboration. The file size balloons to 8-10 times but saving as native format after merging takes it back to a reasonable ground.

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  1. John

    May 5, 2013 - 09:50 PM

    Very interesting tips! I have struggled with this issue before between Visio and Omnigraffle, but also between Omingraffle and Lucidchart (sort of an online Omnigraffle alternative) which also exports the XML format. I will definitely have to try these to see if it improves the fidelity of the import.

  1. Karen

    Dec 12, 2013 - 03:29 PM

    I tried to export my OG file to a Visio XML document, however when I try and open it with Visio I get the following message: “Visio is unable to open the XML file. It does not contain valid XML. ” Any thoughts how to fix it? Thanks in advance.

    1. Elena

      Dec 12, 2015 - 10:09 AM

      You rock. Thank you! I’ve been trying to fgruie this one out for ages and kept coming up with notta from Visio help and Google searches, then happened across your blog just now and viola!

  1. Jeff

    Mar 3, 2014 - 04:59 PM

    I have big problems if I use visio callout shapes – they render very badly in OG pro – suggest you don’t use them but use simple text boxes and lines instead.

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