How to Make Master Objects in Omnigraffle

Todd Moy, Former Senior User Experience Designer

Article Categories: #Design & Content, #User Experience

Posted on

When wireframing, often you have a group of objects that appear on multiple canvases but in different locations. Take a page footer for example. Since the content of each wireframe varies in height, the footer needs to be positioned differently on each page. Since the content is identical, it's only sensible that any changes to this object should be made globally. Adobe supports this with Smart Objects and the Library; Axure does it with Masters. In Omnigraffle, however, this capability is less obvious.

To this point, I had a kludgy workflow to replicate this kind of content: group the items into a block, then paste it wherever needed. As you might expect, maintenance was a nightmare. All changes--whether trivial or not--required lots of copy and paste action. It was inefficient, miserable and made kittens cry.

I googled around and found out that Omnigraffle supports LinkBack. LinkBack is a framework that allows you to embed content in applications--while retaining the ability to edit it later. Omnigraffle's manual states that you can use this feature to embed Omnigraffle content within other .graffle documents.

So, LinkBack allows you to create master objects that can be repositioned. Here's how you do it:

  1. Select the objects you want to use as a master.
  2. Click Edit > Copy As... > PDF. You can also get here from a right-click.
  3. Paste the object somewhere else. Reposition as needed, rinse and repeat.

That's it. If you need to edit the object just double-click it, make some edits, then hit Save. All instances of the object will be updated.

Happy wireframing!

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