I made my first non-trivial diagram using Noteshelf. It was a “learning experience.”
I organized the diagram into three sections. On the left are database and cloud storage symbols. In the middle are representations of background tasks, both periodic and invoked. On the right are our production server farms. All totaled, there are four db’s, 15 tasks, 10 farms, and a bunch of lines.
The results aren’t great.
- Using more than one or two pen colors is distracting. I learned to stay with just two colors, black and dark blue.
- I couldn’t write labels small enough using Noteshelf’s zoom tool. So, I switched to the text tool. As a result, the diagram mixes freely drawn lines and text. It looks goofy.
- Noteshelf has some control oddities that got old fast.
- Text is an object, and lines are objects, until you copy and paste them. At that point they become a single object of random pixels. This is a terrible UX metaphor — merging freehand drawing and text is definitely not what you expect to happen. And there’s no way to undo the “merge.” Somebody at Fluid Touch is a crap programmer.
- You can copy and paste pixels, but you can’t move them. To move something: Tap the rectangle tool; draw a rectangle; cut; tap the rectangle tool; paste; drag the paste rectangle; select paste. Oh, and cutting cuts freehand lines, but it doesn’t cut text! You have to tap the Text icon, tap the text you want to cut, tap the X, then tap a confirmation. More than one person at Fluid Touch is a crap programmer.
- The zoom tool can be awkward. You drag it in the main window, buy have to write in a different zoom window, which will automatically move itself without any warning.
- I first did a rough layout of where I wanted each object, and then drew. Even so, I sometimes had to move objects and/or lines as I progressed, and this took more effort than I wanted. Double-tap a text object to edit it, tap a text object to select it for moving, sometimes single taps didn’t “take”, draw rectangles to copy and then paste and then drag and then go back to delete it… Kill me now.
- This diagram isn’t very complex. It’s maybe the equivalent of what you could draw on one side, or maybe 2/3, of a ~ 4′ x 6′ whiteboard. It pretty much filled up one Noteshelf page. I wish the iPad were twice the size — or had double the resolution, with a better zooming tool.
The good news is can I digitally move, copy, and save the result. And view or edit it on my iPad.
But the bad news is, it’s not visually great, and it took more time than I expected. (Three hours.) Anyone looking at it would say, “That’s a nice diagram, John. Looks kind of odd, though. What’s wrong with you?”
Lessons learned from this first attempt with Noteshelf:
- Don’t mix text and freehand drawing.
- Don’t experiment with multiple pen colors. It’s not worth it. Black is beautiful.
- Roughing out the diagram layout first is a must.
- Think in terms of, “What would fit on half a whiteboard?”
- Don’t cut & paste mixed text and lines, or even just text, if you can help it.
I’ll try making another work diagram tomorrow or Monday, and report back.
My iPad diagramming series:
- Can’t find a good iPad case with a stylus holder
- My Wacom Bamboo Stylus
- iPad diagramming II
- iPad diagramming