2010-01-05

# Exporting OmniGraffle documents from the command line

OmniGraffle is my tool of choice for creating figures for my papers. It’s biggest drawback is that it’s only available for Mac OS, which can make it cumbersome if I’m working on one of my Linux machines and need to create or modify a figure. But it’s ease-of-use and the quality of the figures it creates are hard to beat.

Of course, creating the figure isn’t enough — since I write my papers in LaTeX, I have to export my figures into EPS or PDF (depending on whether I’m creating a PostScript or PDF version of the paper) before I can use them in my documents. It’s easy enough to use the Export dialog to do this (keyboard shortcut: ⌥⌘E), but ideally I’d like the ability to export figures from the command line. Coupled with a good Makefile, this would let me run a simple make paper command, and automatically re-export any necessary figures before rebuilding the paper itself.

Luckily, OmniGraffle has always had rather good support for being controlled via AppleScript. The commands can be somewhat undocumented, requiring a bit of trial and error, but while entrenched in our PhD studies at Oxford, my colleague David Faitelson and I were able to whip together a script that suited our needs. I’ve recently extracted the code from our Oxford SVN repository and uploaded it to Github.

To install the script, just place the graffle.sh and graffle.scpt files into some directory that’s on your $PATH, such as /usr/local/bin or$HOME/bin. Then just run

\$ graffle.sh «format» «graffle file» «output file»


This will open the figure in OmniGraffle, and export it into the format you specify on the command line, saving the result into «output file».

I’m still using version 4 of OmniGraffle, so I haven’t had a chance to verify that the script still works with version 5. If you try it, and it doesn’t, feel free to open up a ticket on the Github site.