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Randall Lee Reetz

Network graphing tools please!

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I can't see something like this coming to Designer for quite some time, if it ever does. As you said yourself, these are features you would "expect in org chart and mind mapping applications" but Designer is neither of those so there's really no need for it to have them. In fact, 'polluting' the Designer feature set with that sort of thing might make things worse rather than better.
However, as long as Designer can import SVGs then you can use something like yEd or Dia - both free applications - to create the diagram and then import it into Designer. You can get a nail into a piece of wood by whacking it with the handle of a saw but a hammer is probably going to do a better job; you just need a bigger tool-kit.

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You can get a nail into a piece of wood by whacking it with the handle of a saw but a hammer is probably going to do a better job…

On the other hand, it doesn't require a well-drilling rig to simply put a screw in that piece of wood.

All that's required to provide versatile flow-, org-chart functionality is a basic connector line object and an appropriate symbols library, both of which are common in vector drawing programs, and both of which can also be used for other creative purposes. (Affinity already has a suitable Symbols feature in which one can store and organize their subject-specific box shapes.)

As far as "polluting" the program goes, this is not a narrowly "vertical" need. I dare say the majority of vector illustrators encounters at least the occasional need to create such diagrams for everything from org charts for the VP to decision trees in the troubleshooting manual. (Ever had to hack such a simple thing out in Illustrator, which provides no connector lines, even though all three of its historic competitors do? I have, many times.) When a connector lines feature is present, it can also facilitate wiring diagrams. And maps. And assembly diagrams. And extrusions.

The key to maintaining powerful elegance is careful and innovative integration of features. Just off the top, why can't a "connector" just be a path end attribute? Or why can't a Connector Line be one of the Smart Shapes with adjustable parameters? Functionality doesn't always have to be implemented in the same way as conventional wisdom assumes. Every little added function doesn't have to be presented as an Adobe-esque overblown standalone in the grab-bag interface.

I'd favor some kind of connector line functionality. It's not unduly obtrusive in Canvas or Draw or Technical Designer. But the request would probably be better received if stated as that—connector paths—instead of as something specifically for network diagrams. The basic functionality can be useful for all kinds of things.

JET

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There has been a lot of discussion about arrowheads on the forum: https://forum.affinity.serif.com/index.php?/topic/3378-arrowheads-please/

So, without wanting to go over all of that again, may I suggest something that could offer both line endings and a way of producing network diagrams and organisational charts (and dimensional lines)?

Reference the attached image to get an idea of what I am talking about.

Many applications offer line endings where the symbol at the end of the line is centred on the end of the line, as in diagram A. Personally I don't like this as arrows don't point to a thing they point into a thing which isn't usually what I want. I generally prefer diagram B where the line ending symbol is flush to the end of the line but the other way could be useful for some people.

For organisational/network diagrams both ways could be allowed for and extended by allowing the user to select - via a simple check box for each line end - whether they want the line end symbol to be placed either (1) centred on the end of the line - default - or (2) at the first place the line 'encounters' another layer. (Selected layers will probably also have to be set somehow to 'join in with' this functionality, otherwise all sorts of layers could get in the way unexpectedly.)

This way, the user could have the two scenarios - shown in diagrams C and D - where the dashed line represents a part of the line 'within' other layers (the circles). You could use this feature to easily create dimension lines (diagram E) and organisational charts (diagram F).

You would still have to move the lines and diagram nodes about separately if the geometry of the diagram changes but if you just keep the line ends 'within' another layer you don't have much extra work to do as the application would work out where the line ending symbol should be.

Would this be good enough for most simple network/organisational chart purposes? It's not true connectivity of layers/nodes but it would make things a lot easier to draw.

arrowheads on diagrams.PNG

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The arrowheads features in most current mainstream drawing programs provide for positioning the arrowhead (or circle, etc.) relative to the path's end node. That's nothing new; that's expected standard fare these days.

The defining functionality of a Connector Lines feature, though, is as Randall mentioned:

  • the anchoring of the Connector Line to the connected objects
  • the live updating of the shape of the path according to a few parameter options (straight, right angles, with or without radius corners)
  • the automatic avoidance of unconnected boxes in charts and diagrams.
  • (in some) the automatic rendering of cross-overs (humps or breaks)

In some programs (typically the charting feature of "office" or "works" programs) ends of connectors only anchor to bounding boxes. In some more full-featured general drawing programs, though, they can be anchored to any node of the connected object. Anyone who has used them much in drawing programs know that the latter behavior is far more versatile and powerful for uses other than just mundane org charts. You can, for example, use them to draw the lengthwise edges of an "extrusion" of any shape, thereby creating such an extruded object that can be adjusted in length and angle at any time.

JET

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While I do understand what diagramming software does, I don't understand where that comes within the remit of Designer.
Diagramming is usually a separate application because of the complexity of what it needs to do. Adding that sort of functionality would be a bit like cramming something like Visio into just one feature of an already complex application.

Designer is for single-page artwork and illustration. Have a look at the things that have been created in Designer and ask yourself how many of them could be improved by the addition of an organisational chart or network diagram. I just don't think that diagramming fits Designer.
There could be an argument that Publisher could use something like it - people are probably more likely to want diagrams and charts in a multi-page document - but I still feel that is pushing the boundaries of what things are actually for quite a bit.

However, if the Affinity team could make a separate application - Affinity Diagrammer? - that allowed users to create organisational charts, pie charts, line graphs, network diagrams, infographics, etc, then that would make a lot more sense to me (and create another revenue stream for Serif). The people who need that functionality could get it and the people who don't need it can simply ignore it. (I'm sure the Affinity team could come up with some glorious infographic tools.)

All-in-all, I don't think diagramming is a good fit for the current Affinity product line but I do think that having some plug-in/sister products that extend the current line-up for people who need something extra might be a good way to go. I just can't see this sort of thing being added to anything any time soon, especially given that arrowheads have been "on the roadmap" since 2015.

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Designer is for single-page artwork and illustration.

First, I completely disagree with your "single page" constraint. Back in the day, that was the knee-jerk outrage of Adobe Illustrator devotees whenever a FreeHand user dared suggest that many, if not most, illustration projects ( logo designs, business identity documents, projects destined for vinyl cutters and other NC machines, package designs, bottle labels, trade show displays, garment imprints, and countless other things) involved more than one sheet and that those sheets need to be independently sized and oriented.

Try taking away that program's typically late-to-the-party multiple Artboards ability from the same naysayers today.

So that aside,  do you not consider "artwork and illustration" inclusive of, say, commercial product renderings (cutaways, phantom views, parts breakdowns, assembly instructions)? My toddler grandsons' animals books are all about illustrations and chock full of floating callouts. Later, their Tinker Toy assembly instructions will be, too, along with assembly leader lines. That will continue as they mature toward instructions for Erector Sets, installation sheets for their faucets, maintenance manuals for their cars, and sales brochures for the motorcycle of their dreams. It's all the same core functionality.

Again, take a look at other mainstream drawing programs. Canvas's Annotation Notes feature. Corel Draw's and Designer's Connector Tools, and Inkscape's Diagram Connectors, (among others) are neither inappropriate nor obtrusive.

Raster auto-tracing is an example of the kind of standalone feature (not to mention amateurish bad practice) that can be easily "outsourced" to a separate program in the workflow of an illustration project. But connector lines are by definition functionally attached to individual objects within the native environment of the illustration in which they reside. Saying they should be created by use of a separate program is like saying dimensions of a floorplan should have to be added after-the-fact in a separate program.

And again, their use is not limited to network diagrams for the IT department.

JET

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All I am trying to say is that I, personally, don't think this sort of feature would be a good 'fit' with how I have seen Designer being used. I'm not interested in being persuaded otherwise as I have no use for such functionality, and I really don't have the patience or inclination to get into a discussion along the lines of "What is this thing we call 'illustration'?" If I am proved wrong at some point in the future by the Affinity team implementing such functionality then that would be absolutely fine by me. All said and done, I really don't care that much about it.

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At first I suggested that I couldn't see it happening any time soon because it would be quite a large addition to the software, the functionality of which is available elsewhere.
To which you replied saying that you thought it would be fairly easy to add said functionality.
Then, without wanting to get into an argument about how easy or otherwise it would be to add functionality to a piece of software that neither of us works on, I suggested that a small extension to the - hopefully - up-coming arrowheads functionality might give most people what they might need in most situations without a whole lot of bother.
Then you started to suggest all of the things that make this sort of functionality so much more complex than it first seems, which kind of negates your previous statement about how easy it would be to implement (or maybe I'm reading it wrong).
Because I didn't know if you were actually saying it would be easy or difficult to implement, I changed tack to suggest that maybe this sort of thing might be better implemented in another application - leaving Designer to do its thing - without the extra 'overhead' that's probably not going to be needed/used by most users.
Then you stated that Designer was not a single-page application, which it clearly is as you can only create one page. Yes you can create artboards and export them as 'pages' but it only has one page. It was designed from the start - but has 'morphed' slightly - as a single page application. That was starting to get a bit 'metaphysical' - when is a single page not a single page - so I decided to ignore that.
Then you went on to start discussing all kinds of different types of illustration and asking where I would draw the line. I'm not an expert in this area so any further input by me would be worthless.

While I think a discussion on the merits, or otherwise, of Designer being able to do this, that and the other might be interesting to have, I've simply lost the will to discuss it further as it's a waste of time for me personally. Not because you were not putting forward some good arguments, but simply because - in the end - it doesn't really matter to me. It either gets done or it doesn't. If it doesn't get done then I lose nothing and gain nothing. If it does get done then I lose nothing and I gain nothing. It's all the same to me. Somebody said that they wanted a thing and I suggested that it was such a big thing to ask for that it might be better being done as a separate project, if at all. And that's all as far as I'm concerned.

I objected because I didn't think it was a good thing to do. I would also object if someone wanted to hit their head against a wall, but I wouldn't expect a discussion about it. Sometimes an opinion doesn't need to be discussed; it can just be acknowledged or ignored with no further comment. You can discuss it further if you choose to but I'm done. I've probably got better things to be doing anyway. Now where's that bag of crisps gone...

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Garry, as anyone can easily see by reading this thread, you have completely miss-characterized everything I said.

I never presume to know what is "easy" for the Affinity develop team to implement. And everything I posted here is in direct context of the request for live connector paths, a common, appropriate, and very useful feature within mainstream drawing programs, and yet another embarrassingly missing from Adobe Illustrator, despite being long requested by its users.

JET

 

 

 

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I see this sort of "grand protector of the dominion" behavior on so many product forums. Sad. I can only imagine that such individuals are in some very real way working as agents of the company that produced the software in question. Why else would anyone be so absurdly threatened by product feature suggestions? Certainly the potential market would expand for a product like Designer should it provide an automated way of diagramming network nodes. Makes it so much faster and more efficient to draw out complex diagrams if the objects that make up those diagrams are aware of their logical (or illogical) parents and children. Its just how the world works. Those node connectors don't have to be shown, but allowing a person to set up relationships between objects (or assuming them at some default level) makes things so much easer on so many levels. Relative relational scaling, positioning, spacing, and dependencies are but a few of the workflow advantages that can be derived from an ontological association between drawn objects and object groupings. PS: a suggestion is just that. It isn't a demand. I have no authority over anyone. None. But ideas are worth sharing.

Randall Lee Reetz

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PS: I can only assume that the "persona" bar was meant to consolidate, as a master control switcher, several Affinity sub-applications under one roof, into one workspace. Layout could be one of those spaces, one of those personas. Layout or positioning could be one form of the object realative object association views. An analogy in writing applications and text editors might be the various ways in which outlines are presented and edited... the same text can be viewed long form in a flat editor, or in page layout view (possibly with pre-press specifications like font, font size, kerning, headers and footers, footnotes, margin notes, in-line and margin illustrations and figures, page numbers, chapter headings, etc), or as individual blocks of text in a files and folders hierarchical view, or as a standard indented outline, or in some cases, as a freeform connected node chart. But none of these affordances are posible unless the underlying data model is set up to keep track of parent/child relationships, and the user interface affordances that allow the user to define these relationships. A world of opportunities open up once object relationships are supported and made intuitively available to the user. Many such relationships are already supported by Affinity Products… layers, channels, object embedded filters and masks, history, even positional association (its what you do when you draw objects and place graphics and images into a composite layout), so it wouldn't break the Affinity Designer (or Photo or Publisher) model at all to add in some additional relational object affordances. When a designer (and yes I am a designer with 35 years professional design experience) works they begin with a sketch. The sketch stage of design is not often supported by design applications. When it is, as in for instance, mind mapping software, there is no (easy or obvious) integration of the user's object sketch into the production phase of the design process. If I were Affinity, I'd pay some serious attention to this missing and ultra important early stage of project workflow. If I were Affinity, I'd get my brightest minds working on a sketch-level persona, and I'd have a parallel effort going to integrate an asset management and project overview (team and time management and cost estimation) persona(s) as well. Yes, I love the fact that Affinity makes affordable stand-alone applications for the design market, but I would love to see these applications work seamlessly in one integrated environment once I owned two or more of them.

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On 11/5/2018 at 1:36 AM, JET_Affinity said:

Again, take a look at other mainstream drawing programs. Canvas's Annotation Notes feature. Corel Draw's and Designer's Connector Tools, and Inkscape's Diagram Connectors, (among others) are neither inappropriate nor obtrusive JET

I've kept using Corel because it has this functionality; I hardly ever need it but when I do it saves a shaiza-load of time. I'm doing some UI/UX design now and as part of that I'm working out some relational data structure and was thinking maybe I'd try Designer for working on a diagrammatic approach - something to use as a tool for working through ideas, but using the end result as a finished diagram to explain it all to the client and coders. I'd like to get rid of CorelDraw as well as Illustrator so anything that can be added to Designer to take over those functions is a bonus. 

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Always strange when people respond to feature requests with paranoia-laden claims that such new functionality would overwhelm the product or use paradigm. I have personally written sophisticated diagramming display and editing functionality code into several prototype products and done so from scratch in less than 10 pages of code. Do the naysayers and Cassandras here work for Serif? Strange.

Thanks, Randall

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The "Emoji" list on this forum is desperately missing the one that is eating from a bag of popcorn.  The forum won't even let me submit a post with a Unicode one pasted in.  Lame.

 

Connector lines would not be a bad feature to have added to Designer, and some users could get a good amount of mileage out of what should theoretically be a relatively simple addition, but at the same time I can't see this having the same priority as a number of other requests that have been floating around for some time now.  Would be nice to have eventually.

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On 11/1/2018 at 10:01 AM, Randall Lee Reetz said:

You know… connect objects with lines so that dragging objects causes connector lines to redraw appropriately as one might expect in org chart and mind mapping applications. Export network diagrams as outlines or import outlines and auto-create network diagrams. Please. Thank you!

The feature you are looking for is allready in Microsoft Visio Professional.

I doubt it is the target of Serif to replace 20 applications into one.

The UI would be too cluttered anyway.

 

Illustrator doesn't have this feature as well.

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On 11/1/2018 at 2:32 PM, GarryP said:

There has been a lot of discussion about arrowheads on the forum: https://forum.affinity.serif.com/index.php?/topic/3378-arrowheads-please/

So, without wanting to go over all of that again, may I suggest something that could offer both line endings and a way of producing network diagrams and organisational charts (and dimensional lines)?

Reference the attached image to get an idea of what I am talking about.

Many applications offer line endings where the symbol at the end of the line is centred on the end of the line, as in diagram A. Personally I don't like this as arrows don't point to a thing they point into a thing which isn't usually what I want. I generally prefer diagram B where the line ending symbol is flush to the end of the line but the other way could be useful for some people.

For organisational/network diagrams both ways could be allowed for and extended by allowing the user to select - via a simple check box for each line end - whether they want the line end symbol to be placed either (1) centred on the end of the line - default - or (2) at the first place the line 'encounters' another layer. (Selected layers will probably also have to be set somehow to 'join in with' this functionality, otherwise all sorts of layers could get in the way unexpectedly.)

This way, the user could have the two scenarios - shown in diagrams C and D - where the dashed line represents a part of the line 'within' other layers (the circles). You could use this feature to easily create dimension lines (diagram E) and organisational charts (diagram F).

You would still have to move the lines and diagram nodes about separately if the geometry of the diagram changes but if you just keep the line ends 'within' another layer you don't have much extra work to do as the application would work out where the line ending symbol should be.

Would this be good enough for most simple network/organisational chart purposes? It's not true connectivity of layers/nodes but it would make things a lot easier to draw.

arrowheads on diagrams.PNG

We have arrowheads now in Designer...

If they would implement such a feature, make it better then Microsoft's implementation. The lines go all the way...

 

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On 9/6/2019 at 3:55 PM, Tourmaline said:

The feature you are looking for is allready in Microsoft Visio Professional.

So is the ability to add text and shapes to a canvas.  Maybe Serif shouldn't implement those either?  Also the fact that it is in Visio is kind of meaningless to some of us as that is a Microsoft product and thus rather worthless...

 

On 9/6/2019 at 3:55 PM, Tourmaline said:

The UI would be too cluttered anyway.

How so?  This adds almost nothing to the UI except maybe a checkbox in the snapping options to enable the feature ("link stroke ends to objects when snapping" or similar), so from a user perspective, some 95% or so of the UI is already there.

 

On 9/6/2019 at 3:55 PM, Tourmaline said:

Illustrator doesn't have this feature as well.

Illustrator is not some kind of gold reference that competitors should try to match - strive instead to leave it in the dust.

 

On 9/6/2019 at 3:58 PM, Tourmaline said:

If they would implement such a feature, make it better then Microsoft's implementation.

I'm certainly all for that...  :27_sunglasses:

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On 9/9/2019 at 2:06 PM, fde101 said:

So is the ability to add text and shapes to a canvas.  Maybe Serif shouldn't implement those either?  Also the fact that it is in Visio is kind of meaningless to some of us as that is a Microsoft product and thus rather worthless...

 

How so?  This adds almost nothing to the UI except maybe a checkbox in the snapping options to enable the feature ("link stroke ends to objects when snapping" or similar), so from a user perspective, some 95% or so of the UI is already there.

 

Illustrator is not some kind of gold reference that competitors should try to match - strive instead to leave it in the dust.

 

I'm certainly all for that...  :27_sunglasses:

I am just saying that what you're looking for is in another product, wich Serif does not offer.

Visio professional is a total different product then Illustrator or Affinity Designer.

Designer won't be a replacement for Visio.

Visio also accomodates a lot of professional type of elements, like ICT models etc.

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On 9/13/2019 at 1:23 PM, Tourmaline said:

Designer won't be a replacement for Visio.

Agreed, but the simple ability to keep objects "connected" to each other seems like it could be a somewhat natural extension of snapping, and I don't think we should be too quick to rule out that this could be useful for things other than designing flowcharts and the like.

 

Visio isn't the only game in town either - OmniGraffle is out there too, and I'm sure there are others.

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3 hours ago, fde101 said:

Agreed, but the simple ability to keep objects "connected" to each other seems like it could be a somewhat natural extension of snapping, and I don't think we should be too quick to rule out that this could be useful for things other than designing flowcharts and the like.

 

Visio isn't the only game in town either - OmniGraffle is out there too, and I'm sure there are others.

Sure, probably more tools like that on the market but Visio is probably most popular or well known.

OmniGraffle is MAC only, so no go for Windows users.

I agree though, there are certain area's for improvement in Visio.

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