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Omnigraph sketcher, will you marry me?

September 10, 2010

Want to torture a math or physics teacher? Ask them to make you a piecewise graph for a test. You know—something that’s not a function. Open circles, closed circles, vertical lines. One of those crazy position graphs of a drunken ufo they have to interpret. No, you can’t make it by hand. It’s the P=NP of teacherdom.

I mean what are your choices? I’ve never found a graphing app for mac or windows that can graph things that aren’t functions. Of course Mathematica can do this, but it can also create a model to simulate unstable airflow around my car, and for your average tech using teacher, the syntax of doing either of these things seems about the same (and impossible).

For the first 7 years of my career this problem had me stumped. I drew the graphs by hand, and when I got tired of that, and when I got a raise, I made them in illustrator. Seriously, like you need to fork over $500 and spend time learning bezier curves and the difference between the selection tool and the direct selection tool to be able to make a stupid piecewise graph.

And then one day, I found Omnigraph sketcher. Back then, it was called graph sketcher, written by a recent college grad, who must of had some econ background and found that nothing could make nice supply vs demand graphs in econ. It was love at first sight.

What makes OGS so OMG?

  • You can sketch a graph. Draw a dot for a point, then draw a line. Want the line to look like a z, connect 4 dots. Don’t know how to write your crazy function in f() notation. Who cares? Just draw it.
  • Want to fill in a shaded area. Click the points that outline the polygon. Done.
  • It is fast. Like I can draw a graph for a test in 3 minutes fast.
  • The graphs are beautiful. Every time another trecher sees your test, they’ll say “gee, how do you make such pretty graphs?”
  • You can plot data you import from excel. Imagine the perfect app. You’d have your data all set in excel, but you know that Tufte would kill you if you let that monster try to graph your data. So here’s what you do. Select your excel data. Copy. Go to OGS. Paste that table onto the graph. OMG–did a piece of software just read my mind? You mean it labeled my axes, scaled em, and plotted all those points? No freaking way. Yep. Bye bye “How do I get rid of those shadows in data points on excel?”
  • If you can stretch the meaning of graph, so can OGS—want to draw motion maps? This takes me 20 minutes in illustrator (ok, so I’m not the greatest there), you can do it in 5 in OGS.
  • Want a label? Do you want it to run along the line? Vertically? No problem.
  • Tick marks, no tick marks? Almost everything is a 1-click change.
  • How do you want to get this into your word document for your test? Would “a copy as image” button help? You bet.
  • iPad app? That too (costs extra).

And it’s only $20 at the education OMNI store. Seriously it’s amazing.

So there’s really only one problem. Once you start using this, you’re going to work with colleagues who love to/want to/have to/are forced to work with PC’s, and they’ll ask how they can make graphs like that too. If you google “omnigraph sketcher for windows”, all you’ll find is a bunch of desperate grad students in stats and econ asking if there’s a windows version. There isn’t. In some karmic way, this must make up for all those games I couldn’t play on my mac back in college.

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