Graph Paper Maker 1.6.1
Developer: Black Cat Systems
Requirements: Mac OS X 10.3.9. Universal.
Trial: Feature-limited (graph paper is watermarked)
When I first heard about Graph Paper Maker, I laughed. Why would anyone spend $20 on a program, plus pay for ink and paper, when she can just buy preprinted graph paper at an office-supplies store?
A few months later I got my answer. I was enrolled in a Coptic Bookbinding course, and I was making a template for a book’s leather cover. I was going to have to cut a large number of slits into the leather in very precise locations. But measuring out the location of every slit to mark on my template quickly got tedious. What I needed was graph paper with 16 squares per inch. The graph paper would do all the measuring for me; all I’d have to do is draw my lines in the right places. But where could I find 16-square graph paper?
My First Graph Paper
When you open Graph Paper Maker for the first time, you’re presented with a single window offering an overwhelming array of options. Of course, it’s great that the program is so versatile, but my first reaction to the program’s opening window screen was that it was way too advanced for me. Most of these options are for engineers and scientists, not amateur bookbinders.
It’s a little intimidating at first glance.
OK, one step at a time. Choose the paper size and orientation. I don’t want a title, so delete that. I know lines per inch, the same for X and Y. I left the weights alone and set the major spacing to 16 for a heavy line every inch. I ignored the rest and hit the Generate button.
Graph Paper Maker prompted me for a name and saved a PDF of the graph paper, which then opened automatically in Preview. But there were axes on the graph (which I didn’t want), so I closed the PDF and went back to Graph Paper Maker. I deleted all the Axis numbers and the X and Y titles and clicked Generate. Nothing happened. Graph Paper Maker was frozen. I had to force-quit.
The problem was that it didn’t like having all of those axis numbers empty. What you’re supposed to do is uncheck the “Show Axes” box. On the one hand, it’s nice that there’s a simple check box for that. On the other, it’s badly placed, so I missed it. I like that Graph Paper Maker has so many options and that they’re all in one window, but that window should be better laid out. (And, of course, the program shouldn’t freeze when something is left blank!)
Nonetheless, in the space of a few minutes I’d created the graph paper I needed. It was much easier than using a program that isn’t designed for the task (I’m a hopeless database addict; I tried using FileMaker!) and much faster than calling all my local office-supplies stores.
As I mentioned above, the graph paper Graph Paper Maker makes doesn’t open within that program. Instead, it’s saved as a PDF, so it can be reused later. That’s good, but if you want to create a second (different) sort of graph paper, you have to close the Graph Paper Maker window and reopen it (choose Graph Paper from the Window menu) or else when you click Generate for your second piece of paper, the first will be overwritten without warning.
By itself, that’s not such a big deal: you just have to remember to use a new window for a new piece of paper. (On the plus side, it makes it easy to make minor tweaks to a piece of paper you just generated.) But unfortunately, Graph Paper Maker doesn’t remember the window’s previous settings: when you open a new window, all the settings have reverted to the defaults. That makes it cumbersome, then, to create and save several similar pieces of graph paper.
Another problem with the program always reverting to its pre-set defaults is that it means I have to make some of the same changes every time I use the program. I never want axes. I always change the margins to half an inch on every side, and I change the line colors to light blue. I’ve also found that minor line weights are not uniform when printed at the default weight of 0.1. (I get alternating light and dark lines on my printer.) It looks much better if I change the weight to 0.15. Of course, different users will want different defaults than I do; a “save as default” option would be a nice improvement for a future version. (You can save a graph paper configuration for opening and editing later, but there is no way to make it the default when opening the program.)
Perhaps you noticed the Easy Graph Wizard button at the bottom left side of the window. I didn’t. Turns out it’s just as well I missed it, because it isn’t made to do what I needed. If you need to plot a range of values on a graph, though, the Wizard makes it easy to create a piece of graph paper suitable to your values.
Graph paper that you buy in a store is usually printed with light blue or green ink, rather than solid black. That’s good for a few reasons: it’s easy to see what you write over the lines, and the lines don’t (or barely) show up when you photocopy them. Graph Paper Maker allows you to choose an ink color with the standard color picker. If you want the same color (just different weights) for your major and minor lines, I suggest using something other than the color wheel. (Crayons work well for me.)
Huey Lewis said it’s hip to be square, but if you prefer triangles or hexagons or (non-square) rhombi, Graph Paper Maker offers Isometric, Hexagon, Axonometric, and Trapezoid layouts, though without title or axes. (I once needed polar graph paper for a geometry class; Graph Paper Maker can’t make that. But that’s the only kind of graph paper I can think of that isn’t supported.)
Graph Paper Maker is a versatile program that allows you to quickly and easily create any kind of graph paper you’re likely to need. Its user interface could definitely stand some improvement, but as it is there’s no denying it gets the job done. If you ever find yourself needing a kind of graph paper that’s not available at your local office-supplies shop, give this program a try.