Archive for May, 2009

Speed up slow Omnigraffle (Mac) with QuartzGL

May 8th, 2009



quartzDo you use Omnigraffle to create website wireframes/prototypes and other kind of work on your Mac? Have you reached the level of complexity in your wireframes where Omnigraffle just started to run slow? Here is a little tip on how to get this great tool to run a lot faster: launch it with QuartzGL enabled.

If you’re not sure what QuartzGL is, it is very roughly a feature in Leopard (and “Quartz Extreme 2D” in Tiger) which uses GPU to draw OSX user interface – and is not enabled by default. The main reason is that enabling this feature on a OS-level results in various drawing inaccuracies and other instabilities. However, running this feature on an application basis can be beneficial.

This trick might well become obsolete with the introduction of Snow Leopard (and a properly modified Omnigraffle probably), but until 10.6 finally comes around, it will help. I’ve been using this trick for quite a while for running various applications on a Powerbook G4 and now on a MacBook Pro, and speed boost benefits of QuartzGL are by far most noticeable with Omnigraffle.

Enabling QuartzGL in Terminal

There are quite a few how-to’s out there on how to enable QuartzGL. One way is to turn on QuartzGL in Mac OSX terminal, but a logout/restart is required in order for the new settings to work.

To enable QuartzGL in Terminal, type:
sudo defaults write /Library/Preferences/com.apple.windowserver QuartzGLEnabled -boolean YES

and log out and log back in or restart the machine.

To disable QuartzGL in Terminal:
sudo defaults write /Library/Preferences/com.apple.windowserver QuartzGLEnabled -boolean NO

Enabling QuartzGL with Quartz Debug

Enabling QuartzGL via Terminal and then restarting will enable QuartzGL system-wide. But if you want to enable QuartzGL on a per-app basis, a much more convenient way to make Quartz GL work is to use a program called Quartz Debug (use version 3.0 since the procedure explained below does not work – the way it is explained – with version 4.0), which you can find in Apple’s Xcode Developer Tools package – it’s a hefty download and you can get it from the Apple Developer Connection site (
http://developer.apple.com/devcenter/mac/index.action), a registration is required and it’s free.

Update for Snow Leopard users or users of newer versions of XCode: the procedure does not work with Quartz Debug 4.0 or at least you cannot quit Quartz Debug 4.0 and keep your settings saved – you will have to keep Quartz Debug 4.0 open all the time, since this version doesn’t save the settings on force quitting the app. An earlier version, Quartz Debug 3.0 from an older version of XCode, does just that. If you don’t want to bother looking for the right version of XCode, just enable QuartzGL via Terminal as explained above.

If you install the whole Xcode, you can find Quartz Debug in “Developer > Applications > Performance Tools” folder. You don’t need the entire Xcode installation in order to use Quartz Debug- it’s just a program that you can move to your Applications folder and delete the whole rest of the Developer folder. Initially, you could try to extract just the Quartz Debug program from the XCode package perhaps using Pacifist or similar program, or see if you can download a standalone version of Quartz Debug (preferrably 3.0) from another source on the internet. The location of Quartz Debug in Finder:

Next page: Page 2 – Applying QuartzGL for a specific applicationĀ»

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