Visualizations are key to clear communication in many business situations. Gliffy makes it easy to create, share, and collaborate visually. Gliffy’s online version was launched in 2006 to bring simple to use visualization capabilities to the Web and a few months later, it added plug-ins for Altassian Confluence and JIRA. Now Gliffy is one of the most popular plugins in the Atlassian ecosystem. I recently spoke with Chris Kohlhardt, Gliffy co-founder, to learn more about it and its capabilities.
Chris first related the company’s origins. He and his co-founder, Clint Dickson, were working with Web tools eight years ago before HTML5 and even Ajax. They used Open Lazlo and Chris even worked for Lazlo a year prior.
Chris and Clint decided to bring visualization capabilities to the Web. There were visualization tools around, but these tools were desktop based and tied to particular operating systems. Going to the Web not only allowed those working on Macs and PCs to use the same tool, it made content sharing much easier in general.
Chris related how they got started with Atlassian. In 2006, they released their first version of the online tool as a free app after a year of development. They then looked to generate revenue. They felt that wikis would benefit from visualization tools. At first they approached some US-based wiki vendors, but these companies were absorbed in their own product development. They heard about Atlassian and sent them an email. Within a few days, Chris heard back from the co-CEO, Mike Cannon-Brookes. He was going to be in San Francisco and wanted to meet him. So they got together at the Atlassian San Francisco office. Within a few months, their Gliffy for Confluence plug-in was ready, thanks to Atlassian also helping them with some of the development. You can see it below with some development tools in the left column.
Chris said that Open Lazlo complies to Flash byte code. As these tools are not used as widely now, Gliffy has now converted its product to HTML5 to comply with Open Standards. Gliffy also did this because HTML5 has better developer support, increased support by modern web browsers, and support of mobile devices.
They have created visualizations to help software developers such as: BPMN, UML, Venn diagrams, user interface icons, and entity relationships.
With these out-of-the-box tools you can quickly mock things up, even if you are not good at creating visualizations. Gliffy has done most of the work for you. You can see a sample editor screen below with many of the pre-defined shape sin the left column.
Chris said that many Atlassian customers prefer to host their own apps for security reasons — even those customers that start with Atlassian’s OnDemand, who migrate to behind the firewall when their wiki becomes increasingly business critical. However, Gliffy online will integrate with other cloud tools such as Google Docs and WordPress.
Below is a sample Gliffy – JIRA plug-in screen.
Gliffy certainly can help and be very useful for issue tracking and resolution discussions. Gliffy was one of the first Atlassian plugins. Now it has grown to become widely used and enabled Gliffy to become a very profitable company. I think that Gliffy is a killer must-have enhancement to Confluence and JIRA, as well as a very useful online tool.