At first glance, Monodraw’s first public beta looks much like any other OS X diagramming tool. Choose from various themed palettes, drag and drop shapes around on the page, link them up, add captions, tweak colours and more.
The program is versatile, too, able to build flowcharts, layouts, even entity-relationship diagrams.
But there is one very, very important difference. Monodraw does all this in plain text, making it probably the most sophisticated ASCII art editor in all of computing history.
If you’re thinking the text approach could bring some, well, disadvantages, then you might have a point. You can add shadows to objects, say, or use the bucket tool to fill them, but these effects are created with your preferred characters, rather than solid colour.
But at the same time, Monodraw isn’t lacking in functionality. You can customise shapes, tweak their borders, shadows or line styles, group them for easier management, set individual objects to be above or below others.
You also get alignment guides to aid positioning. Lines can be connected at custom attachment points, then automatically repositioned as you move a shape around.
What’s more, as the diagram you’re creating is plain text, you’ll know it can be embedded just about anywhere, and viewed on almost any device.
Okay, Monodraw still feels a little like a joke, but it’s a good one: this is probably as powerful as ASCII art editors are ever going to get. It’s also free to try for the duration of the beta, and there’s a 40% discount ($29.99 instead of $49.99) if you buy before the first official release.
Monodraw beta for OS X (10.9+) is available now.