OmniDazzle: Screen and Mouse Effects in OS X

OmniDazzle takes a step away from the usual affair of serious, stylish Mac software to solve a unique an interesting problem. It’s different to say the least!

When you think of The Omni Group, serious productivity tools come to mind – often OmniFocus, or one of their diagramming/graphing apps. You don’t necessarily think of software for spicing up your mouse pointer…

OmniDazzle does just that, offering a way to easily add some jazz to your daily pointing. It’s great fun, and has plenty of serious uses after you’ve finished playing around with magical pointer-pixie dust!

Getting Started

OmniDazzle is produced by the Omni Group and even though it is a free application it is still a very polished piece of software. The installation is quick and easy and it can be downloaded from the Omni Group website. An icon will automatically be installed in your menu bar to change settings and turn the application on or off.

Functionality

Right now I’m fairly confident you’re wondering what exactly OmniDazzle is, and what problems it solves. That is a valid question and to be quite honest I can’t give you a completely straightforward answer. It’s a bit up in the air and really up to you how you use it.

OmniDazzle is probably best summed up as a package of plugins that can be used to enhance the actions of your mouse and desktop. OK, you’re right, that still seems pretty vague. The best way to really get a feel for the application is to actually use it. Let me take you through a handful of different scenarios and explain some possible uses for the software.

Bullseye

When active, this plugin will put a bullseye around your pointer. The bullseye will remain until you turn it off. I’m not sure there are necessarily a thousand uses for this, but I can think of a few instances where it could be useful.

As with a lot of these plugins, this one could see some benefit in an instructional environment. It could be used to help show exactly where the pointer is at during key places in a presentation. For example, if I wanted to illustrate to my friend exactly where the option to change the highlight color in the OS X preferences is I could show something like this:

OmniDazzle - Bullseye Example

OmniDazzle - Bullseye Example

The plugin can be activated and deactivated by using a key combination, a mouse button, or a mouse shake. These can be set up in the preferences of the plugin. The default key combination of control-` works quite well for most of these I think.

OmniDazzle - Bullseye Info

OmniDazzle - Bullseye Info

This could also be handy to quickly find your pointer. Trust me, the bullseye is easy to pick out whenever it is activated no matter where it is on your display (or displays). A pretty minor use that could have large benefit for those with visual disabilities or even those using a very large display.

As with all the OmniDazzle plugins, the Bullseye can be configured. The size of the bullseye, the number of rings and the color can be set along with the activation/deactivation command.

OmniDazzle - Bullseye Configuration

OmniDazzle - Bullseye Configuration

Comic

Have you ever see the old Batman television series from the 1960′s? Have you ever wanted to throw your own comic bursts around? Well, you’re in luck. That is exactly what the Comic plugin will let you do. I’m not entirely sure of a legitimate use for this, but it sure is fun.

OmniDazzle - Comic example

OmniDazzle - Comic example

When you open the OmniDazzle application you’ll see a cover flow view of the available plugins. The cover flow view will actually show you a preview of what the plugin actually does. The active plugin will show you a quick snippet about what it does along with the currently set activation method under the Info tab.

OmniDazzle - Comic Info

OmniDazzle - Comic Info

The configuration settings can be adjusted under the Configuration tab as you would have guessed. Under the Comic plugin you’ll have the option to set the activation method and also add and delete bursts. You can also adjust the size and shadow effect if you’d like to as well.

OmniDazzle - Comic Configuration

OmniDazzle - Comic Configuration

Flashlight

The Flashlight plugin is a great tool for emphasizing in a presentation or screen capture type scenario. When activated the background will go dark and you’ll be left with a flashlight following around your mouse pointer.

OmniDazzle - Flashlight example

OmniDazzle - Flashlight example

I say that the background will go dark, but this is only by default. The plugin is customizable and the colors and sizes of both the flashlight and the background can be set to just about anything.

Scribble

This plugin when activated turns your display into a place to scribble. You’re able to scribble on any piece of your desktop or on top of any application. Your mouse is turned into a pen.

You can switch back and forth between four pens, and the size and colors are fully customizable. Shortcut keys are set for each color along with one combination to clear the screen. There isn’t an erase function which could be frustrating in certain situations.

OmniDazzle - Scribble example

OmniDazzle - Scribble example

As with most of the other plugins that are a part of OmniDazzle this one could be very handing for making some quick notations during a presentation or a class. It’s not possible to save your scribbles (you could do a screenshot I suppose) so it is best used for a quick note to point something out.

Waves

The Waves plugin is excellent, and a mildly entertaining way quickly locate your mouse pointer. When activated you’ll see a series of waves spread originating at the location of your pointer. It really is a pretty cool way to let you know where your pointer is, but it is also a bit fun to just play around with. As usual it’s fully customizable. The radius, wavelength, and amplitude are all adjustable along with the usual activation method.

OmniDazzle - Waves example

OmniDazzle - Waves example

Zoom

The Zoom plugin allows you to do a quick and dirty zoom in on anything displaying on your Mac. When activated a crosshair is turned on and you’re able to drag and select an area to zoom in on.

OmniDazzle - Zoom example

OmniDazzle - Zoom example

A possible application for this plugin would be to take a quick closer look at an image or perhaps better illustrate a bit of code for a screen recording or a presentation as in the example above.

Conclusion

I ran through some of the available enhancements that are a part of OmniDazzle hoping to illustrate what the application really does. There are others that I didn’t cover in this article that are both useful and fun, but these where the ones that stood out to me.

This is a niche product, but I think it can fit a lot more needs than are completely obvious. Though it is fun to just play around with, it’s a very well designed application and does certainly have many possible uses.

The core benefit of the effects these plugins provide is adding some enhancement to your screen and mouse pointer. They can be very useful in presentation and educational situations and they can also provide some additional functionality for the visually impaired. The ability to quickly zoom in on anything on the screen or quickly locate the mouse pointer can be more beneficial that some of us may realize.

OmniDazzle is a free application and is definitely worth checking out if you have a spare five minutes!


Summary

An old but reliable way to supercharge your mouse pointer - perfect for running a presentation, or just having a little fun!

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  • Chris Knight

    I find it can be useful when using screen recording software to illustrate/draw attention to something happening on screen.

  • ChrisM

    I’ve tried this. Slick for presentations, but was lacking one crucial feature: ability to change the cursor! As a presenter, I’d like to make the cursor bigger, or even different. Does anyone know of a program that will change the cursor style? (and the wait pinwheel too?)

    MightyMouse was able to do this on Leopard, but it does not work for SnowLeopard. Any substitute program suggestions would be greatly appreciated!

    • Adam Micevski

      You can easily change the cursor size in System Preferences.

      System Preferences > Universal Access > Mouse and Trackpad

      Doesn’t make the cursor look too nice, but it still does the job.

  • edwinhollen

    This looks like a fantastic application- especially for pointing out things in a screencast. Thank you for this review!

  • http://www.nicolasnami.com Nicolas Nami

    You know, how sometimes you come up with an idea, and think it is the greatest idea in the world and look for people who can make this? And then, out of the blue you would find some company already making it? Well, anyway, I love this program. It’s genius, and very useful. In particular the scribble option is AMAZING, specially for designers, artists, and editors using Wacom tablets. I wish there were also sticky notes, and arrow sticky notes as well available on this. Anyway, I am glad it is finally here. This version is a bit buggy and freezes a lot, but I am sure it can be fixed in the future versions. Thanks app storm.

  • Pingback: OmniDazzle: Screen and Mouse Effects in OS X 2011 | free

  • Aaron

    Until we can get the dinosaur cursor ala windows 98, I’ll never change.

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