Online diagramming service Creately opened its Creately API to the public this month, and with some surprisingly innovative features. While providing obvious features to make its service available to outside developers, and several "above and beyond" features, such as easy embedding of diagrams, Creately has done something fairly unique: open up its own, web-based file format for other developers to use.
Creately is like an online version of Microsoft Visio, providing diagramming tools in a web-based interface. Although it can accept Microsoft Visio files, Creately's unique functionality required it to define its own file format - a format that it's opening up to interact outside of its own service.
As summarized by Creately,
Creately is a visual collaboration platform used by project teams to communicate more effectively. With Creately's easy to use interface and Shared Projects, everyone on your design, development and business teams can collaborate on software designs, wireframes, business & strategy diagrams easily.
While intrigued by the new developer program, I found a significant gap in Creately's workflow. Although the concept of an open, web-based file format is quite intriguing, the file's surprising lack of connectivity to the rest of the Creately platform limits its capabilities. After reviewing the rest of the Creately API, I was surprised to find that there's no way to interact with the Creately file format through any other aspect of this API. For instance, a Creately file cannot be obtained from Creately through an API-connected program, nor can a Creately file be uploaded via API. Currently file contents can only be obtained manually, through the website. This may limit the Creately file type from being truly utilized for deep integrations.
I trust that Creately is just experiencing some jitters in the initial launch of its platform. While the API appears well designed, it looks like Creately left some obvious items to be completed later. This is noticeable in the documentation, which is a little rough on the edges, with a few documentation pages currently missing. It seems that Creately is putting in a good effort to solidify the platform, so hopefully that will include a more solid basis to utilize the Creately file format and bring all pieces of this API together.