I’m very pleased to announce that OmniPresence document syncing will ship on May 22!
For the last several years we’ve been hard at work bringing automatic syncing to our Mac, iPad, and iPhone apps, so our customers always have their latest work available on all their devices. We started by adding automatic syncing to OmniFocus in 2008, then to OmniPlan in 2011—and this week, on May 22, we will round out support for automatic syncing in OmniGraffle, OmniOutliner, and OmniGraphSketcher by shipping “OmniPresence” document syncing.
Here is what OmniPresence looks like in action:
OmniPresence is designed to work well with any Mac app which supports OS X’s Auto Save and Versions. Using the same underlying document coordination as Versions, OmniPresence lets your app know when a document has been changed on another device, and double-checks to make sure it always syncs a current and complete copy of any documents currently being edited. OmniPresence can’t prevent conflicting edits from multiple devices—but when that happens it automatically saves both versions of conflicting edits so that no edits are lost.
OmniPresence is also designed to support document syncing within teams. By creating a shared sync account for your team, you can make sure that everyone on your team always has the latest copy of every document available on all their devices.
We believe in building solutions that will stand the test of time, and we believe that your data should be yours to control—whether you’re syncing your personal files or your company’s confidential information. So rather than use a proprietary syncing service which might not be available in five or ten years, OmniPresence is built on top of open web server technologies. This means you can sync documents using your own web server, such as the Apache server built into Mountain Lion Server. (We’ve posted instructions for setting up WebDAV file sharing on Mountain Lion Server on our support pages.)
We know that some customers would rather not have to set up their own service, so we’re currently scaling up our Omni Sync Server to support OmniPresence. We’re not quite sure how much additional traffic to expect from customers using OmniPresence, so we’re not opening the floodgates to all our customers just yet—but we are trying to make OmniPresence available to all accounts as quickly as possible. (Anyone who has checked the “I am brave” box at sync.omnigroup.com should already have access, and anyone else who checks that box will be given priority access.)
Finally, a quick note for any developers out there: we will be releasing the source code to OmniPresence as part of our open source frameworks on github, so you’ll be able to take our code and do whatever you want with it. OmniPresence is already compatible with other third party apps on Mac, but because of the sandbox on iOS it will require some integration work to support OmniPresence on iPad or iPhone apps. Our first goal was simply to use OmniPresence to sync documents in our own apps—but we’d love to see other apps start using it as well!
Thanks, everyone, for your patience as we’ve built automatic syncing into all of our apps. We hope you’ll enjoy OmniPresence as much as we do!
If you’re one of our many customers who want to always have your latest documents available on all your devices, I have good news! We’ve finished our limited private test of OmniPresence and are now beginning a wide-open public test of OmniPresence for Mac.
You can start using OmniPresence today, syncing documents using your own web server, such as the one built into Mountain Lion Server. (I’ve posted some instructions for setting up WebDAV file sharing on Mountain Lion Server over on our forums.)
If you would rather not manage your own server, you can sign up to help us test OmniPresence on the Omni Sync Server by checking the “I am brave” box at sync.omnigroup.com. This won’t enable OmniPresence right away, but it will let us know that you’re willing to move your account to a test system where we’re analyzing the load produced by OmniPresence. (Until we know how much load it produces, we’ve blocked it from accessing our production systems so that we won’t degrade their performance for people who are currently using them to sync OmniFocus and OmniPlan.)
I should note that OmniPresence requires Mountain Lion and iOS 6. We’ve tried to make it work with earlier operating systems, but we ran into issues which only Apple can fix (and which they did, in OS X v10.8.3 and iOS v6.0).
We would love to do a wide-open public test of our iPad apps as well, since sharing your documents between all your devices is what really makes OmniPresence valuable. But we’re only allowed to distribute final versions of our iPad apps through the App Store.
Until we do ship OmniPresence in our iPad apps, we’re not actually done. But we’re certainly getting close!
Good news everybody, OmniPlan 2.3 is ready for public testing and we’re inviting everyone to take it for a spin!
“What’s new in this release?”, you may be asking. Great question!
- OmniPlan now runs in the App Sandbox to keep your computer safe and support for OS X Auto Save and Versions has been added. We employ security features which are new to OS X 10.8, so this version will not run on earlier releases of Mac OS X.
- A lot of work has gone into improving our handling of Microsoft Project file formats, specifically MPP import. Please let us know if you come across any issues and send along the Microsoft Project file, if possible.
- We’re introducing a new feature to help answer the question, “Why did OmniPlan schedule this task on that date?”. It’s called Scheduling Influences, and you can enable it under the View menu when you have a task selected.
- Support for new constraint types like ‘start no later than’ and ‘end no later than’ constraints have been added. The old constraints are still there and are referred to as ‘start no earlier than’ and ‘end no later than’.
- By popular request, gantt chart date headers are now printed at the top of every page.
Of course, no release is complete without a healthy serving of bug fixes. You can read more about them in our release notes.
Standard warning: Our Public Test releases are not for the faint of heart. There will be bugs. We want to know them.
Still interested after all that reading? If so, head on over to our Public Test page to grab the latest OmniPlan 2.3 Public Test release!
This is the third in our Customer Stories series.
Late last summer we traveled down to Rancho Alamo Camp 1 to talk to Michael Werk, owner and operator. Before (an alleged) retirement, Michael spent days traveling and directing commercials for TV. Now he’s owner/operator of a vineyard, winery, farm, and Bed & Breakfast.
Michael uses OmniFocus to directly support his vineyard and winery projects, and it can get pretty deep. The folder structure might seem a bit daunting at first glance, but multiple varietals over many years can lead to a lot of the same tasks, timeshifted by days, weeks, and years.
It’s safe to say he has a system.
We talked to Michael in Los Alamos, CA. It was a pleasure to get to know Michael, Natalie, and Max during our visit. A huge thanks to Kalyra Winery, too.
We test stuff internally. Eventually it’s released as a final product. But in between there, we do a thing that might be called a Beta or Private Test.
Why are we doing that?
With the small group of people testing and developing it right now, we already have a large cache of bug fixes to work on. Outside feedback is crucial as well; we need feedback on the design now so we don’t spend a bunch of time polishing a potentially wrong design into perfection. That’s why we plan to start giving some folks access to OmniFocus 2 early.
Phase 1: Internal Test
For a few months now, we’ve been using OmniFocus ourselves. This has helped us shake out the most obvious and painful bugs. I hit several crashes (and wasn’t even able to report them fully, because our Crash Catcher wasn’t working properly either). I lost data a few times. And I had to flip back to OmniFocus 1 a few times when a feature was just completely missing. I know some of you wish you had access to OmniFocus 2 a month ago, but we don’t think it’s helpful to anyone if we ask you to put up with all of that. We got OmniFocus working well enough to show off at The Debut. Then we put in a lot more work to get it sturdy enough for some of you to start using it.
Phase 2: Private Test
There are now over 17,000 of you who have expressed interest in helping us test OmniFocus. And we love that you’re so eager to help us. But if we ask all 17,000 of you to take the app out for a spin all at once, we’ll suddenly have thousands of emails all reporting the same issue. So we’re going to do a phased roll-out. We’ll give access to a few (hundred) people at first. Once we’ve fixed the big issues they’ve found, and our Support Humans are caught up on emails, we’ll add some more folks to the testing team. This will help us get the feedback we need about the app while still providing the level of support we promise for our shipping applications. We want to know about crashes and other errors, of course. But we also hope you’ll tell us what’s confusing, annoying, or tedious – these emotions suggest that perhaps there’s a usability bug we can fix or a workflow we can simplify.
If you want to get in on the Private Test phase, make sure you sign up, and double-check for a confirmation email.
Phase 3: Public Test
When we’re close to shipping, we’ll fling wide the doors, and everyone can download OmniFocus 2 and take it for a spin. At that point, the functionality of the app will be all there, and we’ll be putting most of our energy into getting localizations and setting up the machinery for the formal release to both our store and the Mac App Store. However, this is also a last chance for you to let us know about any bugs that might really really need fixing before we ship.
How to help us test
So, once you get that exciting email saying “You can now download OmniFocus 2 test builds”, now what?
Take a deep breath and think about whether this is really something you want to do right now. The builds will be generated and posted automatically, so you might run a particular build of OmniFocus before anyone at Omni does. There is a small but real chance that the build will destroy your OmniFocus data or worse. Make sure you’ve got backups of your computer data. And if you’ve got a really big assignment due on a Tuesday, maybe wait until Wednesday before taking a test build out for a spin. If all these warnings don’t scare you away, follow the instructions in the email to download and install the app.
We realize it’s probably futile to ask that you not talk about the app at all in this phase. So we will simply ask that if you do talk about or share screenshots of OmniFocus 2, please clearly indicate that this is not a final release. A great place to discuss the app is in the OmniFocus 2 Forum. (And please do NOT share the application itself.)
So you downloaded the app, and started using it, and something went horribly wrong. Now what?
First check if this is on the “What’s NOT Ready” section of the Release Notes (available in the Help menu). For example, right now Review doesn’t look at all like the mock-up we showed at the Debut. Sending us an email telling us it’s unfinished won’t help, because we already know it’s a problem.
Otherwise, please tell us about it. You might be the first person to encounter it, or the first person to give us a critical clue we need to detect the root cause of the problem. Bugs are often best reported via email, because it is so frequently useful to include specific data about the issue. (We will still be answering the phones—during business hours—and twitter as well.)
If possible when reporting a bug please do the following:
- If this is a new issue, please start a new email thread. Replying to an old email thread to tell us about a new bug can make it more difficult for our Support Humans to respond efficiently. (If you’re continuing a conversation about an ongoing issue, it’s fine to reply to the email conversation already in progress.)
- Please mention what revision of the app you’re running. (Send Feedback will include this automatically in the subject line.)
- Tell us the story–what were you doing right before this happened, did you recently upgrade your OS, does this only happen at the coffee shop?
- Include a screenshot. A picture can be “worth a thousand words” even in a bug report.
- If there are error messages, a console log will often provide more detailed errors than what pops up in the alert box.
- If the app becomes unresponsive, including a sample can help us figure out what the app thinks it’s busy doing while it “beachballs” or “hangs”.
Another round of private (but just about public) testing!
In the past year we’ve written a bit about both 2013 and OmniOutliner 4; now we’re ready to let you see the next generation.
We’d like anyone who uses OmniOutliner on most days to give it a go. Have a particular template or document you live out of? Try your workflows in OmniOutliner 4 and let us know if bugs happen. Real-world information here is extremely critical to a great public release of v4.
It’s important to note that OmniOutliner 4 has been completely rewritten and requires Mountain Lion (10.8).
If you’re in and have the time, sign up for the private OmniOutliner Test. We’re sending out the first round of invitations…
Right now! Well, shortly after you sign up anyway. We’d like to get tens to hundreds of thousands of private testing hours before starting a “Hey stranger, come download this app” public test.
If you emailed us on your own accord in the past few months, you should have already received your invitation to test.
Is there anything missing?
Not missing, but possibly buggy! In February we finished adding the bulk of support for AppleScript (rewritten!) and printing (rewritten!), and you’ll see audio recording show up soon, too.
And the final version?
We’ll know when we’re ready after hearing from you. We want OmniOutliner 4 to be just as stable as OmniOutliner 3, and a good group of private testing with a lot of unique usage helps a great amount. Sign up, give it a go, and let us know what you find!
When we decided to bring all our apps to iPad, we immediately started hearing from our customers that it wasn’t enough to just bring desktop-class productivity apps to the best mobile platform: all of the documents in those apps needed to be mobile as well, so you’d always have the latest copies of your documents available on all of your devices.
As I shared in my January blog post, we’ve been hard at work on this problem for quite a while now and our solution to this is called “OmniPresence”: your documents, synced everywhere you want them to be.
What is OmniPresence?
- OmniPresence is a way to sync folders between your devices using a web server.
- On Mac, a separate OmniPresence app churns away silently in the background, syncing any documents placed in its folders—without requiring any special support from other apps. On iOS, the sandboxing environment requires that each app add its own support for OmniPresence—so we’ll be providing free updates for all our apps (and publishing code so other developers can add support if they wish).
- OmniPresence separates document syncing from any particular back end service provider. You can use it with your own compatible web server, or with the Omni Sync Server for documents created with your Omni apps.
Here is what OmniPresence looks like in action:
… and we’re finally at the point where it’s time to enlist your help in testing this code before we ship it!
The good news is that we’ve already heard from over a thousand of you who would be happy to help us test OmniPresence. The bad news is that we can’t open this up to all of you, because we have a very limited number of slots available for testing development versions of our iOS apps.
If you’re interested in helping us test OmniPresence, here are some questions we’ll need you to answer:
- Do you have a good strategy for backing up your documents in case something goes awry? You’re helping us test unreleased software, and one of the risks is that it might have bugs which delete or silently corrupt your data.
- Will you be able to use OmniPresence frequently over the next few weeks? If you don’t have time to help us this month, it would be better to give this slot to someone else.
- Are you willing to store your documents on the Omni Sync Server—or, alternatively, to patch, build, install, configure, and deploy your own copy of the Apache web server? We’ve submitted several updates to Apache which haven’t been integrated by their team yet, so if you’re uncomfortable storing data on our server you’ll need to set up your own server with those updates in place. (If you plan to use the Omni Sync Server, please tell us your account name so we can enable OmniPresence testing for it.)
And two bonus questions:
- Which of our apps do you use? We’re adding OmniPresence support to OmniGraffle, OmniOutliner, and OmniGraphSketcher, and an ideal tester would be someone who uses all three. (Note: OmniPresence provides no benefit to OmniFocus and OmniPlan, since they already have built-in support for syncing individual changes.)
- Are you a developer who is interested in adding OmniPresence support to your own app? We’re not quite ready to publish our source code yet, but we do plan to and it would be great to get feedback from other developers before we unleash this into the wild.
Please email your responses to email@example.com. We look forward to hearing from you!
Ever have a day where you feel like computers have turned against you? If they’re not spattering the screen with cryptic error dialogs, they’re refusing to Undo, replacing your hours of work with a , or just giving up and rebooting.
When I have a day like that, I feel productive. See, one of my jobs here is to test our software. Like a Test Pilot, I take things out for a flight to find out if they’re safe before the general public does. Of course, I’m steering apps, not planes. And if I crash one, it’s a lot less painful and doesn’t make the news headlines.
Sometimes testing looks a lot like anyone else using the application. I add actions to my OmniFocus database, compose a blog post in OmniOutliner, or rearrange my living room in OmniGraffle. But then something funny happens. Instead of underlining the one misspelled word in my blog post, it puts angry red squiggles under the word after it. “Hmm…why would that happen?” Hopefully I’ve saved a copy of my blog post, because now I’m more interested in solving this puzzle. I might add more misspelled words, or rearrange words, to look for a pattern. By the time I’ve tracked down the issue, the blog post is probably illegible.
Fortunately, I’ve got two different backup systems in place, so I can boldly mangle my blog post, delete valuable system files, or run that one version of an app that deleted all the files on my desktop. (Oops!)
Testing can also look a little ridiculous sometimes. Maybe the latest internal build of OmniGraffle works fine with the 7 pieces of furniture I’m rearranging in my living room. But what does it do with 7000 pieces of furniture? And what if each coffee table has a huge jpeg placed inside its texture? And what if the label on every couch is the word ‘couch’ written in 20 different languages? I don’t really expect a user to need OmniGraffle to handle this exact situation, but they’re probably going to try to do (or accidentally do) something similarly complex. What goes wrong first? Is it the mix of left-to-right and right-to-left text? Or the thousands of shapes? And how does it go wrong? It might bonk, display a polite alert, get horribly slow, corrupt your file, or crash. Maybe we can’t keep it from failing, but we might be able to replace that crash with a polite alert and hang onto the contents of your file.
You probably know software issues are called bugs. There’s some disagreement about why they’re called that, but I think we can all agree that, like cockroaches, fleas, and mosquitos, they are really unpleasant and should be removed from our homes.
When I find a bug, I add a new entry to our bug database. I’m pointing out a problem, maybe a mistake one of our engineers made. I try to be polite, so they don’t feel attacked. They keep in mind that we all want our software to have fewer bugs and finding the problems is my part of that goal. I give them as much information as I can, so that hopefully they can see the bug happen for themselves, figure out why, and fix it.
Software is immensely complex. While no software can be proven completely free of bugs1, if we can find and fix the most common and troublesome ones before you ever see them, it’s a good day.
The OmniFocus 2 Debut is now available to watch!
Many thanks to everyone who was able to show up on January 31st — we all enjoyed talking to you.
Don’t forget to sign up for the private test to participate in the OmniFocus 2 process. We won’t send a lot of mail, but we should have more information soon.
As I said in my blog post announcing OmniFocus 2, our goals for version 2 are to bring back to the Mac all of the design and innovation that went into our iPad edition of OmniFocus: dedicated Forecast and Review modes, clearer navigation, and a fresh look and feel. And from the reaction from people I talked to at last night’s debut, it sounds like we’ve done just that!
As with the iPad app, all navigation is now done through a unified sidebar: there is a single sidebar that includes your Inbox, Projects, and Contexts, as well as your Forecast of upcoming scheduled work, a list of Flagged tasks, and list of projects that need Review. The main navigation headers stick to the top or bottom as you scroll, so they’re always visible and accessible with a single click no matter where you are in the list.
The new Forecast mode shows you a summary of your upcoming time-based commitments at a glance in the sidebar. You can leave the forecast collapsed to see the next several days (as in the screenshot), or expand the forecast to see an entire month in your sidebar. From the forecast, you can select any combination of days to see a detailed schedule that includes scheduled tasks from OmniFocus integrated with events from your calendar.
With version 1 of OmniFocus it was already easy to add new items into your system—using the built-in Quick Entry on Mac, or Siri on the iPhone and iPad, or by sending email to your Inbox. Perhaps a little too easy: after using OmniFocus for a few months, OmniFocus could easily become cluttered with cruft that seemed important at the time, but is no longer relevant to the work you need to get done today! This is the problem we aim to solve by bringing Review mode to OmniFocus 2 (which we originally pioneered in the iPad app). Review mode walks you through reviewing any projects which you haven’t reviewed recently, making it easy to update your projects to make sure they reflect your current priorities.
Now that information about OmniFocus 2 is public, we’re happy to answer any questions you might have about it! Some of the obvious questions are:
Will this require new versions of OmniFocus for iPad and iPhone?
No, we’re not updating OmniFocus for iPad or iPhone at this time: OmniFocus 2 for Mac is designed to sync with the current shipping versions.
How soon will OmniFocus 2 be shipping?
The simplest answer to that question is that I don’t really know! A more accurate answer is that the answer really depends on what feedback we receive from all of you. We use an iterative development process at Omni, so our next step is to ship a private test release so we can get feedback from customers on how well it’s working in practice. Based on that feedback, we’ll update our design and ship another private test release (and invite more people into the test pool), and the cycle begins again. How many times we repeat that cycle depends on how long it takes for us to feel like we’ve achieved our goals for the release.
Once we finish those rounds of private testing, we’ll post a wide-open public test release for anyone to download from our website, and finish up some of the other hard work of writing documentation, translating the app and documentation to other languages, and submitting the app to Apple for App Store review. Usually this final stage takes 4-6 weeks—at that time, it should be much easier to accurately project a ship date.
How much will OmniFocus 2 cost?
OmniFocus 1 has been very successful at its current price point of $79.99—and we think that’s been providing great value for its current target audience of professional customers. But with OmniFocus 2 being much more approachable, we think there’s also an opportunity to reach a wider audience who don’t need all of the Pro features from the current edition. So we’re going to offer two editions of OmniFocus 2:
The Standard edition of OmniFocus 2 will include all of the basic features which we’ve talked about above, and will cost $39.99.
The Pro edition of OmniFocus will offer the option of building custom workflows like OmniFocus 1 does today, with its support for Perspectives and AppleScript.
Will there be a discount for current owners of OmniFocus 1?
Yes, on our online store we’ll be offering a 50% discount to current customers of OmniFocus 1, whether you originally bought directly from us or through the App Store. This means that current customers will be able to upgrade to the Standard edition of OmniFocus 2 for $19.99, or to the Pro edition for $39.99.
We would love to offer the same deal to people who wish to purchase OmniFocus 2 from the App Store, but unfortunately the App Store has no mechanism for offering selective discounts to different customers based on their previous purchases.
Will volume or educational discounts be available?
Yes, we will continue to offer volume discounts through our standard online store, and educational discounts through our Education Store.
What if I don’t own OmniFocus already? What should I buy today, and where should I buy it?
From now on, anyone who purchases OmniFocus 1 from our online store will receive a free upgrade to the Professional edition of OmniFocus 2 when it ships.