OmniFocus news update

by Ken Case on August 22, 2008

Hi, all!  We've had a very, very busy 2008, and I just wanted to share a little bit of our OmniFocus news with you.

As you know, we shipped OmniFocus 1.0 in January—to critical acclaim, including a Best of Show award at Macworld Expo.  We immediately started working on adding synchronization support for OmniFocus 1.1 (while simultaneously adding support for additional languages to the OmniFocus 1.0.x releases).  Ethan talked a little bit about this on our blog in his post “OmniFocus Sync: It's ALIVE”.

But the bigger news happened in March, when Apple announced that they were going to open up the iPhone to third-party developers.  We knew immediately that OmniFocus had huge potential on the iPhone, because it solved a big problem I have with managing my tasks on a Mac:  I don't always have my Mac with me.  In particular, I might not have it when I think of something I need to remember to do (such as noticing it's time to change the oil), and I might not have it when I'm trying to remember things that need doing (such as which groceries are on my shopping list).  But my iPhone, on the other hand, is with me wherever I go.

In addition to being with me at all times, my iPhone has another really great feature:  it can locate itself on a map.  That meant that we could make OmniFocus automatically know where it is at all times, so it could show me a list of the things I want to get done near where I am right now.

That was it, we were sold:  we had to bring OmniFocus to the iPhone.  As soon as Apple gave us the tools to start developing iPhone apps, we quickly set out to bring OmniFocus to the iPhone and to make it synchronize with the desktop app.  With the help of many long nights and weekends (and the patience of our families), we had the basic app working six weeks later—just in time to enter it into the Apple Design Awards contest, where it won the award for Best iPhone Productivity Application!

Of course, winning an award didn't mean that our work was done:  one of the biggest challenges we faced was that we couldn't ask any of you to help us test the software, because it required a version of the iPhone operating system which wasn't yet available to the public.  We pulled our QA team off all our other projects so they could focus on testing just the iPhone app, and identified and fixed dozens of different places the app could crash.  We continued working around the clock through the July 4 holiday, trying to make sure that we had everything ready to go on the day the App Store launched:  Friday, July 11.  Six weeks ago today.

That day finally came, and we watched with amazement as OmniFocus went as high as #3 on the the App Store's Top 10 list of most popular applications:  11,000 people bought OmniFocus that first weekend alone.  (Thank you!) OmniFocus is still one of the most popular productivity apps on the App Store and has continued to sell at a steady clip ever since.

Which is, of course, why you're only hearing about this six weeks after the fact.  With tens of thousands of new customers using a new app on a new platform comes a lot of work.  Here are a few numbers which might give you a bit of a picture of the last six weeks here at Omni:  we've built over 250 “sneaky peek” releases of OmniFocus 1.1 for the Mac (which syncs with the new iPhone app), and 141 internal test builds of OmniFocus for the iPhone (leading to three more public releases).  Our OmniFocus support ninjas have received over 9,000 email messages (of which we've answered over 7,800), and over 4,000 messages have been posted to our user forums.  (And meanwhile, of course, we've continued to release new versions of OmniGraffle, OmniPlan, OmniOutliner, and OmniWeb.)

We're still not caught up, unfortunately, even with volunteers helping from every department within Omni.  We're hiring more people to help out (and if you know someone who might be interested please send them our way!)—and hopefully that will help us get back to our usual standards.

In the end, we feel very fortunate:  the last six months have been very busy, and while the results aren't yet perfect we're very proud of what we've accomplished so far.  We couldn't have done this without you—so, from all of us here:  Thank You!