Q & A: Omni answers, take three

by Linda Sharps on November 2, 2006

Welcome to the third, and for this week anyway, final installment of “You Ask, We Answer!”. Brought to you by Diet Coke and the letter Q.

(Q for Qwality!)

Ayjay asked, many Mac developers have moved away from the use of drawers (especially now that Apple has taken them away from Mail) but you guys still feature drawers-a-plenty. What do you like about drawers? Have you thought about any other ways of implementing the functionality that drawers give you?

Ooh, good question. I had to call in the troops for help on this one, since my opinions on drawers are mainly limited to the kind you put your socks in. Ken, our CEO, and Bill, our UI Lead, put their heads together to answer you:

'We like drawers because they are a great place for content that belongs to the main window but doesn't necessarily need to be there all the time. They're great for “source lists”, from which you can choose what to view in the main window, like OmniGraffle's canvases or OmniWeb's tabs. Perhaps best of all, unlike a sidebar, you can show, hide, or resize a drawer all day long without affecting the dimensions or layout of the main content. And in Omni apps, you can move the drawer to whichever side of the window you prefer by Option-clicking the drawer button in the toolbar.

The problem with drawers, of course, is that the things just don't look modern. While the rest of Mac OS X interface was getting the sleek plastic or metal treatment, drawers are still as pinstripey, space-wastey, and noisy as they were the day they were introduced. Unless we want to cobble together and maintain some sort of custom fake drawer ourselves (or—gasp!—Apple actually updates drawers' appearance), we're going to have to get away from drawers eventually.

In meetings for our new products, we've talked about how to deal with this problem, and we think we may have come up with a good hybrid of the useful drawer and the sleek sidebar. You may end up seeing the first incarnation of it in OmniFocus, if we can do it right.'

Spencer says, I have had no luck at all with storing OmniGraffle documents in Subverson.  The icon seems to contain an illegal character or something.

Here's the response from our OmniGraffle tech support/product manager NINJA EXTRAORDINAIRE:

'This is likely due to OmniGraffle saving the files out as packages, which other file systems can have difficulty dealing with.

OmniGraffle will automatically save a file out to a package if an image or external graphic is present in the document; there is a hidden preference to avoid this behavior that can be enabled from the command line. To get OmniGraffle to always save as a “flat” file (which will have no problems on other filesystems), open up Terminal.app and paste this in:


defaults write com.omnigroup.OmniGraffle PrivateGraffleFlatFile 0

Afterwards, new documents should always save as a monolithic file, you may have to perform a “Save As” for existing documents to convert them.'

Man, I'm loving this whole 'fob off the hard questions on other Omni employees' gig. What else have you got, commenters? Bring. It. On! *spirit hands*

Matt wants to know, Do you guys plan on fixing RSS anytime soon? Its a sometimes it work, sometimes it doesn't work symptom. Usually I have to relaunch OmniWeb to get it to recheck RSS feeds- it doesn't do it by itself even though I have it set to recheck the feeds every hour.

Dang, this one's less fun to answer. Turns out we've seen this issue and we're able to reproduce it. It's a bug that we're hoping to fix in an upcoming release, after the 5.5.1 update. Sorry about that!

Conor asks, Can you tell me if OmniFocus will liason with OmniPlan so that you can plan projects in OmniPlan and then download your personal tasks into OmniFocus? Also, are there any plans to allow Wintel users to edit OmniPlan? I work in a mixed-platform office and, while I do most of the project planning on my mac, it would be nice to enable other employees to check off tasks, etc.

We would love for OmniFocus and OmniPlan to work together that way, but I think it's safe to say that they won't for OmniFocus 1.0. We're trying to limit the scope to what we can actually get out the door in a (hopefully) reasonable amount of time, but it's definitely on the plate for future consideration.

As for Wintel users…well, we likely won't ever have a cross-platform version of OmniPlan, but you can use OmniPlan to export to .mpx, .mpp, and MSPDI .xml for sharing with Microsoft Project and other project management applications. You can also export to a .csv file for import into Excel, and if people just need to see the data, not update it, you can export the Gantt, outline or both into several different image formats (PDF, PNG, TIFF, JPEG). And! You can export to html – either a single table of tasks, or a mini-website with a Gantt chart, tables, and calendar files that can be imported into iCal, Outlook or other calendaring apps.

Thanks for all your questions, folks, and if I didn't get to yours this week, my apologies. Please stay tuned for an Exciting Announcement (note: your excitement may vary) about OmniWeb I will be posting later today. Same blog time, same blog channel.


OmniDazzle 1.0.1 Now Available.

by Troy on November 1, 2006

No Changes were made between beta 2 and this final release but changes since 1.0 include:


  • On the Mac Pro, if the video card is a NVIDIA 7300 and there is more than 2GB of memory, Pixie Dust is disabled. This avoids a bug in Mac OS X where the entire machine will crash. We will enable this again when Apple fixes this problem.

  • Fixed a crash in OmniDazzle when using Focal Point on Photoshop.


  • Made several interface strings localizable

  • Added a French localization


  • Added workaround for bug in the Accessibility support in Mac OS X that would cause crashes when Focal Point queried menus or popups in other applications in some cases.

  • Help pages now have individual titles for improved searching.

  • Pressing the escape key with the Zoom plug-in with the selection indicator still active now also marks the screen 'clear' so you no longer have to manually do this to use the plug-in again.

  • Added correction to the software update query to avoid reporting incorrect data.


Q & A: Omni answers, take two

by Linda Sharps on October 31, 2006

Happy Halloween, Omni blog readers! Troy is wearing a purple wig today, James is sporting some bright orange socks with bats on them (although for James that's a fairly typical fashion choice), Ken is wearing a lab coat, and Greg's son Miles has been transformed into…well, Darth Toddler:


Hee. I love the thumbs up gesture, there.

Okay! On to more questions, before all our pumpkins turn into…uh…chariots, or something.

Dan asks, Is there any sort of official list of ideas and feature requests for future releases?  Have you ever thought of doing something like an “OmniProduct Focus Group,” or is this something that would be completely unnecessary?

We definitely have an internal system for tracking ideas, feature requests, and bugs, and assigning things to specific target releases for all of our products. I'm guessing you're wondering more about a publicly available list, so you can see what's already been suggested? We don't have such a thing, exactly, but you can see what other people are talking about on our forums, and add your input there. Otherwise, we always welcome feedback via email, so please feel free to send us your requests.

As for a focus group, we've never hosted a formal type of group (the kind where you get free soda and people with clipboards peer at you from behind one-way mirrors), although we have asked people to join an “Alpha Brute Squad” where they get a really early look at our software (sometimes when it's in a mildly terrifying, devouring-its-own-tail state of bugdom!) and have a chance to provide feedback on features and UI before it goes into public beta.

I don't yet know what we'll be doing for OmniFocus, but I'd recommend signing up on this mailing list if you're interested in potentially being tapped for Brute Squad duty.

Kirk wonders, Any chance of transferring an Outliner license to Focus when it comes out?

Sort of. We will be offering discounted OmniFocus licenses for OmniOutliner customers, so while you won't be able to transfer one app license to another, you won't be charged full price either. We haven't made any final pricing decisions, but we definitely recognize that we need cross-product discounting.

David asks, How do I enter curved text in OmniGraffle?  That is, if I want a line of text to follow a curved path (like a squiggle or around a circle/arc), can it be done [...]?

Sorry, you can't created curved text in OmniGraffle (although you should be able to copy and paste it in from a graphic created elsewhere). If you don't have Illustrator, as you mentioned, maybe something like LineForm or EazyDraw would work?

Dan asked another question: is there a story for the change in the status of Omni's apps that come bundled with most Macs, with the switch to Intel?  (Specifically, the addition of OmniOutliner to all consumer Macs and the loss of OmniGraffle.)

If there's a story, only Apple knows it. We don't really have any influence over what Apple decides to include, or not include, in their hardware – we just review what they ultimately propose and decide if we want to say yea or nay. The expanded bundle deal for Outliner has been great, although in general I wish our software were easier to discover. You know, instead of being all tidily tucked away in the Applications folder, maybe it could be…sitting in the Dock? (Apple? I'm just sayin'.)

Nik asked several questions, most of which I've sent on to tech support,  but here's one for the blog: Is it possible to save an OmniOutliner document so that it's JUST the XML file and doesn't have the bundle “wrapper” around it? (Then I could check it into source control and stuff.)

You can check it into source control, I'm told. OmniOutliner supports CVS and SVN, so you can check it in as is, folders and all.

All righty then! This concludes today's Q&A With Omni. I may follow up with a third and final post on Thursday, so if you have any more questions, leave them in the fancy comment box.

And now, I'm off to help my son trample large metropolitan areas. RAARRRRR!



Q & A: Omni answers, take one

by Linda Sharps on October 30, 2006

Oh crap, you mean you're actually going to ask, like, real questions? Well FINE. Make me work, why don't you.

(Note: if you need technical support on any of our apps, it's best to send it to our support team using Send Feedback.. under the Help menu in your software. I may not get to *everyone's* question this week.)

Richard asks, How can I get OmniWeb to open up RSS links in Vienna, my preferred RSS reader?

We have a current OmniWeb bug described as:

“Request: Allow news icon to send RSS feed subscriptions to outside program/external viewer [newsfeed default]” 

This should be implemented in 5.5.2, an update that should be available soon (I'm not sure exactly when, but not too long from now).

Matthew has some Omni software on his laptop, and now that his employer has provided him with a PowerMac, he wants to know how to use those same apps via network licensing.

There is a lengthy explanation of our different licensing types here, but in a nutshell, you'll just need to install your Omni application of choice on your Power Mac (grab the download from our website), then use the same license you've been using on your laptop. You cannot, however, run two copies of the licensed software using one license at the same time – otherwise, both of your computers will explode.

(Okay, they won't technically “explode”, but it would violate our licensing policy and that would mean that somewhere, a kitten would cry. Won't you please, please think of the kittens?)

Edward would like to know, Are there any “secret” ways to get OmniWeb to run quicker?

Down at the lower righthand corner of the screen, there is a very, very small button that's labeled “TURBO”. Click it, and –

Okay, I'm making that up. I wish I had some kind of cool answer like that, but unfortunately there's no simple response to that question. There are too many variables to consider, like when you're experiencing the issue (I assume you mean that the browser is running too slow at times?), what else you have going on, etc. You are running 5.5, right? If so, I suggest using the Send Feedback…option to tell us more about this so we can look into it, or email us.

BZ asked a LOT of questions, JEEZ. I'll answer two of them for now: When is OmniFocus coming out and who do I have to kill to be on the beta?

To be 100% honest, we don't know when OmniFocus is coming out. There is a team working full time on developing this product, but it's just too early to make predictions. We all really want to get it in your hands as soon as possible, though. As for the beta, when the time comes we'll be asking for volunteers. If you want to get your name in the hat now, subscribe to this list and we'll get in touch with you as soon as it's Beta Time (like Hammer Time, except with slimmer pants).

Stack said, Tell us a little bit about OmniFocus.  [...] The GTD system gives you breathing room to be implemented in a few different ways, but aside from interface stuff I don't really see how your product can distinguish itself from its competitors in the market.  How will OmniFocus be different?

I can't make any commitments yet on specific features that will be included in OmniFocus (I know, I'm all “ask us anything!” and then I give you, “errr…except that”). We're still defining how features will work; figuring out implementation and UI, and creating crazy mockups using OmniGraffle (oh, OmniGraffle, is there anything you can't do?).

I will say that the “interface stuff” – how the software looks, the way that it works, the experience you have when using it – is exactly what can distinguish one app from another and make all the difference in its value. If OmniFocus ends up being a joy to use, if it seamlessly integrates into your workflow, if it stays out of your way but provides you with what you need, then we'll have accomplished some of our biggest goals.

Our friend Corentin (who has done countless French localizations for us, merci!) asks, in part, What's planned for OmniWeb 5.6? When will a beta be out the door?

We are planning for 5.6 to be a WebKit update. As for timing, we have to get through 5.5.1 (currently in beta), then 5.5.2, then revisit the WebKit situation so…in short, we're not sure when 5.6 will be available, but it shouldn't be too long of a wait. *knock wood*

Daniel says, I'm playing through Oni at the moment, and I've found a few bugs. If I report them, do they have a chance of ever being fixed?

Well…probably not. That's what I'm told, anyway. We did the game port many, many moons ago and no longer have anything to do with Oni, which is now owned by Take 2 Interactive. You could contact them with your bug info and request an update, but it doesn't sound very likely that it will happen. Sorry, I wish I had a more helpful answer.

WHEW. That's all for now, folks, I'll try and answer more tomorrow. Oh, and for the record, we have one cat. Her name is Lotus. She's kind of mangy and makes horrible yowling sounds, but she is loved nonetheless.


Q & A with Omni

by Linda Sharps on October 30, 2006

I was trying to think of some exciting Omni news to share with you, and I found myself writing up a post that told you all about how our snack room fridge magnets currently spell out “FAMOUS LIPIDS” and what could that mean, and then I had to look up “lipids” because I wasn't sure what they were, and then I got distracted by wikipedia when I learned the daily requirement of lipids is 382 grams per day, which made me wonder if I am getting enough lipids, whatever they are, and then I decided that if those Halloween-sized “100 Grand” bars contain any lipids at all, I'm probably doing JIM FLIPPING DANDY in the lipid department.

Also, maybe I should cut back on the sugar for a while.

Anyway! Obviously it would be totally unprofessional and lame to post some kind of crazy blog entry about lipids, so instead I thought I'd offer up the chance for you to ask us questions – from “how do I get OmniWeb to do X” to “jeez, just how many cats do you people have” – and I'll do my best to get them answered and posted here throughout the week.

Ready? Go ahead, ask away. I'll just be, um, making absolutely sure that I've got all my lipids for the day week month year.