Looking back at Omni’s 2013, and looking ahead to 2014

by Ken Case on January 8, 2014

One year ago, I talked about our plans for 2013. Whenever I do this, I worry—particularly about the stress I’m putting on our team. They know better than anyone that these plans can and will change, sometimes causing trouble for customers who were making their own plans based on what we previously shared. But if I don’t ever talk about where we’re headed, it’s difficult for you all to know whether you want to join us on that journey.

So, here I am talking about our plans again, and I hope you’ll understand that this is a statement of direction—not a prediction of exactly when we will get to each milestone along the way!

Let’s start by reviewing those plans from last year: OmniFocus 2. OmniOutliner 4. Automatic document syncing. Sandboxing. Accessibility. Visio and Microsoft Project compatibility in our iPad apps. Upgrade pricing from Mac App Store apps. How did 2013 actually play out, compared to those original plans?

In Q1, we posted a first look at OmniFocus 2 and began private testing of OmniFocus 2, as well as testing OmniOutliner 4 and testing OmniPresence. We shipped several hundred test builds of those apps over the next few months, and in May we shipped OmniPresence.

Through June, as you can see, everything was going pretty much according to that original plan. We even managed to slip in a bonus update to OmniFocus for iPhone which added support for location-based background syncing and for emailing actions.

In June, at WWDC, Apple announced the new OS X Mavericks, and went on to announce an entirely new design direction for iOS 7—asking all app developers to rethink their iPhone and iPad apps to fit in with it.

We decided to spend one very focused Q3 building three new apps for iOS 7, with team members canceling their vacations and working late nights and weekends to get things ready in time. And while we had to make some hard decisions along the way (like delaying OmniFocus 2 for Mac and discontinuing OmniGraphSketcher), the end results were that we were ready on iOS 7 launch day near the end of Q3 (September 17) with three apps our team can be quite proud of:

  • OmniOutliner 2 for iPad refreshed the visual design for iOS 7, of course, but also added templates, style themes (with a dark theme mode), external keyboard support with dozens of keyboard shortcuts, folders, background syncing, and export to Word documents.
  • OmniPlan 2 for iPad added support for importing Microsoft Project documents, as planned in our original roadmap, and updated its interface for iOS 7, but we didn’t stop there. We also added support for viewing a task’s scheduling influences, for highlighting the critical path, and for using iOS 7’s AirDrop to share HTML and PDF documents with nearby devices.
  • OmniFocus 2 for iPhone added background syncing, but the real story was its complete design refresh, for which it received rave reviews. It was one of the top selling apps during the launch weekend of iOS 7 across all categories, and is considered by Apple to be one of the Best of 2013.

Of course, just because we shipped new version 2 apps didn’t mean that we should just abandon our version 1 apps, so we also quickly shipped free updates for each of those so they would also be compatible with iOS 7.

At this point in the story, those of you who were quite familiar with our iOS app line-up might well have been scratching your head: Why were we shipping major iOS 7 redesigns for OmniFocus, OmniOutliner, and OmniPlan—but not OmniGraffle?

Fortunately, you wouldn’t have had long to wonder about that, because we answered that question the very next week, when we shipped a huge redesign for OmniGraffle for Mac with all kinds of great features. (Briefly: A totally redesigned interface, resource browser, image masking, nondestructive shape combinations, artistic styles, Retina-awareness, Photoshop export… so much stuff!)

These four new apps were the first paid upgrades we’d shipped since we started distributing apps through the App Store, and they were huge commercial successes, leading to two months of the highest sales we’ve experienced throughout our 21-year history.

But they brought us right up against one of the App Store’s big limitations: its lack of support for upgrade discounts for people who purchased previous versions of an app. We’d been pointing out this issue for a while, and proposed a solution for the Mac App Store in our 2013 roadmap which we implemented in Q3 when we posted OmniKeyMaster—but within a week we learned that approach wasn’t allowed. This felt discouraging, but we kept exploring alternative ideas and in Q4 we finally found an approach which Apple would approve, letting us offer limited upgrade discounts to OmniGraffle 6 through the Mac App Store.

Building these new apps meant writing a lot of new documentation, which inspired us to think about how to make our documentation more relevant and accessible, and in December we shipped the OmniGraffle 6 User Manual in the iBookstore. Feedback has been very positive with over 2,000 downloads in its first month, so we’re looking forward to continuing to use the iBookstore for more of our manuals in the future.

In the end, 2013 turned out to be quite a great year at Omni, with plenty of critical acclaim and commercial success—even if things didn’t go exactly as we originally planned! (And during our vacations, we even found a little time to update OmniDiskSweeper for Mavericks as well as posting new 64-bit test builds of OmniWeb 6.)

So where does that leave us now? What are we planning to do next?

Well, while we’ve done plenty of testing (with tens of thousands of active testers!), we still haven’t shipped either OmniOutliner 4 or OmniFocus 2 for Mac. We made significant progress with accessibility in 2013 (in OmniOutliner 2 for iPad and OmniFocus 2 for iPhone), but we still have more work to do across the board. And we still have two apps which need to be redesigned for iOS 7: OmniFocus for iPad, and OmniGraffle for iPad. (Right now, they’re both looking rather dated next to the rest of our line-up!)

So, let’s start!

In one week, we’ll be shipping OmniOutliner 4. Stay tuned!

OS X Mavericks and Omni Apps

by Dave on October 22, 2013

Just like you, we’re really excited about today’s release of OS X Mavericks. In case you’re wondering, here’s the compatibility status of each of our shipping apps:

  • OmniPlan 2.3.1 has some rendering and exporting issues in Mavericks, but we’ve submitted version 2.3.2 to the App Store and it will be available later today from omnigroup.com.

  • We’re not aware of any issues with OmniOutliner 3.10.6 or 3.10.5, and the OmniOutliner 4 test builds are running great. Update: It looks like OmniOutliner 3’s Quick Look preview generator isn’t working in 10.9. We’re sorry for any inconvenience.

  • OmniGraffle 6 is good to go, and if you haven’t upgraded yet, 5.4.4 is too.

  • OmniFocus for Mac 1.10.5 is all set (be sure to check for updates if you’re running 1.10.4 or earlier).

A note on the OmniFocus 2 Private Test: We’re loving what Mavericks is doing for our development process, but new builds aren’t ready for testers yet. Since the currently available test builds have significant issues when running on Mavericks, we recommend that testers revert to OmniFocus 1.10.5 and wait for an announcement.

That’s it! If you run into any issues with any of our apps after updating OS X, please don’t hesitate to email our Support Humans or give us a call at 1 800-315-6664 (10am-5pm Pacific Time).

Deliver Actions to your OmniFocus Inbox with Mail Drop

by Dave on October 16, 2013

Mail Drop is a feature of the Omni Sync Server that many of you have been using for quite a while. After a year of private and public testing we’re ready to drop the “beta” badge and recommend Mail Drop to all of our customers who use Omni Sync Server with OmniFocus.

If you’re not familiar with Mail Drop, the concept is simple: send emails directly into your OmniFocus Inbox. For example, if your Twitter client doesn’t support “Send to OmniFocus” natively, but does let you email tweets, send that latest Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen photo to a special @sync.omnigroup.com email address. The next time you open your OmniFocus Inbox, you’ll see it waiting for the artistic Photoshop you planned on your bus ride home.

Here are some other ways you might use Mail Drop:

  • Bridging the gap between your Windows PC at work and your OmniFocus system.
  • Processing actionable emails on your iPhone or iPad.
  • Setting up a special email address to allow a partner to delegate actions directly.
  • Using if this then that to automate all kinds of internet-y things.

So what are you waiting for? Log in to your Omni Sync Server account and create your first Mail Drop address. If you have questions that aren’t answered by our Mail Drop Support Article, drop our support humans a line.

iOS 7 & Omni: What’s new, what’s cool

by Derek R. on September 17, 2013

Today we’re very happy to announce that new versions of OmniOutliner for iPad, OmniPlan for iPad, and OmniFocus for iPhone are available to everyone via the App Store!

Really cool, really tilted

We‘re really proud of these new apps and have spent a lot of time adapting to both the new design aesthetic and overall improvements in iOS 7. These apps are gorgeous, offer more functionality, and—we think—really represent Apple’s suggestion of deference, clarity, and depth.

OmniFocus 2 for iPhone was truly developed from scratch for iOS 7. First, we put together a home screen that was capable of showing a bit more than before. We all love Forecast — in OmniFocus 2, you’ll get a peek at your week on page one. With iOS 7’s tint colors, each badge and each view of the app has a specific feel. And if you need to go all the way to the Home screen, tap-and-hold the back button to get there.

All with iOS 7’s new Background App Refresh.

In OmniOutliner 2 for iPad, there’s of course the brand new look for iOS 7 — and a lot more, too. We’ve added dozens of hardware keyboard shortcuts so you can stay in the zone and leave your fingers on the keyboard while you work. We completely redesigned and rewrote the Doc Picker, too. Outlines are downloaded via OmniPresence in the background, and you can organize your files by folder. (The same folders you’ll find on the Mac, if you’re using OmniPresence there!)

New templates make it easier than ever to get started without fiddling, and theming support means you can change the look of your entire outline after the fact rather than worrying about that up front.

And in OmniPlan 2 you’ll see a fresh, iOS 7-inspired interface—and the new Doc Picker. But we’ve also added a number of powerful features which were previously only available in the desktop edition. View a task’s scheduling influences, or highlight the critical path so you can understand which milestones are most essential to keeping your project on track. Sharing is easier than ever: you can still do collaborative editing with others using OmniPlan, but you can also AirDrop HTML and PDFs.

There’s also a new in-app purchase for importing Microsoft Project™ files. It’s designed with a try-before-you-buy model, so you can preview the result before you tap Purchase.

Each are a new app and a new purchase — separate from v1. OmniFocus 2 for iPhone is $19.99; OmniOutliner 2 for iPad is $29.99; OmniPlan for iPad is $59.99. OmniPlan’s in-app purchase for Microsoft Project™ support is $39.99.

OmniFocus 2 test going quiet

by Ken Case on June 24, 2013

Folks,

Thanks so much for all the great feedback on our test builds of OmniFocus 2! We’ve learned a lot about what works well for you and what doesn’t, and two weeks ago we were also inspired by Apple’s latest designs with their emphasis on deference, clarity, and depth.

Things are going to get quiet around here for a while. We’ve had plenty of feedback on this test design, so we considered turning off these test builds altogether—but we’ve decided to leave them up (as is) since some of you have told us that these builds—even in their rough state—are helping you to be even more productive. (And yes, we’ll also continue to send out test invitations to those who have been waiting patiently for a chance to try version 2.)

We’re looking forward to applying the lessons we’ve learned, and we’ll be back with some fresh builds later this year!

As always, we welcome your feedback! You can reach us by sending email to omnifocus@omnigroup.com, tweeting to @OmniFocus, or calling 1-800-315-OMNI or +1 206-523-4152.