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!
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.
With “iPad or Bust!” out of the way, we’ve been able to move some of our projects off the back burner and here are some highlights of what’s coming: 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.
Let’s start with OmniFocus 2! For OmniFocus 2, we’re bringing 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. I’m looking forward to sharing it with you! At 6pm on January 31, you’re invited to join Merlin Mann, David Sparks, and me for the first public debut of OmniFocus 2. This will be a free event, hosted at the Cartoon Art Museum (a short walk from Macworld/iWorld), and anyone who attends will get early access to the OmniFocus 2 private beta. Space is limited, so if you plan to attend please let us know.
Next up: OmniOutliner 4! I know many of you have been waiting for this upgrade for a long time—I know I have been waiting for this for a long time! For those of you who might not know the history, OmniOutliner 3 shipped in January, 2005—one year before Macs transitioned to Intel processors. And OmniOutliner 3 certainly hasn’t sat still over the last eight years: we’ve ported to Intel processors and added support for Spotlight, dictionary lookups, LinkBack, Automator workflows, Quick Look, custom toolbars, Word 2008 export, Auto Save, and Versions. But other than a few tweaks to the inspectors and toolbars, its design has mostly stayed the same: it’s starting to feel a bit long in the tooth. So… it’s due.
What’s coming in OmniOutliner 4? We’ve completely rebuilt the outlining engine to support zooming text, showing and hiding columns, and we’ve improved link handling and attachments. We’ve designed a new style system which emphasizes named styles and simplifies the styles interface. And it’s built on a modern 64-bit architecture, with a fresh new look and feel. OmniOutliner 4 isn’t finished yet, but it’s getting close: it’s now at the point where I’m using it to edit all my outlines rather than OmniOutliner 3, so I anticipate we’ll be ready for public beta sometime in the first quarter.
Automatic document syncing is almost here! We call it “OmniPresence”: your documents, synced everywhere you want them to be.
We’ve designed OmniPresence around open web protocols, so you’re welcome to use our free Omni Sync Server or to host your own cloud server. We think that the option to host your own cloud is important—not just because of concerns with respect to privacy and security (though that’s key for many businesses), but because it means you can keep that cloud running as long as you want to keep using it. As we saw with MobileMe shutting down earlier this year, individual cloud services can easily disappear as business models change. Building a solution around open standards means that our customers have a choice of hosting providers rather than being tied to a single ephemeral cloud solution.
OmniPresence is not limited to syncing with a single cloud, either: you can choose which folders to sync with which clouds. This means that teams can set up separate folders in separate clouds, and you can access files from any of them on each of your devices.
Because it’s open and you can host your own cloud, OmniPresence is designed to sync any documents you want: it’s not limited to syncing documents created by our apps. In fact, on the desktop OmniPresence is completely independent of our other apps: if you wish, you can use it to sync TextEdit documents! (But when using OmniPresence with non-Omni apps, we’ll ask that you limit the amount of space you use on our Omni Sync Server since we can’t provide infinite storage to everyone for free. On your own cloud server, though, do whatever you want!)
On iOS, OmniPresence isn’t quite that independent: the sandboxing environment requires that each app embed the OmniPresence logic within its own codebase. We will be publishing our source code for free so other developers can add it to their apps.
OmniFocus 2, OmniOutliner 4, and OmniPresence. Three major upgrades, all coming your way in Q1, 2013.
But as I noted at the top, that’s not all! We’re also working on sandboxing to help keep your Mac safe; and accessibility (currently in private beta for OmniOutliner for iPad) to make our apps easier to use by those who are visually impaired. And we’ve been working on adding Visio and Microsoft Project compatibility to our iPad apps, so it will be easier than ever to go completely mobile with your work.
Finally, with OmniFocus 2 coming we’ve been thinking a lot about how to implement upgrade pricing from Mac App Store apps. As always, we plan to offer discounted upgrade pricing on our own online store, but unfortunately we don’t have the flexibility to offer selective discounts in the Mac App Store. We’ve decided to treat the Mac App Store the same way as we treat retail stores: it’s a great way to discover our software, and can give you confidence that it’s been vetted by a third party. And, just as you wouldn’t get a discount from a retail store if you purchase OmniGraffle 5 while owning OmniGraffle 4, you won’t get a discount if you purchase OmniFocus 2 from the Mac App Store. But we’re in the process of updating our store so that you’ll be able to register your Mac App Store apps to get a discounted upgrade price when you buy an update directly from us.
OmniFocus 2. OmniOutliner 4. OmniPresence. Sandboxing. Accessibility. Visio and Microsoft Project compatibility in our iPad apps. Upgrade pricing from Mac App Store apps. I hope you’re looking forward to 2013 as much as we are! (And don’t forget to let us know if you’re planning to come to the OmniFocus 2 debut!)
As we approach the end of 2012 (or the world, according to some), I’ve been reflecting on just how much we’ve accomplished this year here at Omni.
We celebrated 20 years of omnigroup.com, of course, and we moved to new offices. But, more importantly, we finished our two-and-a-half-year “iPad or Bust!” initiative by shipping the last of those five apps, OmniPlan for iPad! Version 1.0 doesn’t mark the end of all our work, of course—but it’s a great milestone and I’m incredibly proud of all our team has accomplished.
Finishing up our “iPad or Bust!” initiative has given us the opportunity to start working through a number of other projects on our “to do” lists, so there’s been a lot of news in 2012…
We rolled out our own Omni Sync Server, so you don’t have to become a sysadmin and run your own web server just to sync your devices. (But you can still run your own server if you like: our syncing engine is based on open web protocols.)
OmniFocus has been on speaking terms with Siri since late 2011, of course, but in 2012 we’ve made it more robust and brought support for Siri to the iPad app as well. We also added support for flexible weekly repeats and TextExpander—and just this month we’ve started beta testing our new Mail Drop which lets you email tasks directly to your OmniFocus database.
This year Apple introduced iPads with Retina displays, and we immediately shipped Retina updates for all of our iPad apps. Apple also introduced Retina displays to the Mac with the new MacBook Pro, and we’ve already shipped Retina updates for OmniGraffle and OmniPlan (and are busy working on Retina updates for the rest of our Mac apps).
Behind the scenes, we’ve also been updating all our Mac apps to leverage the latest fundamental advances in OS X: this year we shipped Developer ID-signed updates for all our apps, 64-bit updates for OmniGraffle, OmniDiskSweeper, and OmniDazzle—and we expect to ship 64-bit updates for the rest of our apps soon. We’ve also been hard at work adopting OS X’s new App Sandbox.
Even before we finished “iPad or Bust!” one of our top priorities has been to build automatic document syncing into OmniGraffle, OmniOutliner, and OmniGraphSketcher—we want it to be as easy to sync all our apps as it is to sync OmniFocus and OmniPlan. We’ve been working on this for over a year and a half now, and at the start we had very promising results: it felt like magic when it worked, and we thought we’d be ready to ship last year. But though our code was finished, we found the back end service we were trying to use wasn’t working reliably, and we felt it would be irresponsible to ship something so critical until we knew the full solution was solid. After a year of trying to help get that solution working, we went back to the drawing board and designed a new syncing solution based on open web protocols. Nobody was more disappointed about the delay this caused than we were—but we knew we needed to find some way to move forward, and I’m pleased to report that the redesign has gone very well (and our new syncing solution is now in internal testing).
Which, of course, leads right into the subject of my next blog post: what’s coming next from Omni? (Stay tuned!)
OmniGraffle’s drawing tools have changed! In a great, really-saves-you-time kind of way.
You’re no longer entering a “mode,” per se, but rather enabling an additional set of drawing tool buttons.
The big change here is that we’re moving back to a more desktop-esque experience and away from our first assumptions about touch. At least for the drawing tools.
Joel, OmniGraffle’s PM, wrote a post about this when it was first implemented:
The interaction model is very quickly moving towards the established behavior on the desktop despite being a touch interface — Mimicking the desktop behavior is proving to be a huge win most probably due to its familiarity. While some may say that thinking of finger touches and the like as if they were a mouse click is flat-out wrong on a touch device, maintaining expected results here is more important (emphasis added), in my opinion. It’s the same application on two different platforms, and should act in similar fashion to itself unless completely warranted by the features of the platform it’s running on.
It’s very easy to use, even if you’re unfamiliar with OmniGraffle for Mac:
You’ll see the new Draw button in the toolbar, far right; tap it.
Tap the tool you’d like to use; tap again if you’d like the tool to stay active.
The tool inspector button lets you style the tool you currently have selected, before you draw the next shape, line, or text.
You can collapse the Draw Toolbar whenever, or select the Selection Tool to modify objects without closing the toolbar.
OmniGraffle 5.4 shipped in early June with a new set of keyboard shortcuts to zoom in and out of the current canvas. The new shortcuts follow the iWork suite: ⌘> to zoom in, ⌘< to zoom out. This is a deliberate change, but we’ve heard from a few people who’ve suggested other shortcuts — the biggest being the Adobe CS set.
Dr. Drang wrote about keyboard shortcuts in OmniGraffle a year ago, somewhat in the same vein.
But! You can definitely change things around, if you need to, by adding a few Application-specific shortcuts in the Keyboard pane of System Preferences. (In fact, you could add a setting so that any application that has a Zoom In menubar item follows the same shortcut. Caveats: In OmniGraffle and Numbers, ⌘+ is used for making font size larger; other applications might be using it for other things, too.)
Anyway, how’s it done?
Select the Keyboard pane of System Preferences, followed by Keyboard Shortcuts. Select Application Shortcuts in the list on the left.
Click the + button and add Zoom In to the Menu Title field.
Add a shortcut. In this case, to match Adobe’s suite, use ⌘+. (Side note, this is actually, of course, ⌘=. As far as I can tell, OS X won’t ever show + in place of =, even with ⇧.)
Do the same thing (+ button, Zoom Out, and add ⌘–) for zooming out.
You’re done! If you’d like that to be global, leave “Any Application” in place.
Hopefully you’re all enjoying Mountain Lion! Here’s to the early adopters.
We receive a lot of emails and phone calls every day. Some asking for Feature X, others to report a bug. A fair amount, though, are stories from customers about how they use our applications. Each story leaves us feeling grateful to be in the business.
About a year ago, we decided to bring a few of these to video.
This story is about Nick Finck, Deloitte Digital, and how they’re using OmniGraffle to design user interfaces and information architecture.
We’ll let the video do most of the talking, but Nick—who is User Experience Director at Deloitte Digital—has been focused on mobile UX and IA over the last seven years. In that time, OmniGraffle has been the tool to design interfaces to “help (people) and make their day better.”
We talked to Nick just south of the Fremont Troll. For more from Nick, check out his blog.
PS: If you’re in the mood for an OmniGraffle poster, Nick created a very printable document of OmniGraffle Shortcuts.
Howdy, friend-os! Today, I get to do something we’ve been looking forward to for a while now: announce that the Omni Sync Server is coming out of beta.
We’ve had the server up for almost two years now - it launched way back in April of 2010. In that time, the server has been scaled up from a Mac mini here in our offices to a collection of machines in our colocation facility, all working together to help you move your Omni apps’ data back and forth between your OS X and iOS devices, as well as to store backup copies of that data just in case things go totally diggstown and you need them.
When we launched the server, it was an OmniFocus-only affair, but we’ve added support for the server to all of our iOS apps. On the Mac, OmniFocus and OmniPlan have built-in support for the server as well. (The Mac apps that don’t already include support will get it in the future.)
So, to the tens of thousands of folks out there that have been storing your data on the server this whole time: thank you very much for being willing to sign up and help us build this thing. There’s always a seat for you on our little red wagon. To everyone else: if you were interested in using the server but didn’t want to sign up while it was in in a testing phase, we’re rolling out the red carpet for you. Head over to omnigroup.com/sync and set up an account.
Oh, and did we mention that you can have this all for the low, low price of zero? One of the things we learned is that we can build and run a service like this without needing to charge for it. Consider it a delicious after-dinner digestif you get whenever you buy one of our apps. Enjoy!
Welcome to another installment of our Use Case Profile series, wherein we highlight OMNI APPS—IN ACTION with real working professionals.
We’re always delighted to receive email from customers who’ve experienced unbridled productivity with their favorite Omni app. Every now and then a story like this comes along and we get all giddy about sharing it. Having undoubtedly maxed-out our “this is why we do what we do” affirmations with our loved ones, we figure our blog might be a better outlet for inspiring others to unlock the potential of the Omni productivity suite.
Today’s contribution comes from Libby Donovan, a freelance designer from Los Angeles, whose enthusiasm about OmniGraffle prompted her to develop a ‘Wireframing with OmniGraffle’ class for Seattle’s School of Visual Concepts.
I spent ten years working for Microsoft in Redmond, mainly on a PC using Visio for Information Architecture and other work that OmniGraffle would have been perfect for. In 2010, I moved back home to Los Angeles and began looking for work for both myself and my start-up design agency, Mercyluxe Design Group, and found that 90% of the open job descriptions out there required OmniGraffle skills, as it was looked at as what would soon become the industry standard within the IA community. When I began working at MySpace as an independent contractor, I was told that while I could use any program I wished to use, their preference was OmniGraffle as they had already amassed a large set of stencils that were shared amongst the IA and Design teams who were working on the redesign together. The fact that OmniGraffle had taken such a hold on the design and IA communities in LA told me that this was a program that at the very least I needed to seriously investigate.
Larry Asher, who runs The School of Visual Concepts in Seattle is an acquaintance of mine, and we were talking about OmniGraffle and I was (loudly!) singing its praises - specifically discussing how my move from Seattle to LA necessitated me to learn the program. “You just can’t get work down here with out knowing OmniGraffle, Larry, it’s the future, it’s coming!” is pretty much what I told him. Since I moved to LA I’ve been, what I call “OmniGrafflin’ my tail off” for folks like MySpace, Disney and Will >Smith (yup, THAT Will Smith!) :)
Woah! I can only imagine the focus it must have taken to produce AI and UI mockups for Mr. MIB himself. Personally, I couldn’t resist the temptation to create a Fresh Prince of Bel Air theme song flow chart, but clearly Libby can get jiggy with discipline.
While working with each client, I have found that OmniGraffle allows me the freedom to build upon each of my design principles and concepts in an almost organic way, bridging the gap between the idea and expression of that idea other programs just don?t >allow.
For example, my desire to find a perfect balance between Swiss design principles and maximum color effectiveness would have faltered under the rigid guidelines of Visio and its inability to work alongside today?s top design programs. During the Will Smith project, however, OmniGraffle showed its chops by allowing for effortless compatibility with Adobe?s Creative Suite, allowing me to fuse Visual Design, Interaction Design and Information Architecture. The finished comps were, looking back, about 80% OmniGraffle, 20% Illustrator and Photoshop. I?ve found [OmniGraffle] allows for such quick mock-ups and edits that you can prototype rapidly – really at the speed of the design conversation.
She goes on to explain which OmniGraffle features are most helpful in her workflow:
I love the ability to draw from my giant collection of stencils, templates and icons, with the ability to add more from the community with ease. The OmniGraffle UI and feature sets also allows for very rapid prototyping, something that other programs just don’t allow for.
One of the first things I do when I start a new project (after putting on my official OmniGraffle kick off song, “Intergalactic” by Beastie Boys – true!) is a quick inventory of my stencil collection to see if I have everything I need to get started. Most of the time I don’t – I’m in need of a particular UI element like a slider, and it has to be a certain kind of slider, a UI element from a particular brand of mobile device, or even just the
right radio button, I’m off to Graffletopia to comb through their huge stencil collection to see if they have what I need. Most of the time they do, thanks to the awesome community mentioned above. When they don’t, that’s when I head back to Photoshop or Illustrator to create something original that matches the style I’m using and easily import it into OmniGraffle when I’m ready. Doing it old school.
And which Stencil is her favorite?
I am very fond of the Konigi set, it’s my absolute favorite and I use it pretty much daily. I love how clean it is and how it lends itself so neatly to almost any project that can be imagined. There’s also a unicorn stencil included. What else do you need?
Well, maybe the ability to use those stencils to create wireframes while you’re out ‘n’ about, right?
First, that OmniGraffle for the iPad EXISTS is a big win, making the program extremely versatile and the very nature of agile. The iPad app feels very much like a natural extension of the Mac version. I like how I can use my stencils from the Mac on the iPad making adjustments to a project or coming up with quick interactions studies for example while on the go that much easier. In addition, the freehand option is also very nice for those high-tech “cocktail napkin” times.
Since they both work together so well, it’s not possible to pick one over the other, especially as I use them both for very different purposes – the desktop version for my main Grafflin’ and the iPad for quick mock ups, changes on the fly and presentation with room for experimentation and augmentation right then and there.
There you have it, folks - another shining example of OMNI APPS—IN ACTION, and a refreshing testament to our raison d’être.
Thank you, Libby, for sharing your story and samples with us - inspiring stuff, indeed!
If you have a use case that you’d like to share with us, please drop a line in the comments or via email, we’d love to hear it!
In recognition of his contributions, not only to our apps, but to the ongoing dialogue about User Experience in software development, we would like to share some of Bill's thoughts with you. For those of you who couldn't attend the conference, here's his keynote presentation (paired with some audio from one of his practice sessions). If you find this sort of stuff as inspiring as we do, perhaps we should all arrange for a party-bus to the next conference - an omnibus, if you will.