Setting OmniGraphSketcher Free

by Dave on January 21, 2014

As you may know, last summer we made the difficult decision to stop selling OmniGraphSketcher and focus on our other applications. As part of this decision we elected to remove the app from our website instead of continuing to offer it as a free product as we have done with other apps in the past. Why? People have continued to use those free apps, but we don’t have enough time to work on them. That means that when bugs crop up (usually in new OS releases), we aren’t able to fix them in a timely manner and everyone ends up frustrated.

With OmniGraphSketcher, we’ve decided to go a different route: open source. Open source means everyone has access to OmniGraphSketcher’s code, and anyone who is so inclined can work on it. Bug fixes are no longer dependent on our CEO taking vacation time, and new users can discover the app without generating support costs for an project that is no longer a revenue stream.

We’re aware that there are drawbacks to open source software, but we’re convinced that setting GraphSketcher free is the best option going forward. We’re proud of the work that we did on OmniGraphSketcher, and we’d love it if as many people as possible were able to use it. In fact, the support that we received for OmniGraphSketcher after we discontinued it is one of the reasons we think this project will work well.

For non-developers, a download of the Mac app is available from the new project’s home on GitHub. On the iOS side, submission to the App Store is dependent on a couple of trickier things, but we’re hoping that GraphSketcher will make it back there without too much delay.

If you’re a developer who’s interested in poking around the GraphSketcher source code, just:

git clone --recursive git://github.com/graphsketcher/GraphSketcher

GraphSketcher relies on our existing open source frameworks, but building the app is still as simple as cloning, opening the workspace for the app you’d like to build (Mac or iPad), and hitting the play button.

So, while it’s not the end of the road for GraphSketcher, we are putting OmniGraphSketcher to bed. If you’re a fan of the old app we hope you’ll check out the new project and post your feedback to GitHub for future contributors to take a look at. And of course our support humans will continue to provide assistance to paid customers of OmniGraphSketcher for Mac and iPad on the versions of OS X and iOS which they support.

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!

OmniPresence document syncing ships this week

by Ken Case on May 20, 2013

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!

OmniPresence private testing

by Ken Case on March 14, 2013

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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:

  1. 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.)
  2. 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 omnipresence@omnigroup.com. We look forward to hearing from you!

Omni’s Plans for 2013

by Ken Case on December 21, 2012

In my last blog post, I reflected on all the things we accomplished in 2012 here at Omni—in particular, the completion of our huge “iPad or Bust!” initiative. But as Professor Hathaway said to Chris Knight, “That was yesterday. What have you done for me today?”

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.

Junction: Omni 13, OmniFocus 2, OmniOutliner 4

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. Please see this blog post for more information on upgrade pricing for App Store apps.

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!)