Interested in testing Omni’s iPhone and iPad apps?

by Ken Case on November 7, 2014

Are any of you interested in helping us test our apps before they’re ready to submit to the App Store? We’re working on bringing all of our iPad apps to the iPhone, so we have a lot of testing to do! And with Apple’s new TestFlight Beta Testing program, we’re able to invite up to 1,000 of our customers to test our apps while they’re still under development.

If you’re interested in helping us, please send email to testflight@omnigroup.com letting us know which iOS devices you use, which version of iOS 8 are installed on each, and which Omni apps you’re looking to test. For example, you might write something like this:

Devices: iPhone 6 Plus [iOS 8.1], iPad Air 2 [iOS 8.1]

Apps: OmniFocus, OmniGraffle, OmniOutliner, OmniPlan

It would also be helpful to know which of our apps you already own and how long you’ve been using them, so we can get a wide range of customer experience for each app in addition to a wide range of test devices.

P.S. — If anyone reading this is looking for a paid position in Seattle working as a full-time tester, please check out the Software Test Pilot opening currently posted to our jobs page!

OmniFocus 2 for Mac resumes testing, will ship in June

by Ken Case on March 26, 2014

Just the Facts

“When will OmniFocus 2 for Mac ship?”

June, 2014.

“Can I help you test OmniFocus 2 for Mac before it ships?”

Absolutely! If you helped us test the pre-Mavericks builds last year, you’re in for a pleasant surprise.

After listening to your comments on the initial preview, and seeing the direction Apple was moving with OS X Mavericks and iOS 7, we took some time to rethink and redesign OmniFocus 2 for Mac. We’re really proud of what we’ve accomplished, and we’re now ready to open the flood gates to share the new OmniFocus 2 for Mac with you.

Head on over to our download page to get the latest build of OmniFocus 2 for Mac.

More Detail, Please!

When we unveiled our plans for OmniFocus 2 for Mac last year and invited you to try our test builds, it was so we could learn from you which parts of the design were working well, and which parts still needed improvement. We didn’t know what to expect, so we weren’t sure how close we might be to setting a ship date.

The feedback you provided was generally positive: the new design was easier to navigate, and the new Forecast and Review modes were making it much easier to stay on top of all your projects.

But listening to your feedback, we also learned a lot about ways we could make the app even better—and we were further inspired by Apple’s latest designs when they unveiled iOS 7.

We paused our test builds and went back into heads-down mode to focus on the hard work of another round of design and development. Since that time, our team has been working tirelessly behind the scenes on a fresh design that preserves the best features of their original work while adapting to the latest changes to the platform.

With this new design in place, I’m thrilled to announce that OmniFocus 2 is now ready for its final round of testing.

New OmniFocus 2 test build

Next Steps

As noted at the top, any of the nearly 30,000 people who participated in last year’s testing are welcome to join back in!

What we’re most looking for at this point are any issues that make OmniFocus 2 harder to use for your particular workflow than OmniFocus 1 was. We’ll be giving your feedback a hard look between now and when we ship in June and trying to address as much of it as we can, so the sooner we hear from you the better.

The best way for you to share your thoughts with us is to contact us by email at ofpreview@omnigroup.com. We’ve also set up a Discourse test board which you can use to share tips and advice with other testers.

Thanks to all of you who took the time to test OmniFocus 2 for Mac during our private test last year! My hope is that each of you will be able to see how the feedback you gave us made the app even better.

If you didn’t sign up for the test last year but would like to be considered for future test releases, please head over to the OmniFocus 2 for Mac test sign-up page to get on the waiting list. (If you did sign up last year but have forgotten your login details, you can also use the sign-up page to retrieve those details.)

How to Contact Us

Now, go grab the latest build of OmniFocus 2 for Mac and let us know what you think! Here’s how to reach us:

And, as always, you’re welcome to reach out to me personally: I can be reached by email at kc@omnigroup.com, or on Twitter at @kcase.

We look forward to hearing from you!

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!

Omni’s Plans for iOS 7

by Ken Case on September 10, 2013

This morning our team gathered together (both in our theater and in our company chat room) to follow along with Apple’s iOS 7 release announcement. This was a welcome break for our engineers, testers, designers, and documentarians, most of whom have been working virtually non-stop since Apple’s World Wide Developer Conference in June.

What have they been working so hard on? Brand new versions of three of our iOS apps: OmniFocus 2 for iPhone, OmniOutliner 2 for iPad, and OmniPlan 2 for iPad. We’ll be submitting final builds of those apps to Apple this week and you’ll be able to purchase them as soon as they are approved for sale in the App Store. We’ve redesigned all three apps to take full advantage of Apple’s latest technologies, and that means that they require iOS 7.

What does this mean for you, our customers?

The new apps will be released as new products in the App Store; you’ll purchase them just like you would any other app, and they will be completely separate from the old versions. We’re really excited to show you how cool the new user experience is and what features we’ve added, and will be sharing more as we get closer to release. Just like the rest of our product line, these apps will come with our 30-day money back guarantee and world class telephone and email support.

The old versions of OmniFocus for iPhone, OmniOutliner for iPad, and OmniPlan for iPad will be removed from the App Store. If you’re not planning on updating to iOS 7 or need a version of any of these apps that runs on iOS 6 for any reason, you’ll want to grab them before the new releases ship. However, please note that we don’t plan on doing any more work on these iOS 6 apps: our iPhone and iPad development efforts are now fully focused on iOS 7.

To sum up: we’re fully committed to iOS 7 for our next round of iPhone and iPad apps—starting with OmniFocus 2 for iPhone, OmniOutliner 2 for iPad, and OmniPlan 2 for iPad, which we’re submitting to Apple for review now. Anyone who still does need to run our apps on iOS 6 has a little bit of time to purchase before the existing versions are removed from sale. But we’ve found iOS 7 to be an incredible update, and we think you’re going to love the product of all of the hard work our team has put into redesigning our apps for iOS 7 over the last three months.


P.S. — We expect that you should all be able to continue to use our version 1 apps on iOS 7. (We’re testing this now, but we’ve barely gotten the GM release to test against ourselves!) We’re not trying to force anyone into upgrading—but we hope you’ll like our latest work enough to decide you want to!

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!