Open for Feedback: the OmniGraffle 7 Public Test

by Derek Reiff on August 9, 2016

Today we’re pulling back the cover on our next major app release: OmniGraffle 7. Inside the app wrapper are a few years’ worth of work and ideas, feature requests, and quality of life-optimizations, and we’ve been hammering on it hard for the past year. For those of you with propensity for feedback and capacity for testing, it’s ready for you right now!

OmniGraffle 7 Blog Banner linking to the preview page

How we got to 7

OmniGraffle has had success over the years by being a very powerful, customizable, and reliable app for a pretty expansive set of use cases. In more recent years we’ve gotten feedback from UX and UI folks that said their jobs (and needs) are changing. This set of users were requesting features specifically to help design for high-density screens and multiple platforms, showing interactions, working on smaller screens, and more.

OmniGraffle 7 is the first in a line of steps aimed at improving and speeding up workflows for UX and UI folks, Graphic Designers. The bulk of new features—and enhancements to older features—come by focusing on getting work done faster: less clicking, more focused tools, a polished interface.

A call for early feedback

Upgrading a tool that so many people work with every day is a big deal, and we know that any amount of time away from Actual Work is literally money. We know you’re very busy, but we want to make sure we’re getting it right as soon as possible.

So, if you end up spending just an hour or two with OmniGraffle 7 to get a feel for the future, that’s already a big help.

  • Did anything get in the way of your existing workflows? Some of these might be accidental, others might be intended but something we can correct, or completely unnecessary altogether.
  • Did anything make your daily use faster?
  • Did Action X go from slow to fast, which is great, but could be better?

And one more thing: though OmniGraffle 7 hasn’t eaten a document in several weeks, it should be assumed that bugs still exist and maybe this line won’t connect to that shape.

Seven major improvements:

  • Infinite Canvas: Though OmniGraffle 6 expands down and to the right, shifting every object on a Canvas is bothersome work. In 7, you can toggle expandability in each direction—even every direction. Set it once and OmniGraffle will make sure you have plenty of room to work.
  • SVG Support: When we first implemented SVG export in OmniGraffle, there were very few other apps that did the same, so we didn’t worry about Import. But that was before, and this is 2016. In 7 you can paste SVG code directly on to your Canvas, open as objects, and Copy As SVG.
  • Artboards: This is a big feature, and one that we want to get just right when 7.0 ships. Artboards not only fix the problem related to multi-resolution assets, but they also make organizing and moving your artwork implicit in OmniGraffle. (Artboards affect anything above them in the stack inside its bounds or overlapping—sort of like a container or group, without group behavior unless you want it. They do not have an effect on contents below.)
  • Stroke to Shape: It’s always been easy to slap down lines between shapes, but if you need more from the lines than just a stroke, shadow, or line-ending, you can convert them to shapes in 7. Once you have a shape, add a gradient or work with its Bézier points to tweak line endings!
  • Text to Shape: Though we didn’t build in a font editor, we did add a great way to style your text’s characters. When converting a set of text to a shape, you’ll have access to fill, blends, stroke—everything you use OmniGraffle for.
  • Point Editor: A brand new tool for 7, the Point Editor makes it easy to access each point on every object. Before, bounding boxes had the potential to get in the way. Now, all’s well.
  • Keyboard Shortcuts: Nothing says you’re home like knowing exactly what each key combination will get you. The most dynamic request—the feature people have the most varied opinions about—are keyboard shortcuts. In 7 you can choose your own shortcut for each and every menu bar command or setting. Have at it!

There’s more, but this post is long enough! Though each of the above are big features that enable new workflows…artboards, in our mind, are the biggest. If you give them a shake, we’re really interested in hearing how they work (or don’t) for you.

Downloading the preview

Start on our preview page. From there you can download the app and take a gander at its release notes.

If you’re interested in chatting with others, we put together a special category over on Discourse for discussions; we’ll be there, but if you really want to make sure you’re heard, email us. (And email us if you have any questions about functionality, too.)

Should I wait to buy OmniGraffle?

No! In fact, if you buy OmniGraffle 6 right now, you can keep working and get a free upgrade to OmniGraffle 7 the day it’s released — we’ll send an email with a new license key. But since we don’t yet know how to do something similar on the Mac App Store, we’ve removed it from sale. (Though 6 will continue to function and is always available in the Purchased tab.)

See you out there

Any amount of time you spend looking at OmniGraffle 7 is a huge help. To sum up: we really want to know how 7 adds or subtracts to your workflow. Love it, hate it, want it, meh: let us know! If there was ever a chance to have your voice heard, this is definitely it. Have at it!

OmniFocus Now Supports End-to-End Encryption

by Derek Reiff on August 1, 2016

“Is my data safe on the server?”

That’s a question we get occasionally from customers, and the answer has always been this:

“Communication to and from the server is encrypted using a secure HTTPS connection, just like the traffic between your computer and your online banking website. We take measures to protect our servers from outside intrusion, as we do with our own online store.” (via Omni Sync Server’s About Page)

And then we add:

“But you can also set up your own server if you’d like more control.”

There are quite a few people that do set up their own server for end-to-end control, but it takes a bit of work. Plus, anyone with access to the server would, potentially, be able to read your data.

But, with our latest updates today (OmniFocus 2.6 for Mac and OmniFocus 2.15 for iOS), your data will be completely encrypted before it leaves your device so that it’s encrypted on the server itself. We’re using your sync password to generate a key that encrypts everything as it leaves your device. All encryption and decryption happens locally, so your data is always encrypted end-to-end and our server never has access to your encryption key. (OmniFocus doesn’t encrypt the data stored on your local devices: you can use the built-in device encryption features in iOS (enabled by default) and OS X (FileVault) to encrypt your local data at rest.)

OmniFocus is the first of our apps to get this sort of encryption treatment, but it won’t be the last. We hope to get it into document-based apps quickly!

Upgrading your database

To make this level of encryption work—and for other features down the road—we needed to make some adjustments to our database format.

The releases of OmniFocus out today will periodically check to see if all of your devices are using the latest version. Once they are, you’ll be prompted to migrate to the new database format. If you’re pretty sure all devices are updated but still haven’t received a prompt, choose Migrate from the File menu on Mac or Settings on iOS to see a list of out-of-date devices.

We’re confident that we’ve thoroughly tested the process, but if you get stuck at any point in the process, feel free to email or call: 800-315-6664.

A Bit More

The guiding principle of today’s updates is that the only things which should ever have access to your OmniFocus tasks are devices you own and control: your phone, your Mac, your tablet.

There are a few other things worth remembering: no one at Omni will have the ability to look at or restore your data. Further, if you lose every single device OmniFocus is installed on and you forget your password, you should consider your OmniFocus database lost and unrecoverable.

There are more technical details for the curious: find out more on Discourse or dig into the code on github.

The technical tl;dr?


Finally, we didn’t just assume the design we came up with was perfect. We asked Leviathan Security, a firm that specializes in this sort of thing, to take an additional look. Here’s a link to Leviathan’s design review.

Anything else?

For iOS, the /add URL action now supports an autosave=true parameter which saves the added task without prompting. You can now restore backups  in the new Backup section of Settings. And, if you restore a new iPhone from an iCloud backup, we behave much more sensibly during your first sync.

On Mac, we’ve updated our localizations and squashed a whole lot of bugs!

As always, you can read release notes from both Mac and iOS releases.

OmniFocus for iOS Now Automation-Ready

by Derek Reiff on April 26, 2016

Today, OmniFocus gets a huge update to its automation capabilities.

In iOS, the primary way that apps talk to each other is through URLs. These are much like the URLs you enter into a web browser (in fact, you can enter these exact URLs into a web browser if you wish) and provide a mechanism for an app to transmit information to another app.

Since its launch in 2008, OmniFocus has had some useful URL Scheme actions, like add. You could use a bookmarklet in Safari on iOS to send your current page directly to OmniFocus, or use an app like Drafts to quickly turn ideas into actions. A bit later you could navigate to a special OmniFocus URL, like omnifocus:///forecast, and you’d be taken straight to your Forecast view.

Today brings much more than that! OmniFocus 2.14, now available in the App Store, focuses on two big things:

  • TaskPaper text support
  • URL scheme action additions

And we mean a whole lot of URL scheme additions! Read on.

TaskPaper Text Support

TaskPaper is an app and a plain text format for list-making. It uses tags to carry with it a few specific additions to keep track of completion, dates, and more. (And, in our case, you can use tags like @context(Home) or @repeat(1d) to specify OmniFocus data.)

So, take this Editorial workflow as an example. With the help of a bit of Python to go through your selected TaskPaper text in Editorial and prompt for variable replacement, it adds the project and its actions to OmniFocus.

An Editorial Template Workflow

Automation with URL scheme actions

Recently customers have been wanting to take advantage of automation apps like Workflow, Drafts, Pythonista, and others to quickly add new actions or projects or switch to different views inside OmniFocus.

With 2.14, OmniFocus now includes best-of-class support for callback URLs. At its simplest, this means that you can create a workflow that adds more than one item to OmniFocus. But we didn’t just add support for two-way communication between OmniFocus and other apps, we added support for automating a whole lot more of the powerful capabilities of OmniFocus.

Ken goes into the nitty gritty in a detailed Discourse post. But aside from doing the usual name and note additions, you can add estimates, attachments, dates, repetition rules, flags, and even set a project to Parallel.

Customers have already started building some interesting things with Workflow and Editorial, and more are in production!

You can add attachments to OmniFocus and plan your day in Fantastical in Workflow, convert TaskPaper text into templates in Editorial, or turn a day’s worth of ideas into inbox items with Drafts.

Sample workflows in Workflow

What does this all mean?

This is awesome stuff! For some folks, iOS is the primary platform. The ability to add new actions and reference material from different locations can make collection, automation, and as-yet-unknown use cases incredibly powerful.

Check out Inside OmniFocus for more, or OmniFocus 2.14’s release notes.

If this it that one thing you’ve been waiting for, buy it!

New Tutorial: Getting Started with OmniGraffle

by Chuck on April 12, 2016

Work began on a new OmniGraffle tutorial a few months ago. We wanted this to be something that was visually-compelling; something that showed off OmniGraffle’s strengths as a diagramming and design tool. Ultimately, we swung for the fences by creating a “family tree” of sorts based on Greek mythology:

The Gods & Goddesses of Greek Mythology

The result is an entirely new tutorial, titled Getting Started with OmniGraffle. This step-by-step guide goes beyond creating a basic flowchart. Rather than just showing you how to connect boxes with lines, you will layout and design a fairly complex diagram, apply a color palette, and explore new ways to work in OmniGraffle—and your Mac—as a designer.

While working through this tutorial, you will:

  • Use the Resource Browser to choose a template and create a new document
  • Use the Outline Editor to enter hierarchical data for creating structured diagrams
  • Discover how to open a structured OmniOutliner file in OmniGraffle and use Auto Layout to “flow” your diagram
  • Use the Diagram Layout inspector to explore and choose a layout style for your diagram
  • Create Workspaces from the Inspectors you need to make your design work go faster
  • Add a custom color palette and discover “hidden” features of OS X’s Colors window, and then…
  • …apply those colors to the objects and connecting lines in the diagram
  • Learn how to use layers and create “pseudo-guides” for aligning objects in various patterns
  • Discover how lines connect to objects and reconfigure their positions with object Magnets
  • Apply a color to the canvas
  • Create and style text objects to add a title to your diagram

When you’ve finished working through the tutorial, there’s a bonus section toward the end—Where to Go From Here—where you’re encouraged to push the limits even further. To change up the diagram, either by changing the design or adding more Connection Lines to denote relationships. (And if you’re familiar with Greek mythology, you could end up adding a lot lines to Zeus and his various partners.)

Whether you have been using OmniGraffle for years, or if you have just downloaded the trial version to kick its tires, Getting Started with OmniGraffle provides the guidance you need in a hands-on approach that’s accessible to users of all skill levels.

You can read Getting Started with OmniGraffle on our Support site, or you can download the EPUB from the iBooks Store and read that on your Mac or iOS device. There’s also a Zip file to download, which contains the following files:

  • GreekMythology.oo3 — Hang on to this OmniOutliner file for the end of Part 1. This file contains the hierarchical list of prominent members found in Greek mythology, and you will open this file in OmniGraffle prior to starting Part 2.
  • NSColorPanelSwatches.plist — If you so choose, you can add this file to ~/Library/Colors on your Mac to get all of the color swatches you need in the Colors window when applying colors to objects and lines in the diagram.

And, as always, please let us know what you think about Getting Started with OmniGraffle, as well as your thoughts on other tutorials you’d like to see from us.

Styling is here in OmniFocus 2.5 for Mac!

by Derek Reiff on March 30, 2016

Today we’ve released OmniFocus 2.5 for Mac—a fresh new release with a few big things.

OmniFocus Styles

In OmniFocus Preferences you’ll see a brand new pane: Style. Inside are both font collections and color palettes. Along with the ability to create your own styles, we’ve included some good-looking pre-made sets.

Under color palettes we’ve included two: OmniFocus Light and OmniFocus Dark. OmniFocus Light is what you’re used to already, while OmniFocus Dark is brand new. We spent quite a bit of time tweaking colors for readability and comfort (at night, especially!).

If you’re wanting to create your own color palette or font collection, check out this support article for more about what’s involved. Be aware! There are a lot of colors involved—it might be a productivity-breaker!

Fixes, sync, and more

Also of note:

  • OmniPlan 3 clipping is here!
  • Default calendar app preferences are respected
  • TextExpander fill-in snippets are working in the sidebar

We’ve also made a number of improvements to situations that might stomp over edits that you didn’t finish making. Say, for example, OmniFocus wanted to pull in sync changes to an action you were actively editing—we wait until you’re done.

Enjoy! Check for updates in the direct version or within the App Store app.