The Omni Show: Terry Stearns, Executive Chef

by Brent Simmons on July 11, 2018

In the latest episode of The Omni Show we interview Terry Stearns, Executive Chef, on his last day after 19 years of keeping us happily going, day after day, with great lunches and dinners.

We’d been meaning to get Terry on the show for quite a while, and we’re so glad we were able to — even if it wasn’t till his last hours here.

Enjoy! There’s a surprise near the end, so be sure to listen all the way through. :)

OmniGraffle 3.6 for iOS: Diagram Layout Changes

by Brent Simmons on July 10, 2018

OmniGraffle 3.6 for iOS includes the same layout changes introduced in the recently-released OmniGraffle 7.8 for Mac.

OmniGraffle’s orthogonal line routing algorithms have been dramatically improved, as in the Mac version, making your diagrams even easier to follow.

And, from the release notes:

The new “Connected Objects” option in the Diagram Layout inspector allows you to use the Layout Now option without accidentally moving content that isn’t connected by lines in your diagram (like a header, footer, or logo).

Sample documents and templates have been updated to use the new option and the new line routing changes.

Happy Tenth Birthday to the App Store!

by Brent Simmons on July 10, 2018

Ten years ago today — July 10, 2008 — the App Store launched and changed our industry, and our lives, forever.

Before the App Store, buying software was a matter of somehow finding out about an app, going to a website, downloading it, figuring out how to install it on your computer, and paying for it somehow. The experience was rarely the same thing twice, unless you were buying apps from the same company.

(And before that it was a matter of buying boxes from a store — or ordering from a place like MacMall or Cyberian Outpost. They had disks or CDs or DVDs. A printed manual, often.)

It’s no wonder most people didn’t buy apps. They used what came with the computer, and if it was a work computer they just used whatever they were given. When people did buy apps, they were often big-name apps from a company with a large marketing budget.

Apps were definitely not a mass-market phenomenon.

But then along came the iPhone in 2007 — and this meant that millions of people carried around a very personal computer with them all day.

And then the App Store opened the next year — and then, on that one day, finding and downloading apps became easy and fun, and people talked about the cool apps and games they found. It became a topic on late-night talk shows, even.

For developers like us, who’d been writing Mac apps for years, the opportunity to make apps for such a tremendously larger market couldn’t have been more exciting — and it still is. We love making iOS apps!

It’s easy to take the whole thing for granted these days, but today it’s worth remembering how the App Store changed everything.

We shipped OmniFocus for iPhone on day one of the App Store, and it’s been there ever since. Our other apps have joined it. We’re all in — and now we’re looking forward to the next ten years, and many more.

How We Do Release Notes

by Brent Simmons on July 6, 2018

Apple has asked developers to do better with release notes — and so we figured we’d write about our system, in case it’s helpful to other developers.

Collecting the Notes

For major releases, our product managers (PMs) use our bug tracker (OmniBugZapper) to make sure there’s a note for each bug fix, new feature, and behavior change.

During TestFlight, sometimes its easier to use SCM logs (for example: svn log -r <revision of last release notes edit>:HEAD | less) to capture work in progress.

This phase is critical: being able to know exactly what has changed in a given release needs to be easy.

Writing the Notes

We have a build phase that renders Markdown to HTML and also replaces some tokens, so that, for instance:

- new - **Tags** --- Contexts have been replaced with Tags.


HTML version of release note

Our PMs use TextMate and BBEdit, and we’ve done some customization to make editing these easier, as in this screen shot:

Text editor showing popup menu used to make editing release notes easy

Editing the Notes

We have an internal editors mailing list that all the PMs and a few other people are on. Much of our written communication passes through this list — including this blog post! — since we all have an interest in making sure everything we publish matches our standards.

Editors don’t always have feedback. Sometimes it’s just a thumbs-up emoji. But, when they do, it might be a wording suggestion, a question about something not clear, or just pointing out a typo — but the point is that everything ends up better by going through this process.

(Yes, the downside of a process like this could be that everything ends up sounding like it was written by committee. We’ve avoided that, but not by any magic other than just everyone doing a good job.)

We use the Apple style guide and recommend that you do too. Many of us have internalized the common rules, but things come up from time to time where we have to refer to the guide.

Here’s an example of useful guidance from the guide:

future tense Whenever possible, use present, not future, tense. Don’t switch unnecessarily from present to future tense when present tense is sufficient to express a sequence of steps or events.

Publishing the Notes

Release notes are included with each app — for instance, on the Mac, choose Help > Release Notes to see the latest. They’re shown in a web view.

They’re also published on our website. See the OmniGraffle 7.8 release notes for a recent example. Our CMS knows how to turn the Markdown copy into the proper rendered HTML.

The App Store requires plain text, so we convert the rendered HTML to plain text. Links are turned into plain URLs.

We try to localize the App Store release notes for major and feature releases.

We also localize the introduction and postscript for minor releases, so that customers who don’t read English know that it’s just a minor release, and they can read the info about contacting us for help or leaving a review. (OmniFocus PM Dave Messent uses a shell script that takes the introduction and postscript in each of our ten languages, and makes a sandwich using the plain text version of the meat of the release notes.)

We use fastlane to upload all the metadata for each release to App Store Connect.

Upon release of an app — once it’s been approved by the App Store and, in the case of Mac apps, also uploaded to our website — then there may be a blog post and accompanying social media posts, and these often link to the release notes. Minor releases don’t necessarily get a blog post, but release notes are still published on the website.

New Cool T-Shirts! Some With Cats!

by Brent Simmons on July 5, 2018

To celebrate the release of OmniFocus 3 for iOS, we’ve got new T-shirts — and art prints, mugs, stickers, and more — available now at our new store on Society6!

OmniFocus 3 Classic and Cool

Show off how you accomplish more every day by wearing the classic OmniFocus 3 checkmark T-shirt. Be the person who has it all together and who is wearing a big purple checkmark. Which is pure bonus. But maybe, just maybe, it’s that extra jet propulsion you need to get you through each day. Better buy two, just in case!

T-shirt with a purple OmniFocus checkmark

Or buy one that’s just the checkmark and another one with the name OmniFocus 3 nicely printed below the checkmark.

T-shirt with a purple OmniFocus checkmark and with the OmniFocus 3 word mark

OmniFocus 3-Eyed Cat Carries Snake Friend

When, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary to create an OmniFocus T-shirt that’s a three-eyed purple cat with a snake and some roses, well — we’ve got you. We’re on it. We did it. And we think you’ll agree that this is exactly what you need right now.

T-shirt with a three-eyed purple cat carrying a snake that’s covered in roses

OmniFocus 3 Cool Cats

Will using OmniFocus make you as chill as these cool cats?

Yes, probably. Checks out. Get the T-shirt and show the world how you feel when your trusted to-do app has you feeling chill and groovy and ready for a coffee or a catnap.

T-shirt with three cool cats who use OmniFocus


Among The Omni Show’s consistent quirks is the host yelling “Music!” at the beginning and end of each episode — which is entirely because, Brent claims, the show’s opening and closing scripts say “-Music-” and he didn’t know what to do SO HE YELLED IT.

At least this way the show’s intrepid producer Mark Boszko knows where to edit-in the music. So it’s quirky and functional, like the T-shirt itself. Which you should go get.

T-shirt with the word Music in an ’80s style