Q & A: Omni answers, take three

Welcome to the third, and for this week anyway, final installment of “You Ask, We Answer!”. Brought to you by Diet Coke and the letter Q.

(Q for Qwality!)

Ayjay asked, many Mac developers have moved away from the use of drawers (especially now that Apple has taken them away from Mail) but you guys still feature drawers-a-plenty. What do you like about drawers? Have you thought about any other ways of implementing the functionality that drawers give you?

Ooh, good question. I had to call in the troops for help on this one, since my opinions on drawers are mainly limited to the kind you put your socks in. Ken, our CEO, and Bill, our UI Lead, put their heads together to answer you:

'We like drawers because they are a great place for content that belongs to the main window but doesn't necessarily need to be there all the time. They're great for “source lists”, from which you can choose what to view in the main window, like OmniGraffle's canvases or OmniWeb's tabs. Perhaps best of all, unlike a sidebar, you can show, hide, or resize a drawer all day long without affecting the dimensions or layout of the main content. And in Omni apps, you can move the drawer to whichever side of the window you prefer by Option-clicking the drawer button in the toolbar.

The problem with drawers, of course, is that the things just don't look modern. While the rest of Mac OS X interface was getting the sleek plastic or metal treatment, drawers are still as pinstripey, space-wastey, and noisy as they were the day they were introduced. Unless we want to cobble together and maintain some sort of custom fake drawer ourselves (or—gasp!—Apple actually updates drawers' appearance), we're going to have to get away from drawers eventually.

In meetings for our new products, we've talked about how to deal with this problem, and we think we may have come up with a good hybrid of the useful drawer and the sleek sidebar. You may end up seeing the first incarnation of it in OmniFocus, if we can do it right.'

Spencer says, I have had no luck at all with storing OmniGraffle documents in Subverson. The icon seems to contain an illegal character or something.

Here's the response from our OmniGraffle tech support/product manager NINJA EXTRAORDINAIRE:

'This is likely due to OmniGraffle saving the files out as packages, which other file systems can have difficulty dealing with.

OmniGraffle will automatically save a file out to a package if an image or external graphic is present in the document; there is a hidden preference to avoid this behavior that can be enabled from the command line. To get OmniGraffle to always save as a “flat” file (which will have no problems on other filesystems), open up Terminal.app and paste this in:

defaults write com.omnigroup.OmniGraffle PrivateGraffleFlatFile 0

Afterwards, new documents should always save as a monolithic file, you may have to perform a “Save As” for existing documents to convert them.'

Man, I'm loving this whole 'fob off the hard questions on other Omni employees' gig. What else have you got, commenters? Bring. It. On! *spirit hands*

Matt wants to know, Do you guys plan on fixing RSS anytime soon? Its a sometimes it work, sometimes it doesn't work symptom. Usually I have to relaunch OmniWeb to get it to recheck RSS feeds- it doesn't do it by itself even though I have it set to recheck the feeds every hour.

Dang, this one's less fun to answer. Turns out we've seen this issue and we're able to reproduce it. It's a bug that we're hoping to fix in an upcoming release, after the 5.5.1 update. Sorry about that!

Conor asks, Can you tell me if OmniFocus will liason with OmniPlan so that you can plan projects in OmniPlan and then download your personal tasks into OmniFocus? Also, are there any plans to allow Wintel users to edit OmniPlan? I work in a mixed-platform office and, while I do most of the project planning on my mac, it would be nice to enable other employees to check off tasks, etc.

We would love for OmniFocus and OmniPlan to work together that way, but I think it's safe to say that they won't for OmniFocus 1.0. We're trying to limit the scope to what we can actually get out the door in a (hopefully) reasonable amount of time, but it's definitely on the plate for future consideration.

As for Wintel users…well, we likely won't ever have a cross-platform version of OmniPlan, but you can use OmniPlan to export to .mpx, .mpp, and MSPDI .xml for sharing with Microsoft Project and other project management applications. You can also export to a .csv file for import into Excel, and if people just need to see the data, not update it, you can export the Gantt, outline or both into several different image formats (PDF, PNG, TIFF, JPEG). And! You can export to html – either a single table of tasks, or a mini-website with a Gantt chart, tables, and calendar files that can be imported into iCal, Outlook or other calendaring apps.

Thanks for all your questions, folks, and if I didn't get to yours this week, my apologies. Please stay tuned for an Exciting Announcement (note: your excitement may vary) about OmniWeb I will be posting later today. Same blog time, same blog channel.