A review of the Omni Group’s 2014 and our plans for 2015

by Ken Case on January 8, 2015

Hi, all! Once again, it’s the time of year when I like to review our previous year and to share our plans for the upcoming year—not because I can predict the future with 100% accuracy (as the review often shows!), but because I think it’s important to talk about where we think we’re headed so that you can make decisions about whether you want to join us on our journey.

I’ll be sharing our plans for 2015 in a moment. But first, let’s take a look back at where I said we were headed last year. I said that we would ship major upgrades to the Mac editions of OmniOutliner and OmniFocus, continue to work on making our apps accessible, and redesign the remaining apps in our iPad line-up (which were looking rather dated on iOS 7 next to the apps we updated in 2013). I’m very pleased to say that every one of those goals were met in 2014: we shipped OmniOutliner 4 on January 15, shipped OmniFocus 2 on May 21, and then (even with the surprises we’ve now come to expect from Apple’s developer conference in June) we shipped redesigned versions of OmniFocus for iPad and OmniGraffle for iPad on September 18 (the day iOS 8 launched). I should note that these new iPad apps weren’t just redesigns: both apps now offer significantly more functionality with their Pro upgrades. OmniFocus can now build custom perspectives on the iPad for the first time ever, while OmniGraffle can now import and export documents from Microsoft® Visio® 2013, perform shape combinations, and edit custom data on shapes.

I’m also very pleased to note that we were also able to offer upgrade discounts to every customer who had previously purchased any of these apps from the App Store—an issue which had been a very big concern for us in 2013, but which we finally resolved when we introduced Pro Upgrade discounts with OmniGraffle 6 on the Mac App Store.

We also continued to work on making our apps more accessible, and we published more and more free e-books with approachable, in-depth explanations of our apps—books which were downloaded from the iBooks Store over 84,000 times in 2014.

So the good news is that 2014 went pretty much as planned! Though that’s not to say that the year didn’t bring some surprises. We’d barely had a chance to ship OmniFocus 2 for Mac when we suddenly found ourselves on the receiving end of a firehose of information from Apple about iOS 8 and OS X Yosemite. But we were able to respond quickly: the day iOS 8 shipped, OmniFocus for iPad and iPhone were both ready with two new extensions: a Today extension which made it easy to see your day at a glance without opening the app, and a Sharing extension for easily capturing content shared from other apps. We also added interactive notifications, so you could quickly complete or snooze an OmniFocus reminder without having to open the app.

With iOS 8, Apple also updated the App Store to support app bundles which can be purchased together for a discount. So we now offer an Omni Productivity Pack bundle of all our iPad apps—which saves customers 12.5% when they purchase all four apps, very much like the bundle discount we’ve long offered on our own online store. (Sadly, app bundles are not yet available in the Mac App Store—we hope that changes soon!)

All of the above makes it sound like we were ready and relaxed on the day iOS 8 shipped—but, of course, the reality is a little more complex than that. Just days before iOS 8 shipped, Apple had yet another surprise to spring on us: iPhone 6 would come in two new sizes, the 6 (with more screen space than ever) and the 6 Plus (even more space!).

We didn’t have time to worry about all of those announcements that week, because that was also the day Apple gave us the final SDK and we were already scrambling to submit all our iOS 8 updates so they would be available on the day it shipped.

But we turned our attention to iPhone 6 as quickly as we could, and adapted OmniFocus to work at those larger sizes. (This effort seems to have been well-received: this week it’s featured by Apple as one of 20 “Great Apps for iPhone 6.”)

There is a lot more I could talk about—for example, we also shipped a free major update to OmniGraffle 6 (check out the video!) which brought back detachable inspectors and added new fill effects, new stroke and shadow types, and Visio 2013 support—but this post is already getting pretty long-winded and I know you’re eager to learn where we’re heading next.

So I’ll just note that the year ended well: we were very pleased to see Apple list OmniFocus 2—for both Mac and iPad—as two of the App Store’s Best of 2014. And we were also very honored when iMore inducted us into their Hall of Fame.

So, what’s next?

Well, adapting OmniFocus to those larger iPhone 6 screens got us thinking… It’s time to make OmniFocus for iPhone just as capable as OmniFocus for iPad is, bringing over all those features like Review mode and the ability to build custom perspectives. In fact, we think it’s time to go further than that, and bring all the functionality from all of our iPad apps over to iPhone—so I’m pleased to announce that the entire Omni Productivity Pack is coming to iPhone. (Some of the apps are already in TestFlight; please let us know if you’d like to help test!)

Yosemite brought a new look and feel to the Mac, so we’ll be updating all of our Mac apps to fit in well there. We started this process last year with OmniGraffle 6.1, but we’ll also be updating OmniFocus and OmniOutliner and OmniPlan. Yosemite also brought support for extensions similar to those on iOS 8, so we’ll be adding Today and Sharing extensions to OmniFocus for Mac when we update its interface.

While we’ve already adopted a number of iOS 8 features, one area we haven’t really touched yet is its support for iCloud Drive and third-party storage provider extensions. At a bare minimum, we’d like for all of our document-based iPad apps—er, I mean iOS apps—to be able to import and export documents from iCloud Drive or Box or anywhere else that provides a storage extension. We’d also like to ship a standalone OmniPresence app for iOS which provides its own storage extension to let you store documents from other apps on your own WebDAV server.

OmniPlan for Mac has long had the ability to import and export Microsoft Project documents, but that support has fallen slightly out of date over time. We’ll be updating OmniPlan to support documents created by Microsoft Project 2013, and we’ll also be bringing that support (both import and export) to the iPad app. (Er, I mean the iOS app! Clearly this move to having all our apps run on both iPhone and iPad is going to take some getting used to.)

OmniFocus 2 has been very well-received—setting a sales record in 2014—but in no way does that mean we think it’s finished! We’ve been listening to your feedback, and we will continue to update the app to make it sync more responsively, to be easier to scan visually, and to be more efficient to use.

Beyond all that, well, I’m sure Apple has more surprises coming at us again this year. I’m looking forward to seeing what they turn out to be! We’ll try to be as responsive to them this year as we have been to surprises in previous years.

As always, please keep in mind that this is a snapshot of our current direction, not a commitment to arriving anywhere on a particular schedule. Reliably predicting the future in that way is impossible—but I’m always happy to share which way we’re headed!

Thank you all for an incredible 2014. Though we’ve been in business for 22 years (self-funded since 1992, when Ross Perot was in presidential debates with Bill Clinton and George H. W. Bush), this year not only brought new sales records for OmniFocus and OmniOutliner, but also set a sales record for our company overall. We’re very pleased to be able to set some of that profit aside for future needs while sharing some among our team.

We still have a lot of work ahead of us, but my hope is that 2014’s success is a sign that we continue to be on the right track—because we certainly can’t do any of this without your support! Thank you again.

(Feedback? I’d love to hear from you! You can find me on twitter at @kcase.)