Adopting Apple’s Standard iOS Document Browser

by Ken Case on July 30, 2019

When we launched our first iPad apps in April, 2010, the iPad platform was completely new. (We launched our first apps the day the App Store launched!) At that time, there was no built-in document browser, or even a rich text editor: if we wanted those features—essential to apps like OmniGraffle and OmniOutliner—we had to build them ourselves.

There was also no built-in mechanism for syncing documents: iCloud itself didn’t exist in 2010, and iCloud Drive didn’t exist until it was introduced with iOS 8 (in September, 2014). We knew how important it was to be able to easily sync documents between multiple devices, so in May of 2013 we shipped our own syncing solution, OmniPresence.

A document browser with integrated cloud syncing was a great solution—for 2013. But time marches on, and in 2019 we now have lots of cloud storage options which integrate strongly with Apple’s standard document browser—a browser which is now built into iOS and available to every iOS app. It’s understandable that, more and more, we’ve been hearing from customers who find it frustrating that they can’t easily use the cloud syncing service of their choice within our apps.

In 2019, we think it’s time to retire our custom document browser in favor of using Apple’s built-in document browser—and with our iOS 13 updates this fall we’ll be doing just that. Instead of seeing our custom file browser, you’ll be presented with the standard iOS document browser—just like in Apple’s own iWork apps. Using Apple’s browser, you’ll be able to store and sync your documents using Apple’s built-in iCloud Drive, or third-party commercial options like Box—or even in cloud- or self-hosted collaborative git repositories using Working Copy.

Syncing through OmniPresence will still be an option, but it will no longer be the only integrated option. In fact, it might be the least privileged option: since OmniPresence isn’t its own separate app, it won’t be listed in the document browser’s sidebar where you find your other document storage solutions. Instead, it will present itself on iOS much like it does on Mac—as a folder of synced documents. We’re not trying to drive people away from using OmniPresence—but in 2019 we don’t think it makes sense to push people towards it either. OmniPresence is not a core part of our apps or business, and in 2019 there are lots of great alternatives. Seamless document syncing is essential to our apps—but exactly where and how those documents are synced is not!

Adopting the standard iOS document browser will make it easier than ever for you to choose where you want to keep our apps’ documents. If you’re already testing the iOS 13 betas and would like to help test our apps, please sign up for our iOS 13 TestFlights!


(Feedback? I’d love to hear from you! You can find me on twitter at @kcase, or send me email at kc@omnigroup.com.)