New Features and Interface Refinements: Introducing OmniPlan 4

by Omni on July 15, 2020

Managing complexity just got even easier with OmniPlan 4 for Mac. We’ve added to OmniPlan’s ease of use and its existing interactive Gantt chart, powerful task scheduling options, network view, and automatic project scheduling. OmniPlan 4 introduces interval cost and effort tracking, new scheduling features such as recurring and manually scheduled tasks, and a new assistant to help set up project schedules. In addition to these powerful new features, a wide range of improvements have been made throughout the app, making OmniPlan easier to use than ever before for day-to-day project management tasks—no matter how complex your project is. And for the first time ever, your purchase of OmniPlan 4 now includes licenses for both Mac and iOS (plus a free 14-day trial).

Highlights:

New project assistant: Get help creating a new project with a setup assistant.

Recurring tasks: Tasks can now be scheduled to occur daily, weekly, monthly, or at yearly intervals.

Interval tracking: Cost and effort tokens can now be added as labels below tasks in the Gantt chart or displayed in the Gantt header. These tokens can display the total cost or effort for the current time increment or the cumulative total cost or effort up to that time increment. Interval tracking data can be configured and included in CSV and OmniOutliner exports.

Task roll up: Group tasks can be set to “When closed, roll up children” in the Task Inspector. With this option selected, the group is collapsed and sub-tasks and milestones are displayed in a single line.

Manual task scheduling: Manually scheduled tasks use the start and end dates you provide (OmniPlan will not automatically reschedule them).

File type: Projects can be saved as flat files or package files—a new enhancement for sync service compatibility with certain cloud services and network storage systems like Dropbox and Box.

Automatic light/dark modes: Projects created with default templates automatically switch between light and dark mode when your system changes modes.

Project outline views: Stay on track with the new project outline view for dedicated top-level projects.

Unified Resource View: Project and resource work hour customization are consolidated into an enhanced Resource View, providing easier access to existing functionality. This release also introduces a new schedule exception popover and customized day list, which allows for titling schedule exceptions and creating exceptions for any length of time.

Inspectors: Updated appearance, layout, and organization for inspectors increases discoverability and improves access to functionality.

  • Updated Task Schedule Inspector: Support for scheduling tasks manually has been added to the Task Schedule Inspector. Workflow for setting up task constraints has been updated, and task baseline information is now split into a new Task Baseline Inspector.

  • New Task Scheduling Influences Inspector: The functionality previously offered by the “Show Scheduling Influences” popover now displays in a dedicated Task Inspector.

  • Overhauled Styles Inspector: Redesigned to offer easy access to all advanced styling functionality in one place, the updated Styles Inspector replaces OmniPlan 3’s Styles View.

  • Unified Custom Data Inspector: Updated Custom Data and Attachment Inspectors have been consolidated into a single inspector.

  • Violation column: Collapsed groups containing a violation now display the Violation icon in the Violation column.

  • Outline behavior: Documents now remember when “Collapse When Not Editing” outline behavior has been previously selected.

Scheduling: Project schedules are more efficient and accurate than ever with multiple scheduling improvements.

Notice bars: Appearance has been updated for Change Tracking, Filtering, Monte Carlos Simulation, and Import notice bars.

View customization: Reorganized view-customization options are easier to find and customize.

Additional highlights for PRO users include:

  • Change tracking: Updated for improved reliability.

  • Reports window: Updated appearance and layout of HTML Reports window.

  • Omni Automation: Support for automation via the JavaScript plug-in has been updated. Learn more about our automation enhancements and other changes in the API Reference Release Notes.

In addition to the current available purchasing options for OmniPlan, cross-platform individual subscriptions for OmniPlan Pro are also available for purchase for $19.99 a month or $199.99 for an entire year.

If you’re interested in syncing OmniPlan 4 for Mac projects with OmniPlan on an iOS device, sign up for OmniPlan 4 for iOS TestFlight. Due to changes in OmniPlan’s scheduling logic and file format, we do not recommend syncing OmniPlan 4 projects with OmniPlan 3 for Mac or iOS.

We hope you enjoy OmniPlan 4—another example of our continued commitment to providing tools as powerful as you. Download the app for Mac, and if you have any questions or feedback, email support@omnigroup.com—our amazing Support Humans are standing by, ready to help.

The Difference Between a Prototype and Wireframe

by Omni on June 25, 2020

You’ve got an idea—you did the hard work of coming up with an app, website, or brand-new product. Now it’s time to figure out how to share it. Wireframes and prototypes are tools that are relatively easy to create and can help you visualize the functions and possibilities for your concept. Here, we’ll explain what wireframes and prototypes are, the uses for both, and how they differentiate—so you can determine which is best for your project and build a plan to share your idea with the world.

What is a wireframe?

A wireframe is a static, basic sketch of your website, which makes it the perfect visual starting point during the brainstorming process. Rectangles or squares are used as placeholders to show the location of potential graphics, buttons, or text, and the accompanying lines connecting these shapes indicate the order of information shared on each page.

There are two different types of wireframes: low-fidelity (lo-fi) and high-fidelity (hi-fi). A lo-fi wireframe will help you map out the basic schematics of your site in black and white. In contrast, a hi-fi wireframe is typically constructed after a lo-fi wireframe and presented in grayscale—this simulates actual color tones to help you better visualize the final version. Think of the hi-fi wireframe as a more detailed blueprint of your concept that will give viewers a better understanding of the look, feel, and functionality of your site. Hi-fi wireframes often contain no content or some placeholder content, such as lorem ipsum, typeface preferences, and specific dimensions for images.

Both types of wireframes are useful during the creative process and can be produced using design tools like OmniGraffle. If you’re starting from scratch, sketch a lo-fi wireframe to establish the basic layout of your site and hone in on the essential hierography of information. Then, create a hi-fi wireframe to explore more of the UI and UX details. Keep in mind that simplicity is key when creating a wireframe—don’t worry about aesthetics. Your goal is to quickly communicate your idea by constructing a simplified visual representation of your design.

Wireframe for the Difference Between a Prototype and Wireframe

What is a prototype?

A prototype is an interactive model or simulation that demonstrates how the finished website or app will work. The primary goal of a prototype is to test the design and functionality of your concept before moving on to the next phase of development. Creating a prototype might seem like a waste of time, but it’s a crucial step in discovering potential flaws and can save you time and money in the long run.

Like wireframes, prototypes also differ in complexity—lo-fi or hi-fi—based on the level of interactivity that’s possible (e.g., how many buttons can be clicked), visual design, and content. Lo-fi prototypes are often paper sketches with some basic visual attributes (rectangles, boxes, and buttons) representing the order of information, and the interactivity is simulated by a person. More realistic in appearance and with a higher degree of functionality, hi-fi prototypes are computer-generated simulations that look and feel like the final product—all interface elements (animations, graphics, colors, and content) are included with interactive clickable hotspots for users to experience the site.

Creating a prototype allows you to test and tweak the functionality of your design and discover any features you may want to add to your product before entering the final phase of design. Prototypes take more time to construct than wireframes, but the feedback gained through user interaction can be invaluable. The more realistic your prototype is, the more in-depth feedback you’ll gain for future iterations.

Prototype

Understanding the difference between a wireframe and a prototype will help you determine which one best suits your needs. Using these design tools to map out and communicate the usability and functionality of your concept—and test your product—will save you time and resources and take you one step closer to production.

Flat-File Format: A New Enhancement for Sync Service Compatibility

by Omni on June 3, 2020

In the previous version of OmniGraffle for Mac and iOS, some customers were unable to open files stored in sync with providers such as Dropbox, Google Drive, and Box. These sync services do not support file packages—a common macOS format that treats a folder as a single file—so some users received a message that their selected file couldn’t be opened. Instead, file packages appeared as a regular folder or compressed zip file with the same file extension. Even if users didn’t experience direct issues, this bug would sometimes result in data loss while editing files synced with these services.

To work around this sync issue, many customers chose to store their documents using our single flat-file format—but this method was inefficient for handling attachments. Files were encoded into XML data—a significantly less efficient way to store files—and rewritten on each save. In this release, we’re introducing a new, single-file format (so you can still choose a file package) that performs better than the previous version and is fully compatible with sync services. We’ve unblocked the UI earlier in the saving process with this new zipped format—attachments are separate from the OmniGraffle XML data, so users can focus on their work without being concerned about file formats.

OmniGraffle files will be recognizable due to the .graffle extension, but users with versions of OmniGraffle before 7.16 and 3.14 won’t be able to open the zip format. It’s important to note this change if you’re working in a shared file environment or sending files to colleagues using older versions of OmniGraffle. For these situations, all legacy formats are available from the export panel, and existing legacy files will have the option to continue saving in the legacy format. We’re working hard to provide compatibility across platforms and accessible options for all.

Download the app for Mac or iOS, and if you have any questions or feedback, email support@omnigroup.com—our amazing Support Humans are standing by, ready to help.

Export Infinite Canvases from OmniGraffle to Microsoft Visio

by Omni on April 14, 2020

OmniGraffle 7.15 for Mac and OmniGraffle 3.13 for iOS are now available. Both releases improve import and export accuracy and Microsoft Visio compatibility.

Highlights:

In a previous version of OmniGraffle, we introduced support for infinite canvases. However, OmniGraffle documents set up to use an infinite canvas did not export in a format that rendered correctly in Microsoft Visio. This release updates our Microsoft Visio export logic, so all items are now visible in Microsoft Visio and will automatically shift when exported from infinite canvases.

Images embedded in OmniGraffle documents are now embedded as PNGs when exporting to Microsoft Visio—offering a more efficient image format and resulting in significantly reduced file sizes.

This release also improves the text layout when exporting. Connection line paths now better match what’s shown in OmniGraffle. Customers can import more files without having them present an error or crashing. EMF image importing has also been improved.

We’re dedicated to providing tools as powerful as you. While there are still improvements to be made, we’re pleased to release OmniGraffle 7.15 for Mac and OmniGraffle 3.13 for iOS with improved Microsoft Visio compatibility. We know many people work with Windows users who create their work in Microsoft Visio, and we are working diligently to ensure compatibility.

These releases help you open and edit files from your colleagues—and send back updated copies with confidence that all work appears correctly in Microsoft Visio. These fixes are applicable to everyone, but are heavily focused on improvements for Pro users as Microsoft Visio import and export requires Pro.

Learn more about OmniGraffle 7.15 for Mac and OmniGraffle 3.13 for iOS in our Mac and iOS release notes.

Download the app for Mac or iOS, and if you have any questions or feedback, please email support@omnigroup.com—our amazing Support Humans are standing by, ready to help.

Our Top Five Tips for Staying Productive While Working From Home

by Omni on March 20, 2020

If you’re like the millions of Americans who have found themselves working from home in the last few weeks, you might be having a hard time staying focused and productive without your normal workspace or your daily routines. With the Omni team all working remotely, we’ve had to learn some helpful new techniques ourselves. Since we’re in the business of productivity, here are five helpful tips for staying productive while working at home.

(1) Stick with your routine

When big life changes happen, it’s important to find normalcy and stability where you can. While it may be tempting to sleep in or sport your pajamas while working from home, sticking with your usual routine is key to maintaining balance. Get up when you normally get up, eat breakfast, and get dressed in work clothes (or, at least, non-sleeping clothes—you don’t have to wear a suit and tie in your home office). Following the typical steps you’d normally go through in your day will help you stay focused, because it prevents your brain from having to make too many extra decisions. You’ll also feel more like your normal Monday-through-Friday-self.

If you typically have a long commute and aren’t sure what to do with the extra time, consider that some free time you can use to develop new, healthy routines. Spend the time you’d usually be in a car or on the bus exercising, reading a book, meditating, or listening to a podcast—anything that helps you maintain a sense of calm. Not only does this give you some extra “me” time, but it also gives you a break between waking up and work time, which helps your brain set up boundaries between work and play.

(2) Have a dedicated workspace

Speaking of creating boundaries, don’t forget to set up physical boundaries for your workspace. Having a specific area to work will help you get more done during working hours and be able to unplug at the end of the day—just make sure you don’t spend too much time in your new workspace during your free time.

Wherever that space is—your desk, kitchen table, or a corner of your couch; anywhere that isn’t your bed!—make it your own, just like you would at the office. Make sure you have everything you need, from pens or staples to your favorite water bottle. Setting up shop like this will also help establish the physical boundaries of your workspace for the people you live with and ensure they know that when you’re there, you’re in work mode.

(3) Take breaks

No matter where you’re working, it’s important to take breaks. Your brain needs time to process, rest, and reset. Similar to sticking with your routine, make sure you build in the same breaks you would take at the office while you’re working from home. Go for a walk outside, stretch, grab a cup of coffee, or have a five-minute dance party—whatever you need to feel recharged. Most of us don’t move our bodies as much working from home as we would while at the office, so it’s important to stay active.

Don’t forget to take your normal lunch break, too (and, of course, to stop and start work at normal times). Eat a healthy meal (and healthy snacks throughout the day!) and drink plenty of water so your brain has the fuel it needs to help you do your best work. If you normally eat with coworkers, try setting up a video chat so you can still share a meal with others.

(4) Stay connected

On that note: Video chatting with your coworkers, friends, and family will help you feel connected even if you’re alone at home. Working from home can feel isolating, and it’s important to reach out and stay linked to both your work and personal communities. Even if you just need to chat with someone for a minute, call a coworker—they’re probably feeling the same way.

Seeing your coworkers’ faces will help everyone remember that we’re all in this together. (You can also set up a virtual happy hour to get the whole office together at once.) The most important thing is to remember you’re not alone.

(5) Check your infrastructure

Being able to work from home is entirely dependent on having secure access to the internet, so now is a good time to make sure your WiFi and router are running smoothly. Check to see if your router’s firmware is up-to-date—if you’ve had your router for more than five years, you might be in need of an upgrade. And if your network is being used by multiple people working from home at the same time, you especially want to make sure your connection is strong enough to handle all the extra traffic. If it needs a boost, call your ISP to negotiate a new service plan.

If you have the means to do so, it may also help to buy a USB dock, additional monitor, and accessories like a keyboard and mouse. Having the proper tools will help you stay on task, comfortable, and productive at home.

You may be in the comfort of your own home, but don’t forget about security. Check all your at-home devices to see if you’ve downloaded the most recent updates, which contain the latest security patches. And be sure to check your antivirus software to determine if it’s up to date, too.

Bonus tip: Stay organized with Omni

Everything we do at Omni is about helping you be productive, and our task management tool OmniFocus was designed to help you get things done. Add Actions (to-dos), group them by project, and use Perspectives to plan your day so you stay on track. (And since a little levity helps during stressful times, we won’t tell your boss if you use the app to organize things outside of work—like when it’s time to take the dog on a walk or plan a pillow fort with your kids.)

Download the app, and if you have any questions or feedback, please email support@omnigroup.com—our amazing Support Humans are standing by, ready to help.

Interested in learning more? We found research from Harvard Business Review, Fast Company, and The Cleveland Clinic helpful in putting together this content.