Macworld 2011—A Post-Mortem

by Michaela on February 28, 2011

As you may have heard, we were once again bit by the Macworld bug. It was great to see those who could make it in the flesh and hear what's going on inside those those big brains of yours! If you missed any of our talks, or you'd like a refresher, you can find them here.

Chalk it up to sleep deprivation, dehydration, or blood pooling in our lower extremities (thus starving our thinking-meat of oxygen), but somewhere on day two (or 28) of the conference, something happened. It was something so… so… terribawesome that not sharing the results of our pre-show time-wasting Idle Hands experience would be a great disservice to the not-yet-undead segment of humanity.

Okay. You get it. We're zombies. (Subtlety? Not my forte.) And—fair warning—we make quite frightening zombies. Especially Brain. I mean Brian! And Lotus the cat.

Drag your feet if they're still attached cursor here to watch a thing that is scary and silly (but more scary than silly).


Omni On The Road—Macworld 2011

by Michaela on January 24, 2011

It's that time of year again: the Golden Gate bridge is hitting snooze and the warm glow of Moscone's florescent lights are calling to us, like moths to an energy efficient bulb.

That's right, gang—Omni's going to Macworld.

If you, like us, are headed to San Francisco later this week, please feel free to stop by! Ask questions, pick up a little swag, take our apps for a test drive (iPad too!), or check out one our many presentations from David Sparks, Merlin Mann, and members of the Omni Staff. (You can find the schedule here.)

We're really excited to put in some face time with you guys and show off what we've been up to here in the Pacific Northwest. We're going to be sending real, live Omni-ites Omni-ans Omni-ers Omni-vores Omni folk to chat with real, live Omni users like yourself (and those who might be curious, of course).  If you've ever sent us support email or a love letter, you might put a name with a face! While these ladies and gents are on the show floor, please keep in mind that they won't be able to answer email so support response time might be a bit longer than usual.

We're looking forward to going and hope to see you there!

Less is More Cowbell: Finding the OmniFocus Sound

by Michaela on December 1, 2010

Our devices have voices.

And they have these voices to let us know everything from "someone is trying to get in touch" to "it's your move in [popular letter-adorned tile placement game]". When they speak, it sometimes sounds like they're saying "FIRE!" when they mean to say "You've got some spam to delete, buddy." Sometimes it sounds like they're whispering "Hey, there are kittens batting at dandelions in a meadow." when they really mean "No, seriously, FIRE!" And more importantly, any sound that is repeated with enough frequency will turn itself into a distant peep that you ignore or an in-your-face racket that turns you into The Hulk.

These were the challenges we considered when creating a notification sound for OmniFocus for iPhone and iPad. The job of the OmniFocus notification sound is to alert you to items that are due. So not only is it an alert, but it's an alert that lets you know you have some work to do — talk about a potential double whammy of irk.

So how do we combat this? There are a few things that make sense to do: keep it short; make sure it's in a range suited for the device's speakers; don't repeat it a bajillion times; and make sure that its voice lands somewhere in between DEFCON One and DEFCON Fun.

This gets us pretty far. To take us the rest of the way, we relied on the comfort found in familiarity and a voice that says simply, "I have something for you."

Here comes the music theory:

For the enforcement of familiarity, we chose a chord that has the same root and inversion as a sound with which many of us are well-acquainted: the Mac start-up chime. (The low low fifth is eliminated to accommodate the device's speakers.) It's not likely that most people will be able to say "Hey, that's like the start-up sound!" or even have a conscious response to it, but it's ubiquitous enough that the sound should *ahem* strike a chord. To make sure we find the right words to say, and for further familiarity, we had the root come in a touch late. With the third on top, this creates the notion of a descending major third or the same ding-dong sound a doorbell makes. The timing is different, of course, to make sure you don't look at the door when OmniFocus tells you it's time to take the trash to the curb or your Really Big Project is due.

All that said, everyone's ears are conditioned differently and our hope is that, in the end, it's unobtrusive without being too shy. Really, we just want it to be useful. 

Thanks for taking a minute to read about our one-second sound. If any of this resonated with you, please take a listen and feel free to drop a note in the comments. (Might I recommend F#?)

Creating Review Templates in OmniFocus

by Michaela on March 17, 2009

Hello, friends of OmniFocus! Let's sit down and have a little talk about review templates. Review templates are a means to stay on top of habitual work. The daily review is a list of actions that you'd normally complete every day. For example, reading and responding to mail messages, processing your Inbox (both physical and in OmniFocus), taking care of your plants, and so on.

Be careful though — this is not a list to remind you of the things you already remember to do like brushing your teeth (hopefully).

To set up a review template, create a new single-action list. This can be done by clicking the action menu in the sidebar and choosing New Single-Action List. Then, add all the things you'd like to stay on top of.

Choose each action and use the Inspector to give them a due date and a repeat interval (probably one day from completion date). Now, just keep an eye on your due perspective and you're set!

New OmniFocus Videos!

by Michaela on January 13, 2009

Why, hello again! Michaela here. I don't know if you noticed that fancy title, but there are two new OmniFocus videos available from our friends at ScreenCastsOnline.

The first, found here, is on the basics of OmniFocus. It has some new information not found in the Quick Start video and is a great starting point.

The second, found here, is on OmniFocus advanced usage and the iPhone. It's a special double-length show that covers topics such as Syncing, the Inspectors, Growl integration, Perspectives, Clippings, and integrating with other applications like Mail and iCal.

As always, the ScreenCastsOnline team does fantastic work. We thank them.

Do check it out!