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.)

Open Test of OmniFocus for the Web Drawing to a Close

by Ken Case on May 22, 2019

Hi, all! Thanks for all of the great feedback during the open test period of OmniFocus for the Web!

I just wanted to give you all an early heads up that the public test of the web app will start to require a paid subscription late next week (after we’ve updated our online store to offer a $5/month web-only add-on subscription).

Subscribers will be welcome to continue to use the public test if they wish (continuing early access to features like the Forecast perspective that are still in development), or to switch over to the more stable production site.

For reference, here are links to both sites:

Whether or not you end up subscribing, thank you very much to all 20,000+ of you who signed up for the public test! Your participation and feedback have been very helpful!


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

Compatibility warning: macOS Mojave 10.14.4 cannot display some OmniOutliner and OmniPlan documents

by Ken Case on April 12, 2019

UPDATE (May 13, 2019): The compatibility bug referenced by this blog post has been fixed in macOS 10.14.5. See our follow-up post for more information. What follows is the original blog post, unedited.


Good afternoon, readers! It’s incredibly rare for us to have to do this, but I need to let our Mac customers know that the 10.14.4 version of Mojave which shipped a few weeks ago (on March 25, 2019) has a drawing bug which makes windows with large CoreAnimation layers fail to draw. In particular, OmniOutliner and OmniPlan customers have been telling us that since upgrading to 10.14.4, they will open some documents and end up seeing… nothing. Perhaps some empty borders around the window. (Or if another window is dragged over the space where that window should be drawing, they’ll see a trail of its old pixels.) This is most likely to affect customers who are using older hardware, but it also affects large documents on newer hardware.

We’re working with Apple to get this resolved as soon as possible, but for now it appears there’s nothing we can do to resolve this on our own. We’ll provide an update as soon as a fix is available. In the meantime, I’m afraid we need to recommend that any OmniOutliner or OmniPlan customers with older hardware or large documents hold off on updating to 10.14.4. (Earlier versions of Mojave are fine.)


UPDATE (April 14, 2019): Good news! We’ve been working with Apple and tested a fix that will be in the next Software Update to macOS Mojave. (I don’t know the timeframe for that update shipping to the general public, but I’m glad this fix is on its way!)

Price Increases Coming in March

by Ken Case on February 22, 2019

Good afternoon, all! It’s been a decade since we last updated many of our app prices, and I just wanted to let you know that we’re planning to raise those prices in about two weeks (on Monday, March 11). We’re reviewing prices on an app by app basis, but our rough guide will be the pace of inflation over that time.

So if anyone is looking to buy our apps at their current prices, I recommend doing so before March 11!


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

Omni Roadmap 2019

by Ken Case on January 28, 2019

Welcome! Each January, we like to pause and reflect on the past year’s accomplishments and to share a roadmap of where we’re headed in the coming year. Not that we always get where we’re headed by the end of the year—the future is never certain!—but even if we don’t quite make it there, I think it’s always useful to understand the direction we’re headed in.

Looking back at 2018

We had a lot of ambitious goals in our roadmap for 2018. Over the course of the year, we shipped around 90 updates to our native apps. If those releases had been distributed evenly across the whole year, it would average about three updates per month for OmniFocus, an update every few weeks for OmniGraffle, and updates every month for OmniPlan and OmniOutliner. Of course, the distribution of those releases wasn’t even, so some months (or weeks) saw more updates than that—and I’m also not including all the TestFlight and public test builds that led up to our big product releases of the year: OmniOutliner 3 for iOS, OmniFocus 3 for iOS, and OmniFocus 3 for Mac.

Looking beyond all the product releases, one of the most interesting things about 2018 at Omni is that for the first time in our 26-year history we’ve been working on making a product for something other than an Apple (or NeXT) platform. In our previous roadmap I noted that we were working on building OmniFocus for the Web, and at the end of July we invited people to sign up to help us test it. Over the next three months, we pushed out frequent updates to the web service and sent out nearly 10,000 invitations before opening the doors wide so anyone who signed up would get an instant invite.

When planning each year’s roadmap, we reserve some time to adapt to changes in the platforms we develop for. Apple gave us a lot of great new technology to work with over the summer, with Siri Shortcuts for iOS and Dark Mode for Mac—and then gave us even more in the fall, with Apple Watch Series 4. We adopted all of these, with several updates shipping the day Apple shipped those features and most others coming within a few weeks. In the case of adopting the latest 10.14 Mojave features, this did mean saying goodbye to support for 10.12 Sierra—which made for a good opportunity for me to write a forum post explaining how we determine system requirements.

We also spent some time last year on site licensing, making it easier for businesses, schools, and other organizations to license and deploy our iOS apps. In December, we shipped OmniGraffle 3.9, the first of our apps to support site licenses on iOS.

For those interested in a peek behind the curtain at Omni, our podcast “The Omni Show” really came into its own in 2018, going from 4 episodes to 30 (now 32 as of this week). It truly has been a great way to get to know the people and stories behind our apps—I’ve certainly learned things about my coworkers that I hadn’t known before! It’s also been a good place for us to discuss our roadmap, to explain design decisions or the ramifications of new features (like tags or revamped custom perspectives), and even to talk about implementation details like how we built OmniFocus for the Web. And for those who need prefer or need to read (or skim or search) rather than listen, I should note that we provide a written transcript of each episode.

While we did get a lot done last year, we didn’t finish everything I hoped to get done! As I noted at the top, our annual roadmaps are a statement of direction, not timing. Last year, I mentioned both OmniFocus Automation and OmniFocus Collaboration in the roadmap, with the caveat that I didn’t know the exact timing of when those features would ship—other than that they wouldn’t be in the initial OmniFocus 3.0 release. Well, it’s true, they weren’t in the initial 3.0 release. Neither were the new repeatedly-prompting notifications—or for that matter, Mac notifications of any sort. But while the timing was unknown, the direction was sound! Everything on that list is still very much a part of our plans—and this seems like a good point to transition over to talking about our plans for 2019!


Looking ahead at 2019

We’ve kicked off 2019 by shipping OmniFocus 3.2 for Mac, bringing rich support for custom notifications to the Mac. We’re also very close to shipping some updates to OmniGraffle for Mac and iOS which improve text handling—including the ability to wrap text to the edges of arbitrary shapes, a feature I’ve wanted in OmniGraffle since we shipped its first version nearly 18 years ago.

But our primary focus now is shipping OmniFocus for the Web, along with the optional OmniFocus subscriptions which are needed to support that web service. OmniFocus for the Web is currently in a wide-open public test period, and—other than billing—all the features we planned for the initial launch are now in place! What features are those? Well, quoting from last year’s roadmap:

It will be greatly simplified from the OmniFocus you know: it won’t have custom perspectives or notifications or maps. It won’t have Review. It won’t let you set up new repeating tasks (though it will correctly handle repeating tasks that are already set up). Its capabilities will be a lot more like what we shipped in our very first iPhone app: you’ll be able to see the lists of tasks in your Inbox, Projects, and Tags, with their associated notes and due dates. You’ll be able to edit basic information about those tasks (checking them off, assigning a due date, changing a title or note) and of course you’ll be able to add new tasks.

Now, I really shouldn’t undersell what’s already there—in fact, I’m quite happy to report that most testers giving us feedback have been impressed with the level of functionality and polish we have in place, which goes beyond the initial goals listed above. But for this initial launch, most of the work we’ve been doing has been less focused on features, and more focused on providing a scalable, reliable service which works on a variety of browsers and which can be used by thousands of people at once.

Assuming this foray into completely new territory goes well, we certainly do look forward to bringing additional features to the web app! We’re already starting to think about how to implement other features our native apps have, like the built-in Forecast view and synced custom perspectives. And, of course, we’re looking at localizing the web app into a dozen languages—just like we do with our native apps. What comes first, though, depends at least partially on feedback: we look forward to hearing from our subscribers about the things that matter most to you!

Beyond the web app, we do have several big features left over from last year that are still very much on our plates. We’re continuing to work on site licensing, JavaScript-based automation in OmniFocus and OmniPlan, and sharing linked tasks in OmniFocus—which will also lay the groundwork for sharing linked tasks between OmniFocus and OmniPlan. We’re still planning to implement persistently-reminding notifications in OmniFocus, that will keep reminding you to do something until you’ve told the app you’ve done it. And we’ve heard from many customers about how painful it is to switch due times around when traveling, so we’re planning to add support for times with floating time zones.

So we do have some new features coming this year. But while 2018’s roadmap was almost entirely focused on new features (with tags and manual sorting and flexible scheduling and flexible notifications and batch editing), the overall theme of our work for 2019 across all our product lines will be to improve the flow of using our apps. We’ll be reviewing the ways customers navigate our apps—making them easier to navigate on small touch devices, more efficient to use from a keyboard, and more accessible to the sight-impaired. We’ll be improving integration between our own apps (such as linking tasks between OmniFocus and OmniPlan), between our apps and others (such as OmniGraffle’s import and export of Visio and SVG files), and with the rest of the system. We’ll be tracking down and fixing rare crashes and other bugs. And we’ll be taking a hard look at performance issues, so our apps respond to your input faster.

We do love building new features. (We’ve done a lot of that recently!) But we’re also dedicated to making apps of the highest quality—and to accomplish that we think it’s important to take a step back from time to time, to make sure that all the features we’ve already built are as polished and useful to everyone as they can be!


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