Looking Back, Looking Ahead—2017 Edition

by Ken Case on January 24, 2017

Welcome! Each year, I like to take a little time to pause and reflect on the past year’s accomplishments, and to try to peer ahead at what I expect we will be delivering over the coming year. The future is never certain, of course! But I think it’s important to talk about where we are now and where we think we’re headed.

OmniGraffle 7 launch day

2017 is an anniversary year for the Omni Group! We’ll be turning 25 years old in September—which means Omni is now slightly older than any of us were back when we started the company. We’ve seen a lot of changes in our industry over those 25 years, but one of the things that has remained constant is our passion for empowering our customers by building great software and offering great support—all done with care, from our offices here in Seattle.

Looking Back at 2016

Looking back at our accomplishments in 2016, there are two big events that stand out in my mind. The first is that we shipped OmniGraffle 7, implementing some of the features most requested by our customers. The second is that we switched to an extensible and encrypted sync format in OmniFocus, which makes it possible for us to revisit some of the design decisions in the data model from lessons learned since we first built OmniFocus back in 2007.

OmniGraffle 7 for Mac

OmniGraffle 7 screenshot

There’s a lot to say about OmniGraffle 7 and I don’t want to overwhelm this post, but I think it’s worth quickly noting that version 7 implements many of the most frequently requested features our customers have asked us for over the years. This includes a number of big features like SVG import (you can paste raw SVG source text onto the canvas and it will turn into native OmniGraffle shapes), custom keyboard shortcuts (with built-in sets for “Adobe” and “Sketch” to make life easier for people who frequently switch between apps), converting text to shapes (preserving the outlines of the text from whatever font you were using), canvas autosizing in all directions (rather than just down and right), and artboards (for easily managing groups of items on a canvas).

But even beyond those big features, one of the great things about OmniGraffle 7 is that it also includes lots of little touches of polish that make common actions just a little better—things like renaming objects by double-clicking in the sidebar, suppressing the selection highlight by holding Command while dragging, and quickly measuring the distance between two shapes by clicking on one and holding Option while mousing over another. (We even restored the visibility of the “Save As” menu item so it’s no longer hidden behind the Option key.)

Again, there’s a lot more I could say about OmniGraffle 7, but rather than overwhelming this post with information about OmniGraffle 7 let me just suggest you check out our new Inside OmniGraffle website.

Improvements to OmniGraffle’s Free Stenciltown Service

 

Version 7 wasn’t the only big update for OmniGraffle customers last year. With a major update to our free Stenciltown service, we made it easier than ever to share stencils with the rest of the community, submitting them to Stenciltown right from the app on both Mac and iOS. (In fact all of our iOS apps now have a Share button in the toolbar, making it easy to share whatever you’re currently working on with others.)

OmniFocus 2 updates

OmniFocus dark mode screenshot

The OmniFocus team has also been busy this past year, adding support for custom font and color choices on Mac (including dark mode), adding “peek” and “pop” 3D Touch gestures on iOS, and switching to an encrypted sync format that means that someone who has physical access to your sync data is no longer able to read it unless they also know the passphrase you’ve used to encrypt it. We’ve made it as easy to automate project creation on iOS as on Mac (some would say it’s even easier), added “New Inbox Item” and expandability to our Today widget, and rewrote our Apple Watch app for much-improved performance and support for flipping between home screen tiles using the Digital Crown. And finally (if you’ll allow me to count releases which were created in 2016 but shipped in the first few days of 2017) we’ve made it as easy to do global searches on Mac as it is on iOS.

OmniPlan 3 for iOS

OmniPlan 3 for iOS screenshot

In February we shipped OmniPlan 3 for iOS, with its network diagram view, Monte Carlo simulations, and support for working with project plans created by Microsoft Project 2016. OmniPlan has been very popular, with an average rating of 4.5 stars. (Thank you!) We’ve also added App Lock to OmniPlan, so you can protect it behind a password or TouchID.

OmniOutliner in 2016

OmniOutliner 5 test build screenshot

The OmniOutliner team started the year making lots of improvements to printing and exporting, and ended with OmniOutliner 5 for Mac in public test, with a revamped interface including distraction-free full-screen editing, a display of your current document’s word count, and advanced filtering options such as the ability to hide checked or unchecked items.

Where We Diverged From Our Plans

As you can see, we accomplished most of the items from the 2016 roadmap we’d planned at the beginning of the year—but plans never completely match up with reality, and I think it’s worth noting a few places where we diverged. We looked at implementing Markdown support for the upcoming OmniOutliner 5, but early feedback indicated that everyone had different expectations for what it would do so we ended up putting those plans on hold. (We’d still love to do it if we can find enough common expectations to make it worth doing. Please email us with yours!) We also wanted to deliver encryption of all documents stored on the Omni Sync Server—but while we’ve made a start on that by encrypting data from OmniFocus, we still have more work to do to deliver encryption support in our other apps.

On a positive note, another divergence was that we finally figured out how to offer free trials and upgrade discounts in the App Store by not charging up front for our App Store downloads (in much the same way as we don’t charge up front for our website downloads). We started this process in October when we shipped OmniGraffle 7, then brought free downloads to OmniPlan in early December.

OmniPlan's Touch Bar support

In Q4, Apple surprised us all with their introduction of the Touch Bar in the new MacBook Pro, and we quickly saw an opportunity to use that Touch Bar to help people make better use of our apps. With OmniGraffle 7.2 we added Touch Bar support for creating and editing shapes, and with OmniPlan 3.6 we added Touch Bar support for navigating your Gantt chart with dynamic scrubbing.

Best of 2016 — App Store

Wrapping up the year, we were incredibly honored to learn that our apps made Apple’s “Best of …” list for the third year running! The trend started with OmniFocus for Mac and OmniFocus for iPad being honored as Best of 2014; then OmniPlan for Mac and OmniFocus for Apple Watch made Best of 2015; and this year we made Apple’s Best of 2016 list with OmniGraffle 7 for Mac and OmniPlan 3 for iPad. We couldn’t have done this without our wonderful customers, so thanks to all of you for your amazing support through the years!


Looking Ahead at 2017

As we turn to looking at the year ahead, let me start by confirming or reiterating a few obvious directions that many careful readers have probably already guessed (or already know) that we’re planning for 2017:

  • We’ll be continuing the process of switching to free downloads across all our apps on Mac and iOS. Beyond the benefits we’ve already delivered (upgrade discounts, free upgrades for recent purchases, and free trials), this will make it possible for us to offer enterprise licensing for our iOS apps with support for volume discounts.
  • We’ll be shipping OmniGraffle 3 for iOS, which will add support for the latest features shipped in OmniGraffle 7 for Mac such as SVG import and artboards. (Anyone who purchases OmniGraffle 2 today will receive a free upgrade to version 3 when it ships.)
  • We’ll be shipping OmniOutliner 5 for Mac early in the year, with advanced filtering options and a distraction-free full-screen mode. We’ll be following that up later in the year by bringing those advanced filtering options to OmniOutliner 3 for iOS. (Anyone who purchases OmniOutliner today—for Mac or iOS—will receive a free upgrade to the next major version when it ships.)

OmniFocus in 2017

This summer, OmniFocus will be ten years old. We’ve improved a lot of things about the app over those ten years, but to maintain file format compatibility there are some things about the way we work with the app that haven’t ever changed. Last year we laid the groundwork for finally changing some of those, when we switched to a new, extensible file format and added encryption. This year, we’re going to make some fundamental improvements to the data OmniFocus keeps track of. Based on your feedback, the database changes currently at the top of our list are:

  • Faster syncing of databases with large attachments (so people who use lots of large attachments no longer have their sync times get longer and longer)
  • Support for multiple tags on tasks and projects (rather than just a single context)
  • More flexible repeats and notifications (such as “third Thursday of the month” and “keep reminding me every ten minutes until I check this off”)

You can see already that it’s going to be a busy year! But wait, there’s more…

Bringing the Power of the Desktop to that Transforming Piece of Glass

Last year, I ended our 2016 roadmap by talking about iPad Pro:

Finally, we’re working hard on making iPad Pro the best platform it can be. When Tim Cook introduced iPad Pro in September, he said: “iPad is the clearest expression of our vision of the future of personal computing: a simple, multi-touch piece of glass that instantly transforms into virtually anything that you want it to be.” I still find that vision as compelling as when we decided to go “iPad or Bust!” when iPad was introduced in 2010, and if we truly want to achieve that vision we still have a lot of work to do to bring more of the power of the desktop to that transforming piece of glass. I can’t wait to share the fruits of that labor with you once it’s ready!

At that point we’d already done some great work for iPad Pro, introducing freehand drawing of shapes with an Apple Pencil in OmniGraffle, making sure all of our apps adapt well to its larger screen, and adding keyboard shortcuts to our apps to support the new Apple Keyboard. And shortly after that blog post we also shipped OmniPlan 3 for iOS, which was very well-received—making the App Store’s Best of 2016. But when I said we still have a lot of work to do, none of those are what I was talking about.

Now, perhaps I should take a step back. iPad is already a very powerful and productive tool. I use mine every day, replacing the steno pads I used to carry everywhere with my iPad Pro and a few Apple Pencils. (I’m dependent enough on Apple Pencil at this point that I always carry more than one with me just to be safe.) And in their current incarnation, I’m also quite aware that they also have some pretty hard limits: they’re not going to replace my Mac, where I currently have dozens of windows open as I research and write. What I really mean to say is that our apps have just begun to tap into the iPad’s power, and that there’s a lot of opportunity to bring more of the power of our desktop apps to iPad by improving our iPad apps:

OmniOutliner 3 mockup for iPad Pro

One of the ways in which we can do that is to improve the way we interact with the apps to have a more efficient user experience. For example, we can make better use of iPad Pro’s larger screen by replacing some of the popovers in our interface with slide-in panels on the left and right (as in the screenshot above), so you don’t have to keep opening and closing them every time you want to use them. (This will debut later this year in OmniGraffle 3 and OmniOutliner 3 for iOS.)

In OmniFocus for iOS, we can make it easier to see the information you care about while not distracting you with information you don’t care about, as we let you do today on the Mac using custom columns. We can make it possible to select multiple tasks and edit them all at once, as we do in our other iOS apps. And we can make it easier to send information between OmniFocus and our other apps.

Powerful iOS automation

But there’s an even more fundamental way we can bring an efficient desktop-class experience to our iOS apps, and that’s by enabling a completely different model of interaction altogether. One of the most important features that we’ve built into our Mac apps has been user automation, which our customers have leveraged to build great custom solutions for themselves that we would never have anticipated. Solutions which add project templates to OmniFocus, or capture your Safari tab list to your Inbox.

In 2016 we scratched the surface with URL automation on iOS, but in 2017 we plan to roll out user automation on iOS in a big way across all our apps with a much richer set of capabilities. This automation support won’t be limited to a simple set of URL primitives; instead, we’re adding support for running JavaScript code: code that has the same level of deep support for manipulating the data in our apps as we’ve previously exposed to AppleScript.

If there’s any single person who I would identify as the face of user automation on Mac over the past two decades, that person would be Sal Soghoian. Sal joined Apple in 1997 to serve as the product manager of automation technologies, and through these past 20 years Sal has been instrumental in making sure that those technologies continue to evolve to help computers serve the needs of humans rather than the other way around.

Right before the holidays I approached Sal to review the automation work we’ve been doing, and over the past weeks he’s been enthusiastically exploring the boundaries of what’s already possible as well as helping us see what else we need to build before shipping this. He offered that I could share a simple example he created demonstrating this automation in action:

OmniGraffle automation

Now, this is just a simple example: a four-line script which places a green circle on an OmniGraffle canvas. But it’s easy to imagine taking this further. Creating a schema diagram of a SQL database. Building an org chart from a phone directory. Graphing servers in your local network. Or counting how many objects of a particular type are on a canvas (like the one JTech Communications built for AppleScript).

And all of the above are just examples of one type of automation, the type you actively invoke when you want to do something. We’re also adding support for background scripts which can automatically respond to document edits. For example, you could build an OmniGraffle handler script which responds to a resizing artboard by automatically adjusting the layout of all the shapes on that artboard. Or one which automatically updates the area markers on a floor plan. In OmniOutliner, you could make a handler script which automatically adds the values from two columns to produce a third column. Or which turns a row red when its balance column goes negative. Or even a mortgage calculator. And many of these scripts will be able to work exactly the same on both Mac and iOS.

Oh, and did I mention that we’re including support for calling out to other apps by their URL handler? So you’ll be able to tie into the Workflow app and its already great ecosystem of automation. In OmniFocus, imagine the possibilities that open up when you can trigger a workflow just by checking something off!


So that’s a peek at what’s coming from Omni in our 25th year. We already have some great apps, and iPad is already a great productivity platform—but, together, I think we can make the apps and platform even better. I can’t wait to see what you all build using powerful iOS automation!


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

Providing the best possible App Store experience

by Ken Case on September 29, 2016

From the dawn of the App Store, it’s always been our goal to provide the best possible App Store experience that we can for our apps. We were there with our apps on the day the store launched, so that you could make your own choice about how you wished to purchase our software. And three years later, we finally solved the problem of offering upgrade discounts to our App Store customers, an offer which started with OmniGraffle 6 and continued through the rest of our product line.

But even with those discounts, the experience of buying our apps on the App Store still had some limitations when compared to buying directly from our own online store:

  • On our store, we offer an upgrade discount on the base price of the app. On the App Store, we had no way to discount the base price—the best we could do was charge that full price again, but offer our Pro upgrade for free.
  • On our store, we offer customers free upgrades to the next version of the app if they’ve purchased within the last 30 days. Since we couldn’t make a similar offer on the App Store, the best we could do was stop selling the app for a while (like we did with OmniPlan last summer) so that customers wouldn’t get stuck with the old app.
  • On our store, we’ve always let you try our apps for free before asking you to decide whether to buy them. On the App Store, you get charged for the app before you can download it.

All of these limitations stem from a single underlying problem: they’re all due to the fixed cost of the original download of the app. If that download didn’t have that fixed price, all of these problems would be within our power to solve.

“Well, that’s sad,” some might say. “But that’s just the way the App Store works, isn’t it? At least you do offer customers a choice to use your own store, so it’s not like they’re forced into that experience if they don’t want it.”

I guess that’s true enough, at least for our Mac apps. But it’s still not ideal. And while customers can choose to buy directly from us on Mac, our iOS customers don’t have that choice. There’s no way for them to ever try our apps before buying them (unless they’re lucky enough to visit an Apple retail store when our apps are being featured). Or to get the price protection that we try to offer all our customers. Or to get upgrade discounts on the non-Pro edition of the app.

We’ve been asking Apple to extend the App Store to support all of these capabilities, of course. And they’ve certainly made changes to the App Store over the years to offer more flexibility in the way people buy software there, even if they haven’t addressed this specific problem.

Or… have they?

The underlying problem, as noted above, is that downloading the app has a fixed cost. We’ve always set that cost to be the standard price of our app, leaving us no way to charge less. But what if we take a fresh look at this problem, and make our downloads free? You know, like every iPhone app in the Top Grossing List has already done? It’s not that they don’t sell anything—or they wouldn’t be on that list. They just don’t sell the original download. (Which we’ve never done on our own store either.)

With the original download free, we can implement any pricing options we want to offer customers through In-App Purchases. We can offer our standard unlocks of Standard and Pro, of course. But we can also offer a free 2-week trial which unlocks all of the features of Pro and Standard, letting you freely choose between them. We can offer a discounted upgrade to the new Standard. And we can offer free upgrades to the new versions to any customers who recently purchased the old app.

Well, I’m pleased to share that that’s exactly what we’re going to do—starting next month, with the App Store edition of OmniGraffle 7:

Screenshot of the In-App Purchase screen

The app is now a free download. When you first run the app, you’re asked whether you’d like to start a trial or purchase a license. But before you purchase anything, we also explain that discounted pricing is available to existing Mac App Store customers. If you check for discounts, validating your previous install, we either offer you discounted upgrade pricing (50% off) or—for recent purchasers—a completely free upgrade to the new version.

As a bonus, this free download of the app now also works as a free document viewer. You don’t have to buy anything to use the app as a document viewer; you can just dismiss the licensing dialog—in which case you’ll only be able to open documents in read-only mode. This means that our customers can send OmniGraffle documents to anyone who has a Mac, knowing that they’ll be able to download the latest OmniGraffle for free and view those documents.

This is just one small corner of what we’ve been working on for OmniGraffle 7. But I believe (and hope you’ll agree!) that this change finally lets us provide our customers with the best possible App Store experience.


P.S. — To be clear, we’re starting with OmniGraffle 7 on Mac, but will be bringing free downloads to all our App Store apps on both Mac and iOS. Also, all of our in-app purchases will remain one-time purchases (as they are today); none of them are subscriptions.

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

iOS 10 is Here, and Omni is Ready (for Sierra, too!)

by Ken Case on September 13, 2016

Updated 2016-09-20: macOS Sierra has been released too! All of the shipping copies of our apps get cool new OS features like Universal Clipboard and Tabbed Windows automatically. For more information on app-specific updates and how OmniPresence for Mac works with the new iCloud Documents & Desktop sync feature, please see this support article.

It’s that time of year again! By now, some of you are already knee-deep in iMessage Stickers, and another large portion of you may have set up a repeating OmniFocus action to check area Apple Stores for Jet Black iPhone 7 Plus availability.

In updates that are out now, OmniGraffle, OmniPlan, and OmniOutliner are all ready for iOS 10. One of the things I’m most excited about is the ability to copy and paste between iOS 10 devices (e.g. iPhone and iPad) in all our apps using Universal Clipboard. When macOS Sierra comes out next week, you’ll be able to copy and paste between iOS and your Mac too.

OmniPlan for iOS shipped an update yesterday that supports iOS 10 (but doesn’t require it) and features App Lock—that’s the name we’re giving the ability to protect your Omni app behind a password or TouchID, to keep someone who grabs your device off your desk (be it a child or just a clumsy person) from accessing or changing your data. We’ll be bringing App Lock to all of the Omni iOS apps in the future: it’s been a popular request in all of our customer support queues and forums.

Use App Lock in OmniPlan for iOS to add a layer of protection to your projects

The Omni app that saw the biggest amount of work for this year’s new iOS release is OmniFocus. In June when we watched the WWDC Keynote we were excited to see that in watchOS 3 we’re finally able to do some of the things on Apple Watch that we’ve been wanting to do (and you’ve been asking us to do) since that device was introduced. We’ve re-written OmniFocus for Apple Watch for the third time in two years with great results: you get much-improved performance, a new extra-large complication, and an app that responds to the Digital Crown.

Performance is probably the best part of watchOS 3, but that Digital Crown part is the coolest. In the bottom row of the OmniFocus for Apple Watch home screen, where we used to display the continuity tile, we now give you the ability to flip between three options: Continuity (what we did before), a Custom Perspective (if you’ve purchased Pro), and Next Up (this is the item that we used to show in the Glance, based on selections you made in OmniFocus Settings). The fact that you can flip between the options so easily (with the Crown or a swipe up or down) means that OmniFocus gains a bunch of power without having another area of the app that needs setting up. One more thing—Glances are gone in watchOS 3, but if you add OmniFocus to Apple Watch’s dock, you can still see a summary of your day at a glance.

Rotating lower carousel in OmniFocus for Apple Watch

The OmniFocus improvements for iOS 10 aren’t limited to Apple Watch; we’ve also revamped the Today extension to add more power and flexibility. You’ll notice the most-requested change right away in the top right corner: a New Inbox Item button! That top row is rounded out by tappable summaries that take you directly to specific areas of the app. The rest of the widget shows the items you’ve chosen in OmniFocus Settings (or a Custom Perspective if you have Pro), with a cool new iOS 10 wrinkle: if you tap the Show Less button, you’ll get a single line display that lets you work through your actionable stuff one item at a time. Finally, iOS 10 adds that same compact view to the top of the 3D Touch Quick Actions, so you can peek at your next item with a force-press on the OmniFocus app icon.

The new Today extension in OmniFocus 2.17

So when can you get these updates? The OmniPlan, OmniOutliner, and OmniGraffle releases are available now in the App Store. OmniFocus 2.17 has been delayed by a day or so [update: we shipped OmniFocus 2.17 on September 20] because we’re raising the minimum OS requirement (to iOS 10) and need to sneak in one more bug fix release, 2.16.1, so that we don’t orphan customers who aren’t able to update their OS right away. If you’d like to be notified of the 2.17 release, the best thing to do is to follow @OmniFocus (or me, @kcase) on Twitter. Thanks for reading and enjoy iOS 10!

Looking Back, Looking Ahead—2016 Edition

by Ken Case on January 21, 2016

Welcome! Each year, I like to take a little time to pause and reflect on the past year’s accomplishments, and to try to peer ahead at what I expect we will be delivering over the coming year. The future is never certain, of course! But I think it’s important to talk about where we are now and where we think we’re headed.

2015 Release Timeline for the Omni Group's Apps

The transition to Universal iOS apps

It’s amazing how much change a year can bring! At this time last year, we had four shipping apps on iPad—OmniFocus, OmniGraffle, OmniOutliner, and OmniPlan—but just one of those apps was available on iPhone. Apple had just shipped the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, and with their larger screens we decided to bring all our apps to iPhone. And we did just that, shipping free universal updates to the iPad apps that made them also run on iPhone: first OmniGraffle on March 5, then OmniPlan on March 12, OmniOutliner on March 19, and finally OmniFocus on April 2. (OmniFocus was actually ready on April 1, but if we shipped it that day I worried that people might think the whole thing was an April Fools’ joke!)

Bringing each of those iPad apps to iPhone and adapting them to work well and bring all of their functionality to even the iPhone’s smallest screens was a huge effort. But that wasn’t all we were working on that quarter: we also shipped several free updates to our Mac apps, including the OS X Yosemite refresh of OmniFocus with support for new Today & Sharing extensions and a tear-off View Options popover, and a fully localized update to OmniGraffle 6—adding Dutch, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Simplified Chinese, and Spanish.

With those huge accomplishments completed, you might think things at Omni would have started to slow down a little when we entered the second quarter in April. But our release schedule was just starting to heat up: we shipped 10 more updates in April, including the OS X Yosemite refresh of OmniOutliner, a major update to OmniPlan for Mac adding support for Microsoft Project 2013, and an app for an entirely new platform: OmniFocus for Apple Watch. And then followed that up with another 10 updates in May, including a free major update to OmniFocus for Mac which made the Today extension customizable.

Apple previews new operating systems at WWDC

Our public release schedule did slow down in June, as Apple’s annual developer conference shifted our attention towards getting our apps ready for the upcoming round of operating system updates: iOS 9, watchOS 2, and OS X El Capitan. iOS 9 was preparing to introduce a huge platform shift, with apps on iOS being able to share their screen with other apps for the first time ever and with long-awaited support for global “Spotlight” searches of app content. And watchOS 2 was slated to bring even bigger changes to Apple Watch, with Watch apps being redesigned to run as native apps on the watch and with support for apps to add “complications” to the watch face. All this was expected to ship in early September, so we only had a few months to get our apps ready if we wanted to support all those features at launch. (Which we certainly did!)

But even with all that work going on behind the scenes, we continued to ship some big releases in the summer. In July, we shipped an OmniFocus for iOS update which added a “Dark” mode, swipe-to-flag, and push-triggered responsive syncing; as well as an OmniOutliner for Mac update with new PowerPoint and comma-separated values (CSV) export formats, plus support for Dutch, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Simplified Chinese, and Spanish. In August, we updated OmniGraffle and OmniOutliner for iOS to add support for iCloud Drive and other external document storage providers, and we updated OmniGraffle for Mac to add support for syncing stencils and templates.

Which brings us to September, the month that Apple shipped iOS 9 and watchOS 2. I’m pleased to be able to say that every one of our apps were ready with support for side-by-side multitasking and global searching on the day iOS 9 shipped, and that our new, native Apple Watch app was also ready on the day watchOS 2 shipped—with full support for a customizable watch face complication.

Apple ships new hardware

Of course, Apple always likes to spring a few surprises when they announce new hardware; this year was no exception. Apple announced 3D Touch for the iPhone 6s series and the coming iPad Pro, with its hardware keyboard and Apple Pencil. We had just one week after shipping our iOS 9 updates to deliver another round of updates adding 3D Touch support to all our iOS apps. Happily, we made that target as well! With those updates shipped and some of our team preparing for the iPad Pro, we turned the bulk of our attention back to our Mac apps.

Kicking off our Mac updates in late September, we added haptic feedback to OmniGraffle for Mac, so that when a shape snaps into alignment you can physically feel the snap with your fingers on the trackpad.

Shipping on October 7, our biggest release of the year was OmniPlan 3 for Mac, with its new network diagram view, its multi-project dashboards, its easy-to-read and easy-to-customize project reports, and its advanced tools for earned value analysis and Monte Carlo simulations. It was a huge release, and ended up being featured by Apple on the Mac App Store both at its launch and again at the year’s end, as one of the apps considered the Best of 2015.

But don’t tell that to our OmniFocus customers! They were enjoying the biggest update to OmniFocus 2 for Mac since it shipped, with custom columns and compact title folding making the app much easier to scan visually. And OmniOutliner customers were getting a big Mac update of their own, adding support for syncing templates between Mac and iOS.

Meanwhile, winter was coming—well, November—and it was time to get those iPad Pro updates ready if we wanted to have them shipping on launch day. (Especially since it wasn’t quite clear exactly which day in November that launch day would be!) So in early November, we found ourselves once again shipping major updates to each of our iOS apps, this time adding support for the new large iPad Pro display and for full hardware keyboard support (with shortcuts appearing when the Command key is held so you can discover what those shortcuts are). With Apple Pencil in mind, we also updated OmniGraffle to recognize shapes, making it even easier to create great-looking prototypes.

Turning our attention back to the Mac, we listened to what customers were asking for in the new OmniPlan 3 release for Mac and quickly added a full complement of localizations as well as support for printing dashboards. We also updated OmniPlan for iOS to support OmniPresence syncing, making it easier than ever to keep your OmniPlan documents up-to-date across all your devices.

And closing out the year in December, we had one last big set of updates for OmniFocus, this time shipping simultaneously on both Mac and iOS. On Mac, we added support for push-triggered syncing, so that edits on any device would now appear within moments on all your other devices. (As of this writing, we’ve now sent over 190 million pushes to Mac and iOS devices!) On iOS, we also added note and attachment indicators on editor tabs, making it easier to see where your notes are so that you don’t have to play hide and seek. And on both platforms, we implemented one of our most-request features: updating Due Soon to include a “Today” option, which only included items that were due before midnight on that day (rather than showing any items due within the next 24 hours).

So, we had quite a productive year! And I only briefly highlighted the releases that introduced new features; if you count all of our releases, including bug fixes and other updates, we shipped 85 updates (averaging well over one per week).

How did last year’s plans match up with reality?

Looking back at what I said we were planning to do at the start of last year:

  • Yes, we brought all our iPad apps to iPhone.
  • Yes, we updated all our Mac apps to match the latest interface updates and take advantage of the latest technologies introduced in Yosemite (and then El Capitan).
  • Yes, we added support for iCloud Drive and third-party storage provider extensions. Sadly, we didn’t have time to build a new standalone OmniPresence app for iOS.
  • Yes, we did update OmniPlan to support import and export of Microsoft Project 2013 on both Mac and iOS.
  • Yes, we updated OmniFocus to make it sync more responsively (with push-triggered syncing), to be easier to scan visually (dark mode and note icons on iOS, custom column layouts on Mac), and to be more efficient to use (hide and show columns on Mac, global searching and keyboard shortcuts and note indicators on iOS).
  • And yes, Apple did have plenty of surprises in 2015 (iOS 9 multi-tasking and global searches, haptic feedback on Mac, watchOS 2 native apps, iPad Pro, and Apple Pencil) and our apps were able to support most of those right at launch.

All of which might explain how we managed to finish the year receiving two more of the App Store’s “Best of 2015” awards.

Looking ahead at 2016

2016 has barely begun, but we’ve already kicked off the year with yet more updates! In the first week of the year, we shipped an OmniFocus update on iOS adding note and attachment indicators to list rows, and an OmniOutliner update on iOS adding PowerPoint export and supporting taller popovers on iPad Pro.

On Mac, OmniFocus will also be getting more control over style settings, allowing more font and color choices such as switching to dark mode. We’ll continue to improve syncing, turning our attention to changing the file format to improve conflict resolution for synced edits and to allow backward- and forward-compatible syncing as we introduce new features to OmniFocus.

OmniFocus for iOS will share those syncing improvements, of course. We’ll also be adding support for more 3D Touch “peek” and “pop” gestures on iPhone 6S, making it more efficient to access item details while browsing a list.

We want to make it easier than ever for the OmniGraffle community to share their work, so we have OmniGraffle updates coming for both Mac and iOS which let you share stencils to Stenciltown right from within the app. And even if you’re not using Stenciltown, you’ll be able to share or print the document you’re currently editing by tapping an always-available Share button on the top toolbar, rather than having to exit to the document browser first.

That new Share button in the iOS document toolbar isn’t just for our OmniGraffle customers, of course; it will also be coming to OmniOutliner and OmniPlan very soon!

Speaking of OmniPlan: we will, of course, be bringing OmniPlan 3 to iOS as well—in fact, we expect it to ship in just a few weeks! We’ll go into more detail as that date approaches, but I’ll just quickly say that we’re bringing over OmniPlan 3’s network diagram view from the Mac, along with Monte Carlo simulation, Microsoft Project 2016 support, and many other new features.

For OmniOutliner, I’m very pleased to share that we have some major writing improvements on the way! On both Mac and iOS, we plan to support distraction-free full-screen editing, the ability to see your current word count, and support for directly editing Markdown documents. (And on iPad, we hope to let you directly print your outline without first having to export to HTML.)

Across the board, in all our apps, we’ll be continuing to improve the overall user experience, finding out where the little points of friction are that get in the way and make the apps more difficult than they could be.

We’ll be working to make your documents and data more secure by adding support for encrypting your Omni documents, so even if someone else gets their hands on a sensitive document they won’t be able to read it unless they also have its password. And we’d like for you to be able to encrypt all the documents and data you’re storing on our Omni Sync Server so that any access to that data requires your authorization—as a technical limitation, not just a matter of policy and trust.

Finally, we’re working hard on making iPad Pro the best platform it can be. When Tim Cook introduced iPad Pro in September, he said: “iPad is the clearest expression of our vision of the future of personal computing: a simple, multi-touch piece of glass that instantly transforms into virtually anything that you want it to be.” I still find that vision as compelling as when we decided to go “iPad or Bust!” when iPad was introduced in 2010, and if we truly want to achieve that vision we still have a lot of work to do to bring more of the power of the desktop to that transforming piece of glass. I can’t wait to share the fruits of that labor with you once it’s ready!

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

OmniFocus for Apple Watch is now available!

by Ken Case on April 24, 2015

Earlier this month, I shared that OmniFocus 2 for iOS is now available as a “universal” app which runs on all iOS devices. Today, Apple launches their most personal device yet, Apple Watch—and I’m very pleased to share that OmniFocus for Apple Watch is available right at launch, included in v2.5 of our universal app!

Designed deliberately for Apple’s most personal device, OmniFocus for Apple Watch brings your tasks into greater harmony with how you move through the day.

We built OmniFocus for Apple Watch to specifically address situations where having OmniFocus on your wrist is the best option, distilling it to the essence of what you need right now.


At a Glance

Screenshot of OmniFocus Glance on Apple Watch

Use the OmniFocus Glance for the quickest possible access to the shape of your day. When you’re in the car trying to decide whether there’s time to squeeze in a stop at the drug store before picking up Fido from the vet, the OmniFocus Glance comes to the rescue with the time and title of your next due action.


OmniFocus Today

When you have a bit more time (and another hand free), the OmniFocus for Apple Watch home screen fills in the canvas of today’s most essential items so you can plan ahead. Jog your memory about the juice boxes for tonight’s soccer game, or if they’re stowed safely in the trunk, check off that task!


Continuity

When you’re using OmniFocus for Apple Watch, you’re not using it alone. Actions you check off are also marked completed on your iPhone, and from there, synced with your other devices. And views carry over, too! Get set up for a meeting by visiting the Weekly one-on-one context on your phone, then put it away — it’s available right there on your Apple Watch.


A Relevant Presence

OmniFocus for Apple Watch is with you when you need it. Notifications — shared with iPhone — give you a gentle reminder on your wrist, just as you’ve set them up to do. Never miss an item on a grocery list, and never miss a thought for that new novel — raise your wrist with the OmniFocus app, and with a Force Touch and a tap, speak to add the idea to your database.


To learn more about OmniFocus for Apple Watch, please see the live web demo (at the top of our product page) and our support article.

The universal OmniFocus 2 app supporting all iOS devices is available on the App Store, priced at $39.99 for the Standard edition and $59.99 for the Pro edition. Customers who have purchased OmniFocus 2 for iPhone and would like to start using OmniFocus on their other iOS devices can use Complete My Bundle to receive full credit for their existing investment. (And customers who own OmniFocus 1 for iPhone or iPad are eligible for a free upgrade to Pro after purchasing the universal app!)

We hope you enjoy this latest addition to the OmniFocus family! If you have any feedback, I’d love to hear from you: I can be reached on twitter at @kcase, or by email at kc@omnigroup.com.