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.)

Introducing Optional OmniFocus Subscriptions

by Ken Case on December 3, 2018

As long-time readers know, we’ve worked very hard over the last ten years to implement our flexible, customer-friendly licensing model in the App Store. When we started, the App Store only supported a pay up front model, which was far more limited than what we’d been used to with our own direct sales. But over the years, with the introduction of new technologies like in-app purchases and updated policies, we’ve gained the flexibility we now enjoy which lets us offer trials, upgrade discounts—and even price protection (so recent purchasers get a free upgrade to a new major version of the app when it ships).

In my last blog post, I also described how we’re working on making it easier for businesses, schools, and other organizations to license and deploy our iOS apps.

We think our current licensing model meets a lot of needs, and we will continue to offer this model for licensing our apps: we prefer for customers to view our apps as an investment, not an expense.

But our current model doesn’t cover every situation. It’s designed for software that you run on your own devices, where you can buy something from us and run it for as long as you wish (so long as you keep a compatible system around to run it). With this model, we still have customers running software they purchased from us 20+ years ago. (That’s a good investment!)

But as I mentioned in January’s roadmap, OmniFocus for the Web is a different sort of product. It’s a version of OmniFocus that runs on our computers, not yours. Running it on our computers means we have to maintain those computers, their network connections, power, and so on, as a constantly available online service, for as long as customers use the product. Running that service costs us money every month, so if we want the service to be sustainable we need an income stream which brings in money every month to cover those costs. In other words, this service model requires subscriptions—an arrangement where customers pay us money each month to keep the service going.

Beyond supporting this new service model, there are some other benefits to offering subscription pricing as an option. Some of you have told us that you’re frustrated by our current “a la carte” pricing model, where each edition of the app is purchased separately. That you would prefer the option to pay a subscription each year which covers the price of future upgrades and unlocks the app everywhere. That you’d rather not have to worry about when the next major upgrade is coming, budgeting for how much that will cost. That you don’t want to have to think about whether you’ve bought the app for Mac or for iOS; that instead, you just want to use it on whichever device you happen to be using. Offering a subscription option for our desktop and mobile apps would help with all of these requests.

To that end, when OmniFocus for the Web ships we’ll be rolling it out as part of a new OmniFocus subscription offering. This subscription will grant you access to OmniFocus for the Web, and will also unlock the Pro edition of OmniFocus on all of your other devices. Your subscription will cover the cost of all upgrades, so you’ll get the new OmniFocus 3 release today—and, when OmniFocus 4 ships some years down the road, you’ll get an automatic upgrade to it as well.

Now, some of you have already paid to upgrade to OmniFocus 3. If you have what you need, you don’t need to change anything: you can keep using OmniFocus 3 as you have been doing. New customers will also continue to be able to make a simple one-time investment to unlock OmniFocus 3 on their devices. We’re offering subscriptions as an additional purchasing option, not as a replacement for the existing options.

The OmniFocus subscription will cost $9.99/month, giving you access to the web service as well as OmniFocus Pro on all your Mac and iOS devices. If you’ve already invested in OmniFocus 3 and just want to add the web service, the cost for that will be $4.99/month.

These subscription options will be available when OmniFocus for the Web ships next month quarter.

I should note that subscriptions do have significant downsides. The initial cost to start using the product is lower, but over time subscriptions will end up costing more—and unlike our one-time purchases, it’s not an investment: when you stop subscribing to OmniFocus you’ll lose access to the things that were being provided by that subscription. When a subscription ends you won’t be able to use OmniFocus for the Web any more—and any OmniFocus apps running on your own devices will go back to whatever state they were in before you subscribed. (If you never unlocked those apps, that means they’ll go into a free viewer mode where you can access your data and export it, but can no longer edit it.)

Whether subscriptions make sense for you is something only you can decide. But we’re pleased that we will soon be able to offer you that choice!


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