iPad or Bust: 3 down, 2 to go!

by Ken Case on September 16, 2010

What a whirlwind of a year it's been! When the iPad was announced in January, I posted that we were planning to bring all five of our productivity apps to iPad. We've now shipped three of those five apps:

We're very proud of how well the iPad apps we've shipped so far are being received; they all have ratings which average four stars or better. And we're about to ship updates to each (with OmniFocus 1.1, OmniGraffle 1.3, and OmniGraphSketcher 1.3) which we'll be talking more about soon.

But we still have two more apps to ship!

First, a quick update on OmniPlan: we haven't really started on OmniPlan for iPad yet, because we're still busy building OmniPlan 2 for Mac. That's about to enter private beta; hopefully that process will give us a better sense of how close it is (and thus how soon we can start on the iPad app).

OmniOutliner is definitely closer, and we've made a lot of progress, but we've still got a ways to go.

When I say OmniOutliner has made a lot of progress, what I mean is this: it's currently able to read and view and edit and save OmniOutliner documents. But if there's one thing we've learned from building OmniFocus for iPad, it's that creating a great touch-based interface for text outlines is not an easy problem! It takes a lot of time. (Particularly when we have high standards for the animations: suddenly we have to worry about what the screen looks like through dozens of frames of animation, not just what it looks like before and after a change.) Creating a touchable outline wasn't easy to solve for OmniFocus, but at least there we knew what basic attributes each task would have: so we could decide which pieces of information to hide at what times, how to size and present everything to put your attention on the right pieces of information, etc. With OmniOutliner, on the other hand, every document gets to define its own schema, with different sets of columns, different summaries, etc., and we don't know what it all means and which bits of information are most important—so we have to build an interface which is much more general and flexible. It's fun work, but hard work and we still have a lot of it to do!

Meanwhile, Apple just gave developers a beta copy of iOS 4.2, which will be a free operating system update for the iPad and iPhone operating system when it ships in November. Since we still have a lot to do anyway, we think it makes the most sense to build OmniOutliner for iOS 4.2 (where we can take advantage of a number of its new features) rather than continuing to build OmniOutliner for iOS 3.2 and later scrambling to try to catch up with iOS 4.2's features. Since OmniOutliner for iPad will require iOS 4.2, it won't be out until sometime after that ships. (Though hopefully not long after!)

So, those are our plans at the moment! As I said in my original iPad or Bust! introduction, our plans change over time, so please don't rely on things happening exactly according to today's snapshot of those plans. But hopefully they will at least give you some insight into what we're doing and why, making it possible for you to decide whether we're going in a direction you're interested in.

As always, I'd welcome any feedback you might have: leave a comment here or send me a message on twitter (where you'll find me at @kcase).