Happy New Year! A tradition in January, we take a moment to reflect on the past year and share a roadmap of the intended journey ahead for 2023.
As mentioned in our last, mid-year roadmap, our hearts continue to stand with the people of Ukraine, and we wish for them a just peace. Here at home, our new pattern of working and collaborating remotely during the global pandemic has become our new normal—though a few of us do enjoy being back in the office some of the time.
Last year, in 2022, we celebrated the Omni Group’s 30th Anniversary—three decades of building powerful tools, from the first multimedia web browser on the NeXT platform to our latest “Mac-assed Mac apps” which help people accomplish more every day. Thank you to all of our customers for supporting our mission to create great software over the past three decades!
It’s incredible to have been a part of so much change over the past thirty years—from an era where our community interacted online through bulletin boards, mailing lists, and Usenet newsgroups, through to the rise of search engines and huge centralized community hubs (many of which seemed completely dominant until they were eclipsed). Over time, we’ve learned what truly matters is not where a community gathers, but the community itself.
During this past year, it’s been wonderful to connect with and share stories from our amazing community through our podcast The Omni Show, which published its 100th Episode in October (and has many more episodes on the way). And we’ve been pleased to see our community reach critical mass on the open Fediverse—where we’re now participating with our own self-hosted Mastodon instance. If you’re on Mastodon as well, you can find us at @OmniGroup@omnigroup.com.
Apple’s platforms continue to move forward with each year. We intentionally set aside time and work hard each year to be ready with compatibility updates by the day a new operating system ships. As early adopters ourselves, it’s important to us to ensure that our apps are ready for each new operating system so people who update can be productive right away.
2022 was no exception. When iOS 16, iPadOS 16, and Ventura shipped, we had updates ready and available for each of our apps: OmniFocus, OmniGraffle, OmniOutliner, OmniPlan, OmniDiskSweeper, OmniPresence, and OmniWeb. If you’re also an early adopter, you can feel confident that we’ll be right there with you.
We also enjoy pushing the envelope forward in our apps, and in July we became the first third-party developer to add support for Voice Control, making it possible to control our apps with your voice for Mac, iPhone, and iPad. We’ve provided over one hundred pre-built cross-platform examples of Voice Control commands for OmniFocus. And we’re not done—we have more on the way. If there are specific commands you’d like to see in any of our apps, please don’t hesitate to let us know!
As many of you know, our OmniFocus team spent much of 2022 hard at work on its next major version. For a little historical context, it usually takes us about five years to develop a new major version of OmniFocus, with OmniFocus 1 shipping in 2008 and OmniFocus 3 shipping in 2018. So if one were to assume that OmniFocus 4 would continue that pattern, it would be reasonable to project that it would ship in… 2018 + 5 = 2023—hey, that’s this year!
OmniFocus 4 will present a fresh look across all platforms, including a complete redesign for iPad and iPhone with an interface rebuilt from the ground up using Apple’s new SwiftUI technologies.
Taking this fresh look at everything is giving us the opportunity to rethink decade-old designs with an eye towards simplicity. Whether you’re new to OmniFocus or have been using it for the past 15 years, the app will be easier to use than ever—while still providing all the depth, power, and customizability our customers expect when they need to go deep.
The OmniFocus 4 user experience will focus on a simple outline of the things you need to do, where items and their notes can be edited in place. Replacing platform-specific interfaces with shared, cross-platform code will make the app’s features, interactions, and terminology more consistent across platform, bringing Mac-only features to iPhone and iPad and vice versa, while continuing to leverage the strengths of each platform. And, naturally, OmniFocus 4 will build this new SwiftUI interface on top of our rock-solid cross-platform data and syncing model developed over the past 15+ years.
We opened up our development process to get feedback from thousands of people in our community of customers using it in real life every day. One of the great aspects to having so many people engaged through TestFlight has been that it keeps us grounded by immediate feedback as we experiment and revisit earlier design decisions. We really appreciate all of the insights shared with us, about both form and function—it has inspired us to innovate with OmniFocus in some amazing ways.
While OmniFocus for the Web can’t directly leverage the cross-platform work we’re doing in SwiftUI, we’ve been implementing many of our new features with it in mind and are planning day-one support for many of those features, such as Forecast’s new support for flagged items, task hierarchy, and flexible task reordering. You’ll see new features start to arrive on the test site soon!
When do we anticipate OmniFocus 4 will ship? That’s a great question! As alluded to above, we do expect to ship OmniFocus 4 in 2023. The exact timing is not predetermined, however: it will ship as soon as it’s ready.
Here is an illustration of our development milestones:
The biggest milestones, the ones which can take years to complete, are those initial milestones: Feature Freeze and Design Freeze. During those milestones, we’re still building new features and experimenting with how the app is designed. For OmniFocus 4.0, those major milestones are now nearly complete: all of the features for version 4.0 have been implemented for iPhone, iPad, and Mac, and we’re nearly done iterating on the design for this release.
So what’s left after that? We still need to squash usability and accessibility issues, improve performance and stability, write documentation (we still believe in writing user manuals that you can read from start to end, not just Q&A sites where you have to search for answers), and so on. But once the feature set and design are stable, those remaining milestones are well-defined and can proceed much more quickly.
OmniFocus 4 is shaping up to be the best version of OmniFocus ever: offering an approachable, accessible, and flexible feature set across Mac, iPhone, and iPad. And looking even further ahead, it will provide a great foundation for building new features such as collaboration.
In our last roadmap update, we noted that we’ve also been hard at work designing and building the next OmniGraffle, using the latest tools for macOS Ventura and implementing long-requested features like themes and reference objects. Our goals and opportunities with the next version of OmniGraffle are quite similar to the goals and opportunities we have for OmniFocus: we’re making OmniGraffle more approachable and easy to use, while continuing to provide the depth, power, and customizability our customers expect when they need to go deep. We want the app’s power to be readily available, without it being distracting or overwhelming.
Our experimental TestFlight is ongoing, and if you’re passionate about OmniGraffle and interested in influencing its future direction we’d love your feedback! If you’d like a TestFlight invitation, please reach out to us at email@example.com.
We have a very full schedule ahead of us in 2023 as we redesign and rebuild our two most popular apps, leveraging the latest advancements in Apple technologies. We look forward to getting these major upgrades into your hands as soon as they’re ready!
Our world is constantly changing; sometimes in unpredictable ways, and sometimes in very predictable ways with new tools and platform updates from Apple at every WWDC. Our roadmap is never a perfect prediction of the future, and is subject to change in response to our changing environment. But I hope this gives you some sense of our direction: where we’ve been, what we’re working on today, and where we’re headed next.
(At the Omni Group, we make powerful productivity apps which help you accomplish more every day. Feedback? I’d love to hear from you! You can find me on Mastodon at @firstname.lastname@example.org, on Twitter at @kcase, or send me email at email@example.com.)