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Posts tagged with "omni group"

OmniFocus 3 Review: More Approachable and Powerful, All at Once

If you're anything like me, you probably remain perpetually dissatisfied with your task management setup. You may have chosen an app and settled in with it, but some of its design choices don't quite fit with your way of working, so you're always keen to try the latest and greatest app that comes along. Realistically though, you've resigned yourself to the fact that the "perfect task manager" doesn't exist, and likely never will.

Task management is a tough problem to solve, because every option out there is optimized for specific use cases, resulting in different complexity levels. Some aim to remain simple and user-friendly, while others try to put every tool at your disposal, endearing themselves to power users while scaring off prospective customers who need a bit less. On this complexity spectrum, OmniFocus has historically been the poster child for the weightier end: if you have a lot of complicated projects that need a high degree of structure, there's no better place to start than OmniFocus; however, for lighter needs, I've always found its myriad of options too overwhelming to recommend.

OmniFocus 3, released today for iOS (and later coming to the Mac), adds even more power and options to the app's existing toolset, yet rather than growing more complex in the process, it's surprisingly become more approachable. This improved user friendliness is achieved thanks to a new level of flexibility that can, upon tweaking your ideal setup, obscure the app's complexity in everyday use. In more ways than ever before, OmniFocus provides the tools to make the app your own.

Outside of a lovely new design, where icons and fonts are bolder and everything feels more fresh, my favorite changes in OmniFocus 3 are this increased flexibility, which encompasses a lot of new and updated features, and its excellent iPad improvements. Let's dive in.

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OmniOutliner 3 for iOS Review

I think in outlines. When I was in law school, that’s how I was taught to break down legal issues and structure the enormous amount of information I needed to know to pass exams. Outlines became second nature – something I still use today to organize research, write longer articles, and organize projects.

I wish I had OmniOutliner when I was in law school. Those outlines grew as the semester wore on, adding complexity that made them harder to edit. Although the word processor I used could handle outlining, it wasn’t optimized for huge outlines the way OmniOutliner is.

Today, my outlining needs are much simpler. I’m not creating 100-page outlines. If an outline is more than a few pages long, it’s only because it’s full of detailed notes. More often than not, all I need is a quick indented list, with simple formatting, and the ability to reorder sections easily.

Perhaps the greatest strength of OmniOutliner 3 for iOS is that it can handle both scenarios. That’s because OmniOutliner 3 isn’t one app, it’s two: OmniOutliner Essentials and OmniOutliner Pro. Essentials includes all the tools you need for basic outlining, and Pro adds extensive customization options, section navigation, automation, and other features.

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Omni Outlines Its 2018 Plans, Including Updates to OmniFocus for iOS and Other Apps

Every year, The Omni Group reflects on the past year and provides a roadmap for coming year. In 2018, OmniFocus will play a prominent role along with updates to OmniGraffle, OmniPlan, and OmniOutliner.

OmniFocus for iOS has been around since the earliest days of the App Store. One of the biggest changes that will be debuted in OmniFocus 3 for iOS is the elimination of contexts, a Getting Things Done concept that hasn’t aged well. Contexts will be replaced with tags, which can be used like contexts or to indicate other attributes of a task like its priority, location, or time. With tags, Omni is will also introduce manual reordering of tasks within a tag.

The way OmniFocus deals with dates and notifications is being revamped too. With version 3, OmniFocus will add more fine-grained control over repeating tasks. To avoid complexity, The Omni Group’s Ken Case says:

we turned to a design principle called progressive disclosure: we ask you to make simple decisions up front (like checking the option “does this repeat or not”), and as you proceed through the interface we progressively disclose more and more options based on what we already know about the task.

Similar flexibility is being added to notifications, which will include more detail in each notification. OmniFocus is also adding the ability to add multiple custom notifications to single tasks and notifications that will continually badger you until a task is marked as complete, as can be done today in apps like Due.

OmniFocus 3’s design will also be refreshed. Omni hasn’t shared many examples of what the update will look like, but here’s an example from the company’s blog post:

JavaScript-based automation, which is included in some of Omni’s other apps, is coming to OmniFocus as is collaboration, which will feature a system that lets multiple people share the same task by linking them. Omni says the system will allow everyone on a shared task to see its status, but place the task wherever they want within their task management setups. Finally, Omni plans a basic web version of OmniFocus that will allow users to access their tasks, though with a limited feature set.

Omni has changes in store for its other apps too. The first 2018 update to OmniGraffle for Mac will focus on the Stencil Browser, which users will be able to place in the left-hand sidebar. A later update will add improvements to SVG import and export support. Later in the year, another update is planned to improve diagramming.

OmniPlan for Mac will add a Project Summary Inspector that provides summary information about a project like its total cost and duration. OmniPlan Pro users will get a new timescale feature for customizing Dashboards too. Improvements to OmniPlan Pro’s publish and subscribe sync feature are planned for later in the year.

OmniOutliner 3 for iOS is scheduled for release in February 2018. The update will introduce Essentials and Pro versions of the app. Essentials offers a simplified outlining environment, while Pro includes advanced features like saved filters, encryption, and JavaScript automation.

It looks as though 2018 will be a busy year for Omni. Updates to apps like Things have raised the bar on task management apps, so it’s good to see Omni rethinking and redesigning some of the fundamental aspects of OmniFocus. I’m also looking forward to the OmniOutliner, an app that I’ve used on and off since it was first introduced on iOS.


OmniGraffle 3.0 Brings the Power of Its macOS Counterpart to iOS

OmniGraffle got a major upgrade on macOS last fall, and now, it’s the iOS version’s turn. Today, The Omni Group released OmniGraffle Standard and Pro 3.0 for iOS. What I said in my review of OmniGraffle 7 for macOS is equally true for its iOS equivalent:

…the power of OmniGraffle lies as much in the flexibility of its tools as anything else. By giving users the ability to tweak virtually any property of a shape, line, or other graphic element on its canvas, OmniGraffle works equally well for prototyping an iPhone app as it does for laying out an addition to your house or creating a corporate organization chart.

The iOS version of OmniGraffle adopts the paneled design found on the Mac, which should make fans of that version feel right at home with the update. The app also brings the iOS version in line with the core functionality of the macOS version including features like artboards.

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The Omni Group Announces Low-Cost Version of OmniOutliner

Ken Case, CEO of the Omni Group, wrote today about a new detail of its upcoming OmniOutliner 5 software. In addition to the traditional Pro version, OmniOutliner will also come in a new Essentials version.

In OmniOutliner’s new Essentials edition, your entire focus is on your own content: there are no distracting sidebars or panels. You can choose to work in a window or in a distraction-free full-screen mode, selecting from a set of beautiful built-in themes. As you write, you’ll be able to see some key statistics about your content so you can track progress towards your goals. But our goal is to help you focus on your content and whatever task you’re working on—not on the tool you’re using.

With the Essentials edition, we’ve lowered OmniOutliner’s entry price from $49.99 to an extremely affordable $9.99. And since we want our upgrade price from Essentials to Pro to be $49.99, the new list price for Pro has been lowered to $59.99:

While Case's post references OmniOutliner for Mac specifically, he later confirmed in a tweet that OmniOutliner Essentials would be coming to iOS as well.

This announcement represents a shift in direction for the Omni Group. The company's traditional offerings have included Basic and Pro versions of each program, but the Basic version has historically not been anywhere near the price point of this upcoming Essentials edition. It will be interesting to see if this new approach expands to Omni's other apps over time.

Today's news is the second major shift in pricing strategy the Omni Group has made in the past year. Last September saw news that they would begin offering software as free downloads in the App Store, with an In-App Purchase to unlock full functionality. This change in pricing model made it possible to offer free trials, such as with OmniGraffle 7; trials are currently not possible on the App Store under the paid up front model.

OmniOutliner 5 for Mac is currently in a public test that can be downloaded here. More information about the Essentials version is available here.


Omni Group Automation

New website dedicated to The Omni Group's upcoming automation features in their apps, created by Sal Soghoian:

By default, all of the macOS versions of the Omni applications offer robust integrated AppleScript and JavaScript (JXA) support for Apple Events scripting on the Mac. These excellent automation tools will continued to be integrated into every macOS version of Omni software.

And in addition, the Omni Group now offers integrated cross-platform JavaScript support for both the iOS and macOS versions of their popular productivity applications. Finally, the power of automation is available regardless of whether you use Omni tools on mobile devices, laptops, or desktops.

As for the technology itself:

OmniJS, the name for Omni’s new version of the JavaScript language, is based on JavaScript Core, the foundation of the JavaScript implementation in WebKit. Using OmniJS, the Omni Group suite of applications will be able to be queried and controlled on both iOS and macOS in ways similar to how they are automated today using the traditional macOS Apple Event-based scripts.

What's most impressive is that The Omni Group is bringing all of these automation features to iOS as well – it's not limited to the Mac. Watch the OmniGraffle videos recorded by Sal to get an idea of the functionality automation will unlock. I'm genuinely excited about all this.

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The Omni Group’s Year In Review

Each year, Ken Case of The Omni Group takes a look back at the past year and ahead to what’s coming next for the company’s products. It was a good year for Omni, which released a major update of OmniGraffle for Mac as well as updates to OmniFocus for Mac and iOS and OmniPlan for iOS. The year concluded with OmniGraffle for Mac and OmniPlan for iOS making Apple’s ‘Best of 2016’ list.

In addition to planned updates to OmniGraffle for iOS, OmniOutliner for Mac, and OmniFocus, Ken Case outlined ambitious plans to bring new automation features to its iOS apps with some help from Sal Soghoian, who has been reviewing Omni’s efforts:

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.

We’re also adding support for background scripts which can automatically respond to document edits.

Omni is going further with URL schemes too:

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!

The prospect of desktop-class automation in The Omni Group’s iOS apps is exciting and right in line with its original vision for the iPad.

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OmniGraffle Standard and Pro for Mac Gets a Big Update

It's hard to capture exactly what OmniGraffle 7 is. Sure, it's a vector drawing and diagraming tool, but the power of OmniGraffle lies as much in the flexibility of its tools as anything else. By giving users the ability to tweak virtually any property of a shape, line, or other graphic element on its canvas, OmniGraffle works equally well for prototyping an iPhone app as it does for laying out an addition to your house or creating a corporate organization chart. With Version 7 of OmniGraffle, The Omni Group plays to its strengths, further extending the power, adaptability, and ease of use of those tools in what adds up to an outstanding update.

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The Omni Group Is Moving to Free Downloads with In-App Purchases

Ken Case, writing on The Omni Group's blog, has announced a notable change for the company's download model on the App Store:

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.

You don't get a better sign of the times than this. The Omni Group was the poster child of finding success on the iOS App Store with paid upfront pro software priced like desktop apps. But as Case argues, most apps in the Top Grossing charts have switched to a "free with In-App Purchases" model. That seems to be the clear path forward for developers who want to build sustainable software while also ensuring users can properly test their apps and take advantage of discounted upgrades.

It doesn't surprise me that The Omni Group – unlike other developers who keep hoping Apple retrofits the App Store for purchase mechanisms of a decade ago – went ahead and took a fresh approach to figure this out. The new policy isn't limited to the upcoming OmniGraffle 7: every Omni app for Mac and iOS will move to a free download with one-time In-App Purchases to buy the full feature set.

Omni's solution seems elegant and straightforward. The apps are free to download and they can be used as viewers when unlicensed; the free trial is an In-App Purchase set at Tier 0 that counts down 14 days; the full apps are unlocked with Standard and Pro levels of In-App Purchases. The only negative aspect I can think of is that In-App Purchases aren't available to Family Sharing, but that's on Apple to fix.

If Omni's approach works well in practice (and I can't imagine why it wouldn't), I can see a lot of developers following their model.

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