In late January we published our annual roadmap where we look back at the previous year and look forward to the new. Ken Case, roadmap author and CEO of The Omni Group, joins the show to go into more detail and answer listener questions.
We have a lot planned for 2019, too: we’ve already shipped a few important updates. OmniFocus for the Web is coming soon, and we have some important new features en route: automation for OmniFocus and OmniPlan, shared linked tasks for OmniFocus, and more.
This new year will also give us a chance to take some time to review user interface navigation and keyboard control. We’ll take time to fix bugs, including those rare crashing bugs, and increase performance.
And we’ll also, surely, have new technology from Apple to work with over the summer, like every year — which is part of the fun of what we do. :)
This is our second roadmap special — you can go back and listen to last year’s and see how far we’ve come!
Brent Simmons: You're listening to, The Omni Show. Get to know the people and stories behind The Omni Group's award-winning productivity apps for Mac and iOS. Music!
Brent: I'm your host, Brent Simmons. In the studio with me today is Ken Case, CEO of The Omni Group.
Brent: On January 28th, we published the Omni Roadmap for 2019, on our blog. We looked back at the previous year, and we look forward to the new year. We're going to talk more about the roadmap today. Say hello, Ken.
Ken Case: Hello Ken.
Brent: So, how'd we do in 2018? It seems like we shipped some pretty major stuff, starting with OmniOutliner 3 for iOS. Which is the last thing I actually worked on as an engineer.
Ken: It was funny, putting together this year's roadmap and realizing, just how much we had done since the beginning of the year. OmniOutliner 3 seemed like an awfully long time ago, at this point. But yeah, it was a pretty big release for Outliner, and an important one where we brought OmniOutliner Essentials over to iOS, with the new pricing there. That also sort of completed our transition to free downloads across all platforms.
Brent: All right. Okay.
Ken: Being able to do free trials everywhere, and upgrade pricing, and all of that, so.
Brent: That was a big deal. I remember, as an engineer, also working a lot on parity with the Mac, for OmniOutliner 3. There were a number of changes to make things work a little bit more similarly, in ways that made sense. It's been a while now, and I don't remember all of it. A lot has happened since.
Ken: We did the three pane view, and we—
Brent: Right. Yeah, okay.
Ken: It was a very full year, and our attention after shipping that didn't stay too focused on that, because we were busy thinking about the next thing, which in this case, was OmniFocus 3, really. It was the major focus through the rest of the year. Although, we had some updates to OmniGraffle, to OmniPlan, some nice feature releases there, but a lot of attention was on OmniFocus 3 this year.
Brent: Let's see, iOS came out in May, or June? I can't remember, it seemed like early summer, late spring.
Ken: It was right before WWDC.
Brent: Right, okay. So, that would have been May. That's right.
Brent: That's a classic thing that Mac, and iOS developers do, release right before WWDC.
Ken: Yeah well, you want to have your plates at least somewhat cleared off—
Ken: For whatever Apple's going to throw at you when you get there.
Brent: You might imagine that we, at The Omni Group, get advanced notice of everything, but of course, we don't. It's a surprise to us too.
Ken: We get advanced notice at the keynote.
Brent: Yeah. Right.
Ken: With everyone else.
Brent: Frankly, I've talked to people at Apple, and they're like, "Yeah, that's when we learn about it too." Unless you're actually on one of those teams, you just don't know what's going to happen.
Ken: Yeah, it seemed like a lot of Apple people were surprised by the technology to bring iOS apps to the Mac, for example.
Brent: Oh, right. Sure. Yeah.
Ken: This year.
Brent: And speaking of that, is that something we're going to be investigating do you expect? Obviously, we don't have much in the way of details, and won't for another six months, or whatever.
Ken: I think that's less important for us, as developers who started on the Mac and then brought everything to iOS, but I certainly see the value of it in the ecosystem for developers who have primarily been on iOS, and maybe haven't even thought about the Mac because it was just enough different. Didn't seem like a large enough audience to be worth spending time on.
Ken: Now, if it's just an easy compile, and a little bit of testing, maybe adding menus, or whatever, a way. Maybe we'll get apps from banks, or—
Brent: Oh, sure. Yeah.
Ken: Or, light bulb makers, or whatever else, right?
Brent: Yeah. I'm really curious to see what happens there.
Ken: Yeah. Me too.
Brent: I can see how it doesn't do a lot for us, since we're so into the Mac already. Always have been, but yeah.
Ken: And stuff that's designed for the Mac first, really is going to have a different set of capabilities, and stuff that you just sort of brought back from iOS. I think, like, a better experience for multiple windows, and so on.
Brent: Sure. So how the OmniFocus 3 for Mac and iOS releases go? Mac came out in September, I think it was.
Ken: Yeah well, it shipped right with Mojave.
Brent: Right. Yeah.
Ken: So, those are the two, sort of, landmarks you can pin both of those releases to: WWDC and Mojave, kind of book ends of the summer. Both have been very popular releases. Lot of great new functionality. People have been asking us for tags for forever.
Brent: Oh, sure. Yeah.
Ken: People have been asking for richer notifications, for better repeat options, all sorts of things. That's what we delivered with OmniFocus 3 this year. So, very good, successful release. We still have a lot more to do, we didn't get to everything that we started working on, but that's what we're working on.
Brent: I think it's worth noting that a mature app, and OmniFocus is 10 years old or so, isn't probably going to change dramatically, even in a major release. It may look rather similar, but the changes that are made are actually, hugely important.
Ken: And the changes in this case were a little more dramatic on iOS, than they were on Mac, in terms of the interface. Since on iOS we added the three pane view that we had brought to all of our other apps already.
Ken: So, you now have an inspector, and that gave us multi selection capabilities on both iPhone and iPad, which was another popular request. It didn't matter much to the Mac folks because they've had it since version 1.0.
Brent: It's just such a normal Mac thing already, right?
Brent: Right. So, when did we decide to start working on OmniFocus for the Web?
Ken: Well, we originally started working on OmniFocus for the Web almost 10 years ago. Between OmniFocus 1 and OmniFocus 2.
Ken: And then the iPad was announced, and we decided we would shift our focus and instead work on native apps for the iPad. So, we made iPad our best initiative. So that project ended up going on hold. I think the person we hired to work on it ended up becoming an iOS, and Mac developer, and now works on our native apps instead. That project has been long in the making, but we've revived it recently. I think we went into more history about this in one of our recent—
Brent: Yeah, in how we build OmniFocus for the Web.
Brent: I was just wondering, did we decide to restart it last year?
Ken: When was “go time”?
Ken: Yeah, it was really in 2017.
Brent: 2017. Okay.
Ken: And then, we announced it last year. Now, it will be shipping soon.
Brent: All right, so testing has been going on since, seems like summertime?
Ken: Yeah, late summer.
Brent: Yeah, okay.
Ken: Into late summer. I think we started at the end of July with our very first testers, but we only had a handful, maybe up to a few dozen by the end of August, and then we really started picking up the pace, and inviting 10 a day, or a week, or whatever.
Brent: Oh, yeah.
Ken: Then 100 a week, and then 1,000 a week.
Brent: Have there been any big surprises? Especially since the last time we talked about this, which was October probably.
Ken: Well, I suppose the surprise that just came in the last week was we just got new guidelines for how subscriptions are supposed to be presented on iOS.
Brent: Oh, right. Yeah.
Ken: So, I think that's really great, to have that guidance now, and I'm glad Apple has put it out there. I wish I'd had it a few months ago, or we'd had it a few months ago when we were working on designs for this, but I'm glad that we can rework it now before we ship, rather than right afterwards.
Brent: Yeah. Yeah. That's a nice thing.
Ken: Or to get blocked in review or something because of it.
Brent: It's a good reminder that a lot of the work for OmniFocus for the Web is actually doing the in-app purchasing in our iOS app, at least at first, for subscriptions.
Ken: Right. We wanted people to be able to use the in-app purchases that Apple provides already, to buy OmniFocus for the Web, so they can do their subscription there, and have it cover all of the apps.
Ken: So, we built it into the iPhone and iPad app, the iOS app, first, because that is the version of the app that most of our customers have access to.
Ken: Greatest number. Especially with OmniFocus for the Web. Part of the reason we're building it is because some of those customers don't have access to a Mac, and we want them to be able to use it on Windows and—
Ken: Where are they going to go to do this payment? Either we can set up something directly on our website, and we do want to do that, I think eventually. Right now, our first focus is get it in the app itself as an in-app purchase so people know what all of their purchasing options are when they make a purchasing decision.
Brent: That makes sense.
Brent: I've seen, there's a fair amount of thought and design work and everything, that goes into all of this. Are you writing the actual code for the in-app purchasing parts, or is?
Ken: Mostly not. A few little bits and pieces early on, but it's mostly the OmniFocus team itself.
Ken: Now that they have finished with their work on shipping OmniFocus 3 for Mac, and a few quick updates, like the notification update that just came out, then that's where their attention is turned.
Ken: Is to getting the subscription stuff working.
Brent: I assume that's getting close to being done finally, hopefully?
Ken: Very close, yes.
Brent: Right on. So, we didn't do major releases of OmniGraffle, or OmniPlan, but what were some of the important features we nonetheless shipped? I think immediately of OmniPlan and their work with syncing and sharing stuff.
Ken: Yeah, we spent a lot of the year thinking about, in that team, thinking about how can we make syncing and sharing clearer to everybody. Because, it has been an area that's been a bit confusing. Syncing, and sharing in OmniPlan, it's the one app that we build right now that supports collaboration.
Ken: So, we have two different use cases for how you might, why you might want to sync a document from one machine to another. One where, I just want to sync it with myself to have the same document on all devices.
Ken: And that can happen through iCloud, or whatever. That doesn't require anything too special. But we also have this other mode of syncing changes where you're publishing what changed, and other people can review those changes, and understand what they are. So, we wanted to be sort of clearer about what you're doing in each of those modes, and how to set it up, and when you should use one or the other. That was a big push, was to get that, sort of, all the terminology squared away.
Brent: Oh, right. Sure.
Brent: And then OmniGraffle got some new things including dark mode support, which I think just completely makes sense for OmniGraffle.
Brent: And it looks fantastic, too.
Ken: There were something like, 15 updates for OmniGraffle over the last year? No, it was more than that, it was more like 20. Yeah, 20 different updates.
Ken: So, it's been a very busy year for that team even if we weren't shipping say, OmniGraffle 8.
Brent: Yeah, it's been a busy year for everybody.
Brent: Lot of new stuff. And it's the first full entire year of The Omni Show last year, which has been really fun for me, and I liked that you mentioned it on the roadmap. One of my favorite things about it is what you mentioned, that we get to learn things about our coworkers.
Ken: Yeah, absolutely.
Brent: Which is a lot of fun.
Ken: Yeah, there are a lot of great shows. Both about coworkers, about the products that we were doing, special things that are sort of previews of what was going to be coming up with tags, or with custom perspectives.
Ken: Yeah, it's been a fun show.
Brent: So, lets talk about 2019. We've already shipped an important new update to OmniFocus. OmniFocus 3.2 for Mac includes notifications, including some ability to customize notifications. I imagine that was something, one of those many things that you hope will come out in the initial shipping version, but then you hurry and get to it soon as you can afterwards.
Ken: Yeah, we had plans for doing it one way that were in place at the beginning of the summer, and then when we went to WWDC, we learned from Apple that Mojave would have a whole new notification system available.
Brent: Of course.
Ken: Which was much more flexible, and powerful than what was available to us before, in earlier versions of the operating system. So, this would let us, for example, schedule notifications that could happen while the app is not running.
Brent: Oh, okay.
Ken: Which has been a common feature request. "Why is it that when I quit OmniFocus I don't get my notifications anymore?"
Brent: Oh, right.
Ken: Well, because OmniFocus isn't running to give you those notifications.
Brent: Makes sense.
Ken: Was the reason. But now it can, because it can schedule with the operating system, and the operating system will just provide it. If you then click on the notification it will launch the app, and bring you back to that task. So that's great, but that meant that we were now building this whole thing from scratch again. In a different way than we were...
Brent: Right, yeah.
Ken: Fortunately it is much more, this design is taken from iOS, there was an opportunity to share more code with code we already had on iOS, and so on.
Ken: But we didn't have time, really, to finish that whole thing unless we wanted to delay all of OmniFocus shipping until... well, until this month.
Ken: It takes just as long to build this stuff either way, it's just, who's willing to live without that feature, or adopt it earlier, or who wants to wait? Well, it's here now. Let's put it that way.
Brent: Yeah. That's right.
Brent: A nice way to start off the year. Getting something important done right off the bat.
Ken: Yeah, it's a good feature.
Brent: So, OmniFocus for the Web, is that the next big thing that we ship? It seems obvious it probably is, but?
Ken: When I wrote this roadmap, there was one more release that went out the door, just the blog post right before it, that morning OmniPlan shipped their dark mode update.
Brent: Oh, yeah. That's right, yeah.
Ken: Which has much better screen shots than anything in my roadmap. Nice beautiful picture there. But yeah, so we have that OmniPlan update. We have an OmniGraffle update as well that's being wrapped up where you can finally wrap text within a shape.
Brent: Oh, yeah. I'm looking forward to that.
Ken: Star shaped shape, or whatever. Smiley face and the text will... So, all three of those things will have shipped before OmniFocus for the Web does, I think.
Ken: But OmniFocus for the Web is coming soon, as soon as we finish that subscription work that we alluded to earlier.
Brent: And it's important to remind people if this is the first time they've heard about subscriptions and Omni, is that it's an optional thing. We're still committed to, if you just want the iOS, or the Mac app, or the both of them, you can buy them just as you always have.
Brent: But the web app requires a subscription because it's an ongoing service, and if you want, you can do a subscription that gets you all three platforms in one.
Brent: But you don't have to.
Ken: Which has been a popular request for some time. A lot of customers have asked, "Well, can you just charge me one price for everything?" Our answer in the past has been, "Well, the app store doesn't really work that way."
Ken: The two app stores are both completely independent, and we currently don't do any sort of product registration when you buy something from the app store, so we don't even know if you bought it, and how would we unlock the other platform? And so on.
Brent: Yeah. Makes sense.
Ken: So, as part of this work, of course, subscriptions doesn't mean just accepting payments from people for subscriptions, it also means sending it back in systems to start tracking who has an active subscription, did they cancel or renew, and what exactly does it cover, and making sure all the apps unlock with it.
Brent: I'm sure.
Ken: A whole new thing for us.
Brent: Yeah. Right. That's quite a bit of work.
Ken: Big project. Yeah. Almost completely behind the scenes. But yes, it is also going to be optional. We're committed to providing both experiences. Some people have been asking us for subscriptions for a long time, and especially subscriptions that would cover everything, and others have told us if we ever go subscription that's the last we'll ever see of them.
Brent: Yeah, right.
Ken: They would prefer to buy something once and then just keep using it and treat it as an investment. That's the way I prefer to look at software myself, so I completely understand that perspective.
Brent: It does seem to bring out some strong feelings in people. I understand, for sure. So, we've got everybody covered. Don't anybody worry.
Ken: That's the hope.
Brent: We're all good. Yup. We've also been — and this is probably more back end stuff, site licensing for the iOS apps. We've shipped out in a couple apps so far?
Ken: One app so far.
Brent: One app so far.
Ken: OmniGraffle for iOS now supports site licenses. So, our business customers, for example, can talk to us and get a license that covers their whole site, and then they can set up each of their people with a free download that then unlocks as they log into it. Yeah, that's another, sort of related big system. Mostly behind the scenes.
Ken: Shouldn't affect anyone who doesn't care about it, but the people who do care about it, well, it enables us to start working with them, and allow them to buy the product.
Brent: So, some other ongoing things. OmniJS Automation is still to come for OmniFocus, and OmniPlan I think?
Ken: We shipped that for OmniGraffle, and OmniOutliner, was that last year, or the year before? I think it was the year before, when we...
Brent: It could have been the year before, yeah.
Ken: At least the start of it, yes. Because we talked about it in last years roadmap. Then this year we're bringing that to OmniFocus, and OmniPlan, and in fact, our teams, Tim is working on OmniFocus right now, and Greg is working on OmniPlan.
Brent: Oh, okay.
Ken: So, both of those, expect to get done relatively early in the year.
Brent: Oh, that's great.
Brent: Another big thing is collaboration for OmniFocus. I know we've talked about it before, can you remind people how that will work?
Ken: Sure, so for those who want the longer thing, we talked about it in last year's roadmap, but the quick summary is: We have known for a while that people want to be able to share tasks, of course, between databases. We have talked about, well, how does that look? Do you just share your whole database? Well, I've got things in my database that... I might want to share tasks with my wife, but I don't want to share the task to buy her a birthday present, or something, or a project in there.
Ken: So, I really want to do some selective sharing. I guess the other piece of this is that, the way I organize my database, the tags I use, the projects I use, and so on, may not look anything like the way the person I'm sharing it with organizes their own database. So, we may have common tasks that get shared between the two, and you want the status to get relayed back, and forth, but I don't necessarily want my organization to have to reflect your organization, or vice versa.
Brent: Okay, right.
Ken: We will be sharing tasks between databases, and that's really—
Brent: They can be in different projects, have different tags.
Ken: Where I put it in my database has nothing to do with where you might decide to put it.
Brent: Right. I get it. That makes sense.
Ken: But when you complete it, then it should show up as completed in mine.
Brent: So, I also read in the roadmap, that we're focusing, not just on new features, but on things like user interface flow, keyboard navigation on iOS, bugs, performance, integration, all that kind of stuff. Just bringing up the quality level, I guess. Trying to take it to the next level.
Ken: There are always a million things that, as you're working on a project, you want to spend some more time doing, but if you're working toward trying to get this shipped before WWDC, or get this shipped as Mojave ships, or whatever, that you don't necessarily have time to pause and do each one of those things, or it might never ship. It would take forever to get done.
Ken: So, this year, we're going to go back and take a look at some of those things that we've often wanted to do as we were going along, but we just didn't have time if we were going to try to meet the schedule that we had planned on. So, that includes things like, better keyboard shortcuts on the iPad, especially now with the iPad Pro. I think it's a pretty common layout for people to have a keyboard attached to it. They may not use it all the time, I've got my iPad Pro right here, and I've got my Apple Pencil snapped to the side, and I've got the keyboard folded underneath, but sometimes I'll flip it around, and pull that keyboard out, and I'll start typing on it. It would be nice if I didn't have to then reach for the screen every time I switched fields.
Ken: So, we want to improve keyboard navigation, we want to improve just lots of little details.
Brent: Sure. The way people get around in the app, fewer taps, whatever, that kind of stuff. And it's always a good time to take a breath, and fix bugs, make things faster.
Ken: Making things faster is always nice for everyone.
Ken: Tracking down crashes.
Brent: Oh, yeah.
Ken: Particular things that we haven't been able to reproduce before, but we haven't had time to just sit down, "Okay, how could this possibly get into this situation?"
Brent: Right, yeah.
Ken: So, all of those things take time, and so we want to reserve some time this year to do that.
Brent: Well, I have a bunch of listener questions. One, two, three, four, five, six, I have eight listener questions.
Ken: All right.
Brent: Let's go through these. All right.
Ken: If we cut any of them, they'll know now.
Brent: If we cut any, cut the part where I said, "Eight."
Brent: Yeah. So, we have listener questions. Scotty Jackson asks, "I'd love to hear a bit more about flow improvements, and keyboard optimizations. Maybe some examples of things he has in mind."
Ken: When I think about how I use a keyboard, I love using a keyboard on my Mac, I did not start out using it as much on the iPad, except when I was actually typing text, but I didn't use it for navigation because, really, a lot of the iPad interface doesn't let you get very far that way. It used to be that you couldn't even launch an app through the keyboard alone. You could type the name, and then you'd hit return, and it would just sit there, and you'd have to reach up and tap.
Ken: That's now fixed, finally. You can type command-space, you can type the name, you can hit return, you can get into the app. So, I would love to have things like quick open, the equivalent of what we do on the Mac with quick open, where you can get a keyboard shortcut, and then start typing the name of the project, or just a few characters from it, and it will show you a list of matches, and you can use your up and down arrow keys to pick the one that's the closest match, hit return, and get there.
Ken: I'd love to make it so that... you can already navigate lists to some extent with up and down arrows, and so on, but it's awkward then if you want to jump from the list inspector, and actually start editing the fields.
Brent: Right. Okay.
Ken: In my ideal world, you shouldn't have to be reaching up for the screen unless you want to, in order to be more efficient than navigation through the keyboard. Any time you feel like you're doing that, that seems like a mistake.
Brent: It is slightly ironic to me, though, that with these great, amazing, big, beautiful touch devices, people are asking for keyboard navigations. They don't actually touch them. But I get it. It makes sense. There's just a slight irony about it.
Ken: Yeah. I mean, I wouldn't want to give up my mouse on a Mac either, or a track pad, but it does annoy me a little bit, every time I have to reach over for it when I'm in the middle of using the keyboard to navigate.
Brent: Oh, sure. Yeah.
Ken: In fact, on a Mac, I turn on keyboard navigation of controls, so I can tab to buttons, and hit the space bar...
Brent: Oh, yeah.
Ken: To activate them, and so on.
Brent: People like their keyboards.
Ken: I certainly love mine.
Brent: At home, I'm still running a 1995 Apple mechanical keyboard.
Brent: Because I love that particular keyboard. It's amazing.
Brent: So, Grant Buell on Twitter asks, very briefly, "OmniFocus for Windows?"
Brent: I know we've covered this before, but in case people don't know why we're not making OmniFocus for Windows, why is it?
Ken: Well, I suppose in a sense, we just made OmniFocus for Windows...
Brent: There's your answer.
Ken: With OmniFocus for the Web. It's not exclusively for Windows, it's also for Linux, but—
Brent: Or for the Mac, not everyone at work can install whatever they want, right?
Ken: Yeah. We're not really looking at the moment at any sort of native Windows app, if that was what the real question was. That is because we've been programming now for the Objective-C AppKit — now Swift — platform for 30 years. That's where our specialty is.
Brent: So, Tristan asks, "How will we do the review about how users navigate our apps? Do we have metrics, or plans for specific types of user testing? How do we get that feedback?"
Ken: Sure. When we've done this before, one of the best ways to get that kind of feedback is to sit down with a user, and ask them to do some tasks in the app. Sometimes provide them with some guidance, and sometimes just not, to find out what do they do when they try to figure it out on their own. Then, just watch what they do, and take notes. Look at what they go for first, where they end up having to backtrack, or they didn't discover the affordances that we put in, maybe, that we thought were going to help them, and they just never went that way because they didn't know about it, or didn't see it, or maybe that wasn't what felt natural to them.
Ken: It's hard to quantify some of those things. You can do it, you can measure it and so on, but it's most subjective research, that doesn't mean that you can't still make useful notes out of it, and learn interesting lessons.
Brent: But we're not... Some web companies, for instance, will do A/B testing on their sites, and things like that I've seen only rarely in native apps, like what we would write. So, I can't imagine we'd ever consider that kind of thing.
Ken: It could be done. Yeah. It could be done.
Ken: That's not the way I'm inclined to feel like is the right way to get to the best result. It's a way to, maybe, choose between two bad results.
Brent: Right, sure. Right.
Brent: Tristan also asks, "Will we get a back button in OmniFocus 3?" I assume for iOS. Maybe not though, it could be Mac.
Ken: Yeah, I mean, we sort of have one in iOS for a lot of interactions, like, as you delve down into things there's a back button that takes you back up.
Brent: Right, sure. Maybe it is a Mac question.
Ken: It might be a little awkward if you had a second back button that would take you somewhere else, but maybe his question is more about if you're following a link from one place to another, or if you switch perspectives.
Brent: Yeah, I'm sure.
Ken: In those cases, I can imagine a back button being useful, or a back keyboard shortcut if a button doesn't make sense. I know over the years we've certainly had requests for it on Mac, and on iOS. I guess, really about that perspective jumping sort of...
Brent: Right. Okay.
Ken: I followed a link, or I followed a shortcut, and I went somewhere, and now I want to just go back to right where I was.
Ken: I'm not promising that's going to be our top priority this year or anything, but it's certainly one of the things we'll consider in the mix as look at what—
Brent: It's easy to see how that would be useful.
Brent: Kennan Bickhart asks, "In roughly what part of the year will OmniJS ship?"
Ken: I guess I kind of covered that. We're working on that right now. So, I expect it to ship in the early part of this year.
Brent: Okay. Early part of this year.
Brent: Javier Matusovich asks, "Which new feature of OmniFocus will ship first?" He's probably talking about OmniJS versus collaboration in this question. So, what's likely to come first?
Ken: I'm going to guess OmniJS. We started working on collaboration about three years ago.
Brent: But a lot of that is API design as opposed to user interface, right?
Ken: Yeah, and a lot of it we already designed, and spent time on, because we designed the API for AppleScript. That sort of gave us a good model of, "Okay, you have projects that live inside folders, and contain tasks, and have to do things, and whatever else."
Brent: Makes sense.
Brent: Matt Shanley asks a pretty general question. "How do you balance investment in existing products versus new ideas for products?" I think he means ideas for new products.
Ken: Sure. I love building new products, but it's an easy way to get spread too thin.
Ken: So, when we started iPad or Bust, we had five products, actually. We had OmniFocus, OmniGraffle, OmniOutliner, OmniPlan — that's just in alphabetical order by the way — and OmniGraphSketcher.
Ken: And we did a lot of work on all of those. Brought them all to the iPad, and continued maintaining them, but as the operating system, both on Mac and iOS, kept shifting out around underneath us, with adding sandboxing, and stuff on the Mac, going 64 bit on both platforms, lots of other transitions, we ended up realizing we didn't have time to keep up with everything at once. So, we had to focus down, and unfortunately GraphSketcher, we released it as open source, because we felt good about what was there, and what was useful, but we didn't have time to keep it up.
Ken: So, at the moment, that's sort of where we are with the products we have. They are enough to keep us plenty busy, as we've seen.
Ken: At some point I would love to do some more products, and I certainly have other things in mind. I still have, in fact, older projects that I've worked on that I would love to get back to, like OmniWeb, which is now hitting its 25th anniversary this year.
Brent: I was just looking at our website stats. People are still doing searches on OmniWeb, and coming to our site. Apparently, is still in the minds of not just us.
Ken: Every time I post about OmniFocus for the Web, some people are like, "Oh, I thought you said OmniWeb."
Brent: So, Rose Orchard, and this is the last question, asks, "I'd love to hear how the roadmap is formed. Who talks to who? How decisions are made, etc."
Ken: Well, some of that, some of the roadmap, of course, happens just throughout the year as we think about what are the needs that we don't have time to get to this year. I'm responsible for putting together the roadmap. I send an email to everybody in the company in mid December, asking folks what they wanted me to be thinking about as I plan the roadmap. Read through that feedback over the break, did some thinking about it. Of course, talked with some customers, as I could, because I had contact with them. Then had more in-person meetings with people, particularly the PM's, but also some folks from support, folks from UX, engineers, really from anywhere in the company.
Ken: Some of the things we talked about were really more internally focused roadmap things, like how do we manage our project, source control, and so on?
Brent: Oh, sure.
Ken: Which don't go into our public roadmap as it's not really relevant to our customers.
Brent: But are we switching to Git?
Ken: [laughter] That's a question for another occasion. Xcode no longer supports Subversion. That's made life a little bit harder for people who are on it. But yeah. We go through those phases of feedback, and then start writing up ideas, and then talk with each of the PM's about what I've written down. Does that look okay to them? And then here we are.
Brent: Yup. Cool. That's how it happens. Then we usually do our revisiting in the fall, I think. Seems like. Yeah?
Ken: The last few years, it seems like. Once we have finished the summer's madness, to try to adapt to whatever Apple has thrown at us at WWDC, and then that we have to have ready to ship by the beginning of fall.
Ken: Then once that's done, it's kind of time to take stock again, and decide, "Okay well, where are we with respect to what we published at the beginning of the year? What's going to get done, or what's not going to get done? What new things have been added?" So yeah, I've often been doing a fall update.
Brent: I've read on Mac Rumors just today that dark mode is coming for iOS 13. So, there's our summer right there.
Ken: We got early advanced notice here!
Brent: Yeah. Of course. Just a rumor. Who knows.
Brent: All right. Well thanks, Ken. How can people find you on the web?
Ken: They can find me, you can go to this blog post. You can go to omnigroup.com, and follow the links to our blog. You can also find me on Twitter at @KCase, and finally, you can email me directly at my initials, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Brent: I'd also like to thank our intrepid producer, Mark Boszko. Say hello Mark.
Mark Boszko: Hello Mark.
Brent: And especially I want to thank you for listening. Thank you. Music!