If you're a big task-management app user on your iPhone or Mac, you've most likely heard of OmniFocus from The Omni Group.
Ken Case (opens in new tab), CEO of The Omni Group (opens in new tab), recently published a blog post (opens in new tab) about his thoughts on WWDC 2022, and how OmniFocus 4 is progressing. This next major version of the task-management app will showcase a new design and features.
The team has also been hard at work on major updates to other apps in its armory (opens in new tab), not just OmniFocus. Users are curious as to what could be implemented from Apple's recent announcements across all of Omni Group's apps.
With this in mind, TechRadar recently spoke to Case about his thoughts on Stage Manager on iPadOS 16, his more in-depth reactions to WWDC, the state of OmniFocus 4 on macOS, and more.
OmniFocus, iOS 16, and the lock screen
We first asked Case what his thoughts were on the redesigned lock screen in iOS 16, and whether OmniFocus will take advantage of the widgets featured in this. "Yes, and I can't wait! We definitely plan to make OmniFocus widgets available for the Lock Screen," Case enthusiastically responded. "I love the flexibility and power provided to users by the redesign — and since Apple is using the same design language and SwiftUI implementation logic for both Lock Screen widgets and Apple Watch complications, it's easy for us to implement both those features at once, delivering extra value to our customers."
"While I don't want to imply any nonexistent plans, I can readily imagine these being good additions to other devices," Case elaborates. "One could imagine these widgets working well on an updated Apple TV home screen, or on CarPlay, or maybe even on some entirely new future device category."
A new Focus to come?
While Focus debuted in 2021 with iOS 15, macOS 12 Monterey and other updates from Apple, we wondered if Case and his team are considering implementing the feature into Omni's apps later this year. "We've certainly been thinking about whether, and if so how, the system's Focus could map to our own Focus feature — which has been a major feature of OmniFocus for Mac since its initial release fifteen years ago and is now coming to the iPhone and iPad apps in version 4," Case reveals.
"We designed our Focus feature so you could easily turn your attention to your work projects and filter everything else out when you're at work — and, conversely, to turn your attention away from work projects at the end of the workday so you can turn your attention to other things in your life which also matter," Case continues. "This concept does map well to the system's new Focus feature, so I do think there's opportunity there — so long as we can avoid confusing people over too many types of focus." Case explains.
"Or, as one of our engineers put it while channeling Dr. Seuss: "When an OmniFocus FocusFilter filters OmniFocus Folders it's an OmniFocus Folder Focus Filter."
Stage Manager has intrigued OmniGroup
With Stage Manager already making an impression on developers (and we suspect on users once the public beta arrives) we asked Case his thoughts on the feature, and whether he can see it integrated into Omni's apps in some way in the future.
"I'm intrigued by Stage Manager. On my iPad, I usually use apps in full-screen mode: for me, part of the iPad experience is the focus it brings in dedicating your entire screen to whatever activity you're doing," Case explains. "My Mac usage is a whole different story: I usually have dozens of overlapping windows open, and I'm constantly hiding and showing apps and their windows as I work on my projects."
We wondered if some users may find Stage Manager too much of a power feature, one where it could make them feel overwhelmed when they use their iPad.
"Stage Manager is very obviously something in between, it's a lot more focused than the ways in which I use my Mac but not nearly as focused as the ways in which I use my iPad," Case clarifies. "For people who find those extremes too limiting, I think it's a really good option. And I think it brings a lot more flexibility to iPads which are hooked up to a big screen."
"I love that Stage Manager provides more options, but I confess I'm pretty happy with my extremes: I love my overlapping Mac windows, and I love my focused single-window iPad."
WWDC 2022 Reactions
As WWDC is mainly a developer conference, there were plenty of new APIs (Application Program Interface) – these are methods that allow developers to use new features in their apps. We asked Case if there were any new APIs that caught his eye and if they would be used in OmniGroups' apps in the future. "Oh, absolutely. I still haven't fully caught up on WWDC's firehose of sessions describing new APIs and technologies, mind you, but the big item that stood out for me was the improvements to SwiftUI with its new layout APIs," Case reveals.
"That said, there were plenty of other things that caught my eye, from Lock Screen widgets to Swift Charts, passkeys, improvements to Shortcuts and Siri," Case explains. "Alongside the SharedWithYou collaboration framework – giving us a wealth of new capabilities to build on as we look ahead."
"You know you're wrestling with an abundance of new technologies when you have to have to make decisions about which technologies are 'needs' versus 'wants'," Case continues. "And then making further decisions about what we'd love to play with versus what our customers would actually find useful. But, talk about an abundance of riches! As a developer, this year, in particular, has a lot for us to consider."
The current state of OmniFocus 4 on macOS
With OmniFocus 4 (opens in new tab) in development, we asked Case how the macOS version is going so far. "We've been hard at work on the Mac app for months and as it happens we are hoping to start public test builds of the Mac app this summer," Case reveals.
"But that said, we still have a lot to do before we feel it's ready. And, of course, that won't be the only project on our plates these next few months. Whether or not OmniFocus 4 is shipping by the time Ventura ships, OmniFocus 3 and all our other apps need to be ready to run on Ventura."
"To make everything feel at home on Ventura, we also need to think about how the platform is evolving: about things like renaming our apps' 'Preferences' to 'Settings' – which will likely involve passionate discussions about whether that change should be carried back to earlier operating systems, and how this change affects references in our product documentation." Case explains.
"It won't hold us up from being ready in time: I'm confident all of our apps will be ready for Ventura the day it ships," Case continues. "But it does mean we're going to have a busy summer ahead of us as we balance updating our shipping apps with the work we're doing on OmniFocus 4. I look forward to seeing it all bear fruit. Stay tuned!"