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-   -   The challenge of syncing OmniOutliner—solved! (http://forums.omnigroup.com/showthread.php?t=23974)

Ken Case 2012-04-16 03:21 PM

The challenge of syncing OmniOutliner—solved!
 
Hi, all!

It's been almost one year since we shipped OmniOutliner for iPad. Every day since we shipped we've received feedback along the lines of "This looks great! But when will it automatically sync with OmniOutliner for Mac?"—and each time we reply back "We're working on it!" But it's been almost a year now, and I know you all must be wondering: Why is it taking so long to add automatic syncing to OmniOutliner?

To make documents with large embedded attachments more efficient, OmniOutliner 3 stores its documents as "file wrappers", which behind the scenes are simply directories holding separate files which represent different parts of the document. (The outline itself is one file, and each attachment is its own separate file.) Unfortunately, most sync services don't support syncing a directory as an atomic operation.

Wait, hold on, what does "atomic operation" mean? Well, in computer speak, an atomic operation is something that gets done all at once. In this case, we want all of the parts of the document to get synchronized to or from the cloud at the same time, otherwise different parts of the document might not be in sync with itself: it might be missing some attachments, or perhaps some of them will be out of date, or maybe there will be some extra attachments that shouldn't be there.

In other words, when syncing OmniOutliner, it's not just important to have all the parts eventually arrive on the other end; we want all of the parts of the document to show up on the other end at the very same time (and we want to know when they've all finished arriving) so that we know it's safe to open and you won't end up with a corrupt document.

One way to solve this syncing challenge is to change our document format—to stop storing OmniOutliner documents as directories behind the scenes. This change would make it much less efficient for attachments, but would also make it much more compatible with many file servers, email, web forms, source control systems, and so on. We can do that—but such a big change to the OmniOutliner file format won't work with the currently shipping apps, and doesn't really make sense to do before shipping OmniOutliner 4. So taking this route to solving the problem means for us to try to ship OmniOutliner 4 as soon as possible (which we're certainly working very hard to do).

Another way to solve this problem is to help syncing solution providers (such as DropBox and iCloud) improve their support for atomic directory operations so we can sync using their solutions. The most promising option here by far is iCloud, since iCloud's engineers explicitly do want to support syncing of file wrappers. We've had some of our most experienced developers spend much of the past year working on this approach—but much of that time was spent blazing new territory, and most issues we encountered weren't within our control to fix because we don't control the technology and servers. Fortunately, we think we've pushed through most of the critical issues and we're hoping this approach will bear fruit soon.

Of course, if it takes too long to change our document format or to get atomic directory syncing working with other people's cloud servers, another approach would be for us to add syncing support for our own cloud servers. We recently brought our Omni Sync Server out of beta, and we're using it now to automatically sync OmniFocus and OmniPlan.

One way or another, we're working very hard to bring automatic syncing to OmniOutliner as soon as possible: we know it's absolutely critical for anyone who wants to use OmniOutliner on more than one device. We're very sorry it's taking so long!

As always, we welcome your feedback!

--

[I]Update: April 9, 2013: We've solved this problem with OmniPresence, which is [URL="http://www.omnigroup.com/blog/entry/omnipresence-private-testing"]now available for testing[/URL].[/I]

bowdengl 2012-04-17 01:47 AM

Interim solution to sync
 
Just a thought, but wouldn't a 2 stage sync process solve this where you would tar (or otherwise serialise) the whole directory structure, transfer it and finally untar it, thus completing the whole package move. The only difficulty is freezing it quiesced whilst performing the tar, but that could be done fairly easily with temporary directories either for transactions occurring during the sync or to move the files to prior to the sync process to make sure it happens quicker. Just a thought and interested to hear why this was discounted.

Glyn

Ken Case 2012-04-17 06:53 AM

[QUOTE=bowdengl;109559]Just a thought, but wouldn't a 2 stage sync process solve this where you would tar (or otherwise serialise) the whole directory structure, transfer it and finally untar it, thus completing the whole package move.[/QUOTE]

Serializing the document wrapper is a perfectly reasonable approach: it's how we send OmniOutliner documents through email now (using zip). That's the approach we're looking at for OmniOutliner 4.

But that's a change to the file format, one which OmniOutliner 3 doesn't understand today. It works fine for email transfers because those are one-way and opening a zip file will automatically unpack it, but it doesn't work with syncing because we need every edit to end up zipped back up again automatically.

bowdengl 2012-04-17 07:00 AM

The challenge of syncing OmniOutliner
 
Fair enough. The serial approach works for scheduled sync's but I see what your saying for the dynamic updates of individual items. That would be a bit onerous to freeze, tar the lot and send it up. Thanks for the response.

samoconnor 2012-04-17 11:32 PM

Content Addressed - Immutable Objects?
 
Have you considered using a content-adressed scheme where attachment objects are referenced by e.g. a SHA1 hash of the binary object (e.g. like the git scheme [url]http://progit.org/book/ch9-0.html[/url]).

In a content adressed scheme many of the issues of syncing directories go away (including n-level deep directories).

It might look something like this:
- The top level XML document refers to each attachment by the SHA1 hash of its content.
- The .oo3 package directory has a subdirectory called "attachments".
- Each attachment is stored in a file where the file name is the SHA1 hash of the file content.
- If a multi-level deep structure is required, some of the "attachments" could be XML files that refer to other attachments and so-on.

The following properties arise:
- It is always ok to blindly sync the contents of the "attachments" subdirectory in either direction. There is no risk of overwriting anything because two files with the same name are guaranteed to have the same content.
- The top level document can be synced by whatever single-file atomic syncing mechanism is available.
- If the top-level document references an attachment object that is not available on the local device, it can be simply requested from the cloud by name (SHA1 hash). The GUI can either show "busy" while the download happens, or can make sure all the attachments are downloaded before activating the newly synced top-level document (e.g. before copying it form a tmp filename to the "proper" file name).
- Every time an attachment is "changed" it gets a new filename.
- Garbage (unreferenced) objects will accumulate, but it is trivial to purge them from time to time.

A content-addressed scheme has other potential benefits in a cloud-storage system e.g.:
- A single cloud-based object repository could be shared across e.g. all omni apps for a particular user. If the user has the same files attached to multiple documents, no extra storage space is used and syncing is faster. Imagine a photo that is originally snapped in the ofocus iPhone app, then sits in an outline for a while, then finds its way into a graffle document, then the graffle document gets placed in some higher level outline etc. The .JPG would only be stored and synced once.
- Peer-peer syncing is trivial. If a device needs an object that it does not have in its local repository, it can retrieve it from any peer (even untrusted peers because if the SHA1 matches, the object is good).
...

Sam

StefanPapp 2012-04-17 11:57 PM

Thank you for sharing this information
 
Hi,


Thank you for sharing this information. As a customer, who waits for new OmniOutliner features it is good to know what the problems are and that the dev team is still working hard to solve the technical problems.

Stefan

santra 2012-05-05 12:50 PM

Ditch the embedded attachments. I never even knew that OO had that capability. It's an outlining program! If I need attachments, I'll use DevonThink or TheBrain (and even TheBrain allows attachments to be links instead of actual files).

This is ironic beyond belief. OO was always the runt of the litter, the OG app that no one cared about. I had always thought it had the smallest footprint in terms of file sizes as well. Everyone worked for years to get OF to its amazing current state of syncing, and OF stores 100s of projects with 100s of tasks.

Why can't OO be "lite"? It's an Outlining program.

Syncing is much more important (to me) than attachments. Please don't let a feature that doesn't even belong in such a simple program get in the way of getting OO to Dropbox (or OG) sync.

There have been SO many outlining data storage programs that knew how to do it right...I don't understand why OG, an incredibly brilliant company, can't do this.

Even Natara, a TINY TINY outfit, came out with version after version after version of Bonsai year after year after year. Yes, they were cranky. So what?!? They GOT THINGS DONE.

Everyone at OG is so kind, especially Ken, but when are things going to get done? Narrow the scope, ditch all these extra requirements, set a reasonable deadline (NOT THREE YEARS!!!), go past it maybe a week or two (I wouldn't care about that), but please please please get us sync. Preferably on Dropbox or your own network.

What with an MBP, MBA, iPhone, iPad, and going to London to speak at a conference, I'm dying here over the lack of sync in OO.

And in case no one at OG has noticed, the iPad 3 is The Bomb. Any app that wants to really make it should play nice with the iPad and have built-in, seamless, syncing connectivity.

Example: I change the cover art for an album in iTunes on my MacBook Pro—an album that's already playing from my iPad over AirPlay to my network stereo systems—and FOUR SECONDS LATER the album art instantly changes on the iPad display.

That's cloud syncing done right.

whpalmer4 2012-05-05 01:13 PM

Many of us do make use of the ability to attach files to our outlines. It isn't very difficult (inconvenient, I'll grant you) to move files to/from OmniOutliner with the tools available now; one merely has to pay attention. Removing the ability to embed files, recordings, photos, etc. in outlines would be a substantial step backward in functionality, and one that could not be worked around by the user who needs that functionality.

chestercheeto 2012-05-06 07:57 AM

Could not agree with Santra more. Get with it on dropbox sync or those of us who need it will move on to a different solution. It is an outlining program and you dont need attachments. For those that do, have two file types, ie with and without attachments. Without can sync, with cannot. You are putting yourself at an extreme competitive disadvantage by not offering this basic and expected functionality.

whpalmer4 2012-05-07 07:50 AM

Ever stop to consider that the ability to add attachments to the outline is also a competitive advantage, one which is potentially useful to [B]all[/B] OmniOutliner users, not just those who have multiple devices and can't be bothered to move files by hand?

If you just want some barebones checklist maker with Dropbox sync, no doubt you can obtain a number of them already. If that's all you need, please go use one of those instead of insisting that Omni dumb down OmniOutliner by removing a feature it has had for the better part of a decade.

santra 2012-05-08 10:38 AM

[QUOTE=whpalmer4;110140]If you just want some barebones checklist maker with Dropbox sync, no doubt you can obtain a number of them already.[/QUOTE]

OO is NOT a barebones checklist maker. I already have OF, Things, Pomodoro, and Clear for that.

OO is an a phenominal outlining tool for creating knowledge bases. Adding frills like attachments just bogs it down. It DOES have the ability to handle clickable URLs, and that is cool; but that type of code does not take up the enormous storage footprint that attachments do.

You imply attachments has been a core feature of the program for years. I wonder how many people use it. A poll would be informative.

whpalmer4 2012-05-08 12:06 PM

[QUOTE=santra;110186]OO is NOT a barebones checklist maker. I already have OF, Things, Pomodoro, and Clear for that.
[/quote]
I didn't say it was. However, stripping out things like attachments makes it that much closer to being one.
[quote]
OO is an a phenominal outlining tool for creating knowledge bases. Adding frills like attachments just bogs it down. It DOES have the ability to handle clickable URLs, and that is cool; but that type of code does not take up the enormous storage footprint that attachments do.
[/quote]
The storage footprint is only as big as the attachments you choose to add. Maybe attachments should be removed from OmniFocus, because someone might attach a large file? :rolleyes:

Here's a great use of attachments with outlining: taking notes on a presentation. You record the audio as you outline, and refer back to it later if you missed something. Of course, you're allowed multiple attachments, so you don't have to scrub back and forth through a 90 minute presentation trying to find some point, you just look in the section you recorded for that section of the outline. Potential objection: OmniOutliner for iPad doesn't record audio. Answer: no, but OmniOutliner Pro for Mac does, and OmniOutliner for iPad can play it back.

[quote]
You imply attachments has been a core feature of the program for years. I wonder how many people use it. A poll would be informative.[/QUOTE]

It'd only tell you what the people who can be bothered to answer the poll think. I can't remember seeing a poll on the Omni forums that has gotten more than about 2 dozen responses.

Attachments came out in OmniOutliner 3.0, which shipped in January of 2005.

I make extensive use of OmniOutliner and its ability to do attachments in testing all of Omni's products, though that certainly isn't the only use I make of it. It's a better tool for the job than anything on your list. That you characterize OmniOutliner as a simple program suggests you don't use most of its power, and would probably suggest jettisoning other features as well.

rogbar 2012-05-08 04:06 PM

I don't use attachments all the time, but when I do, I'm incredibly glad I have the option. There are times when it extends OO's capabilities for me WAY beyond that of other outliners. So I, for one, would hate to see it gone.

kparsons 2012-06-13 01:04 PM

I remember reading that omni is waiting on apple to resolve something with iCloud and pointed to iWork docs no having full sync (although plenty of 3rd parties app do). Maybe now that it looks like iWork will have a real doc sync with mountain lion, if the issue is resolved.

Frankly, however, I've pretty much abandoned OO. Maybe doc sync will win me back over but I think it is more of a confidence issue now. Plaintext + markdown can provide rudimentary hierarchy (very rudimentary) but at least you're not stuck in a format that does keep up with the tech (or even seem to be in the race).

dwbrown77 2012-07-12 10:44 AM

any progress on omnioutliner syncing?
 
Hi just wondering if there is any progress on omnioutliner synching. To be honest the present method, using omnisync server, works but I often end up with out of sync copies because I do not have time or am too rushed to do the necessary steps.

Ken Case 2012-07-12 08:34 PM

[QUOTE=dwbrown77;112555]Hi just wondering if there is any progress on omnioutliner synching. To be honest the present method, using omnisync server, works but I often end up with out of sync copies because I do not have time or am too rushed to do the necessary steps.[/QUOTE]

We haven't given up on other approaches, but we decided that they're taking too long and we can't wait (or ask you to wait) forever—so we're now building our own automatic sync implementation which will work with the Omni Sync Server and other WebDAV servers. We hope this approach will bear fruit in a few months.

mediadude 2012-07-13 06:35 AM

Agree with Santra in part
 
I agree with Santra - the ability to sync attachments between Mac and iPad is in OO is a 20% problem.

Why not disable the ability to sync using iCloud if attachments are in the doc, enable it if the aren't? Doesn't mean you can't continue to work on the ultimate solution, but at least 80% of user stories will be covered.

Really looking for a way for this to happen... otherwise, OO on the iPad was a waste of money for me.

BTW - I use Dropbox to sync all of my OP, OG, and OO files between Macs. Not one problem.

Cheers,

Steve

felixbrian 2012-07-18 08:42 AM

Dropbox Syncing would be most convenient
 
I was using the iDisk syncing for a while and it worked fine, but now, of course, it is no longer around. I tried the OO WebDAV thing and found that it is not convenient and I often end up with multiple copies of files.

I use Dropbox and it works well for my other needs. I really feel that this would be the most convenient option.

menicosia 2012-07-19 12:15 PM

Old school atomic operations
 
Ken and team,

This is a really old school method of achieving what you guys seem to be looking for. I'll bet that your team has already considered and rejected this, but here goes just in case:

Does iCloud, etc have an atomic rename operation?

In old-time cluster management, one way we achieved an atomic update of an entire directory's worth of information is to temporarily double the amount of storage required by making a duplicate copy. Then we sync with the inactive copy, performing many unique file operations that are not atomic. Once done, we'd perform a single atomic operation to rename (or move) the newly sync'd directory into the official location of the data, displacing the old, un-sync'd version. (Which can be kept around for backup purposes.)

There may be a concern that while syncing a mobile database, a desktop user may commit changes to the original copy. You can implement a "lock" of the original data by renaming the original data directory immediately before duplicating. Making the original copy unavailable in its expected location makes it "read only" so that changes won't appear during the sync'ing process.

I recognize this may not be trivial for you all, but I'd love to see it happen. I used to be an OmniOutliner user, but switched to TaskPaper for two reasons: 1) Braindead sync'ing over Dropbox, 2) Clients for all three of OSX, iPad and iPhone, allowing me to make changes wherever I am, with whatever device I happen to have at the time. OO's lack of iPhone client forced me to consider other options. I'd love to come back to the OO fold some day in the future!

whpalmer4 2012-07-19 12:33 PM

As I understand it, the issue is that there isn't any guarantee that all of those manipulations appear in the same order somewhere else. You could end up with the new directory before it was fully populated. More at [url]http://forums.omnigroup.com/showthread.php?t=21028[/url]

dwbrown77 2012-07-26 03:01 PM

any news on iPad mac syncing for OO?
 
I am hoping there has been some good progress?

eddiecoyote 2012-08-06 10:22 AM

Agree with Santra. I DEARLY love my OF but OO has got to do better with import/export features. Otherwise i'll use another app

santra 2012-09-05 04:33 AM

What?!? STILL no sync?!?
 
[QUOTE=eddiecoyote;113392]Agree with Santra. I DEARLY love my OF but OO has got to do better with import/export features. Otherwise i'll use another app[/QUOTE]

Here we are, one month later, a new version (1.3) comes down the pipeline for our iPads, and STILL no autosync.

What do we get? A "preconfigured option for import and export servers." We're stuck with zip file names, so I have no idea what I'm importing from my Mac since your code creates a zip file name that's in hex or something. Not to mention the fact that this is NOT TRUE SYNC—which we have had with OmniFocus on MULTIPLE platforms for years. Zipping files for import and export? You've got to be kidding me.

You guys KNOW how to do killer sync. Look at the way OF currently handles it straight across the board on ALL devices: Mac, iPhone, iPad... Why can't you give us this for OO? OO is a flat file structure without all the bells and whistles of OF, and it still doesn't have auto sync? You guys already have your own awesome server that works beautifully, and yet you can't use it for OO?

I. Just. Don't. Get. It.

I have been waiting over 2 years for sync to come to OO. This is insane.

I don't care if you force me to use Apple's iCloud and prevent people from using Dropbox. Whatever. I'll move all my files. And I don't care about AirPlay mirroring, either. (Whose idea was it to put that before dev on autosync, anyway?) Oooo...Airplay mirroring to a big flat screen... Wow.

Hey, folks, I'm in the trenches as an employee or a consultant delivering high-level IT services to companies large and small; I need to keep track of data with OO, not watch pictures or a movie on a big TV.

Please. I JUST WANT SYNC!!!

Recently I bought a product from a company, and it didn't work correctly. I notified them by email. Their response was to immediately send me a replacement, free of charge, and additionally include over $200 of extra equipment in the box—for free! This is a company with probably 1/10 the revenue (or less) of OmniGroup. You guys have what...20 or 30 employees? This other company has maybe 2 or 3. This was a company that I had never bought a single product from prior to a few weeks ago. Yet I’ve been buying OG products for years: OF for Mac, iPad, iPhone; OO for Mac and iPad; OmniPlan; OmniGraffle for Mac and iPad; OmniSketcher for my iPad. I’ve spent roughly $500 over the past five years on OG products. This other company...I purchased a $19.99 product from them. It was messed up. So they sent me $200 worth of merchandise for free. They even called me to apologize! What a difference.

Ken, I love ya, man, but this OO issue is really starting to make my teeth grind. All the other OG products work like a dream. Why can't you get us OO sync? If ANY product needs to be cross-device synced, it's a KB app.

When I think of all the dev and QA time and effort that went into adding sexy styles to OO for the iPad at the expense of bringing autosync to the table, it makes me seethe.

EVERYTHING is moving toward unified cloud storage with auto-sync and mirroring to all devices. PLEASE heed the writing on the wall.

I KNOW you know this; I KNOW you see how Apple has brought this type of system architecture to multiple areas: iTunes Match, iCloud documents, iCal, Mail. And I know you can do it yourself, because you've done it with OF!

OO really must be the runt of the litter at OG. That's the only way in my head I can explain why this is taking so long, and why the reasons for delay have been obfuscated at so many junctures by rhetoric from your dev team reps about how "tricky" it is. I know, I know...KB programs are not "sexy" for the consumer. But they are incredibly crucial and valuable for business users.

This is the kind of thing that will in the future steer me away from recommending OG products to clients, and instead recommend products like Things, DEVONThink, PersonalBrain, and Daylite. Ironically, most of those products are far more complicated than OO, and most of those companies have terrible tech support and somewhat buggy releases, AND YET those companies have made cross-device autosync work for far bigger and more complex programs than OO.

My love for OG used to be something like 300%, starting at an all-time high with the rave party alpha release of OF at TekServe in NYC years and years ago. My respect for the company has slowly eroded about 25-50% a year since then. Some things, like customer support, and the beautiful build and power of OF, have been amazing; and they’re even still improving.

But stuff like this OO sync problem have slowly but consistently worn down my faith in the company.

rogbar 2012-09-05 04:40 AM

It is with great sadness that I agree. I loved OmniOutliner, but the stubborn inability to give us true sync - the way OF does - has made it a poor match for my workflow. I'm moving more and more of what used to be in OO over to DevonThink.

It's not what I want to do. It's what lack of true sync in OO has forced me to do.

Ken Case 2012-09-05 06:52 AM

[QUOTE=santra;114237]Here we are, one month later, a new version (1.3) comes down the pipeline for our iPads, and STILL no autosync.[/QUOTE]

Trust me: nobody is more disappointed about the delay in automatic syncing than we are. We had very promising results at the start, and our code was ready to ship a year ago—in fact, it did ship as [URL="https://github.com/omnigroup"]open source[/URL], where it's working fine for some other third-party apps which have a simpler native file structure. Unfortunately, it wasn't stable: as described at the [URL="http://forums.omnigroup.com/showthread.php?p=109527#post109527"]top of this thread[/URL], we ran into showstopping issues with trying to sync OmniOutliner's native document structure. We've finally had to give up on the entire approach when we learned that the issues we need to solve were impossible for us to fix and would not be fixed in a free update, so we've changed approaches and are now a few months into building a sync solution based on open protocols.

I apologize for the bad judgment call. (I particularly apologize to the team at Omni who has invested so much time in trying to get code working that wasn't within their control to fix.) If we'd had any idea this approach was going to take anywhere near this long, we would have just designed our own sync solution in the first place, exactly as we've already done for OmniFocus and OmniPlan. There are some [URL="http://forums.omnigroup.com/showpost.php?p=114052&postcount=29"]strong philosophical reasons[/URL] to prefer the fully-open approach in the first place.

[QUOTE]All the other OG products work like a dream. Why can't you get us OO sync?[/QUOTE]

OmniGraffle, OmniOutliner, and OmniGraphSketcher are all in the same boat here, waiting for a good solution which will automatically sync their native document formats. That's what we're building now—and now that all the pieces are within our control I have every confidence that what we're building will work as well as what we've built for OmniFocus and OmniPlan.

wolfneuralnet 2012-09-06 02:46 AM

Thanks Ken - honest and classy. In science we have to pursue multiple parallel solutions to the same problem at all times, since we never know which one is going to work. I doubt you had the resources to do this, but maybe next time.

santra 2012-09-07 05:35 PM

Thanks, Ken. I have always greatly appreciated your candor, honesty, and sincerity.

It sounds like you and your team have gone through as much pain (or more) than the user base here longing for the sync feature under debate.

It takes a lot of guts to admit the mistakes you confessed to in your above post, especially for someone in your position. I have a lot of respect for that.

Yes, Open Source is always worth going after. But notwithstanding that choice, I'd like to be clear with you, OG, and everyone else in this forum that I value OO so much that I would be more than happy to buy at the regular price a whole new version of it, especially if it included the kind of seamless, invisible sync that OF provides. (And my apologies for remarking, "All the other OG products work like a dream," implying that OmniGraffle, OmniOutliner, and OmniGraphSketcher all have the same seamless syncing that OmniFocus has. My bad for using a near-Straw Man argument for the visceral impact of excessive exaggeration. Heat of the moment.) tl;dr: If I have to rebuy OO, no problem.

Quite a few companies (whose names shall go unmentioned) have forced their entire userbase to buy outright, at full price, brand-new versions (major updates) of an app; and some of these companies did so without even the excuse of "Oh, you have to rebuy the app now because we're moving it to the Apple Apps Store."

It's both comforting and reassuring that you care enough about your users to involve us in the software dev process, and to keep us updated as often as you do.

Thank you so much.

—Sandy

kenficara 2012-09-23 02:24 PM

Given that there seems little hope of Dropbox or iCloud sync, I'd like to offer an idea which would make the proprietary Omni sync platform much more attractive: the ability to publish outlines to non-OO users. CarbonFin, a competing (and significantly less capable) iPad outliner app, provides this ability now.

OO's dynamic HTML export (in the Mac version) is wonderful. But right now I have to manually do the export every time I change my outline, and then upload it to a web server.

If you could offer the ability to publish that version of the outline to anyone (private URL, passwords, whatever -- CarbonFin uses private URLs), and keep that HTML version synced with the OO version, then that would be tremendously useful. I could edit outlines, and send out a link to my clients that they could use to view the information.

kenficara 2012-09-23 02:33 PM

[QUOTE=rogbar;114239] I'm moving more and more of what used to be in OO over to DevonThink.

It's not what I want to do. It's what lack of true sync in OO has forced me to do.[/QUOTE]

I just started using OO, and on the Mac it is hands-down the best outliner out there. I love Notebook for note-taking, but to manage data, OO is much better. I've tried many competitors (DevonThink, CarbonFin, TOoG and LooseStitch online, etc) and OO is just ... better. Except for the lack of basic functionality like syncing, automatic formatting, etc. Maybe we just all need to get better at Applescript.

Brian 2012-09-24 04:17 PM

[QUOTE=kenficara;115003]If you could offer the ability to publish that version of the outline to anyone (private URL, passwords, whatever -- CarbonFin uses private URLs), and keep that HTML version synced with the OO version, then that would be tremendously useful. I could edit outlines, and send out a link to my clients that they could use to view the information.[/QUOTE]

Interesting idea - I'll file that as a feature request against the sync server. Thanks!

chipa 2012-10-15 06:24 PM

Get Real and Give Us Something, Anything
 
You owe the long suffering OO users a solution for synching outlines between the iPad and Mac versions. I'm not asking for the 100%-perfect-in-all-cases solution. I need ANY solution - even one that comes with a ton of restrictions. We need something that works for "typical" outlines. Get off your developer's high horse and get real about this situation. At this point, you've led me (and everyone else) on long enough. You say that there has been progress, but I no longer believe that. From my perspective the odds that you'll pop up again with another "mea culpa" message is just as likely as the odds of us seeing an "It's Finished" message.

I'm sorry but you owe us a solution. A sync solution was promised (and implied) in the product back when it was first delivered. Again, ANY solution is better than more delays at this stage. Heck, just put up a web page with "officially sanctioned" steps for how to use Dropbox - ANYTHING!

You "went dark" on us for most of the year and are now dark again and we're supposed to trust you? Santra and others wrote very nice responses to your previous updates. While I felt similar to how they did at that time, the reality now is that you've used up all that good will. Stop "feeling bad" and do something, anything NOW. Stop tilting at windmills trying to get the perfect solution and give us a workable solution at least for "normal" outlines.

- Chip

whpalmer4 2012-10-15 09:59 PM

There's been a solution all along. Use the Omni Sync Server to store your documents. When you want to open a document, copy it from the OSS to your iOS device (Macs can mount the server in the Finder). When you are done making changes, save or export back to the OSS. Yes, this isn't as speedy as making use of a local copy, but you don't have to worry about keeping the local copy up to date.

whpalmer4 2012-10-15 10:08 PM

There's no need to trust them, by the way. Ken's just describing the current plan, without making any promises. It may or may not turn out the way he described, and if any sort of a schedule estimate was made, there's a high likelihood that it will turn out to be optimistic (this is not limited to Omni, btw). Only you are forcing you to use this software; if it doesn't meet your needs, you should find something else that does. If you are buying software because you expect it to add some feature not in the product at the time of your purchase, you need a contract promising delivery of that feature or you have no one to blame but yourself if it doesn't appear.

enrvuk 2012-10-21 01:27 AM

[QUOTE=whpalmer4;116081]There's no need to trust them, by the way. Ken's just describing the current plan, without making any promises. It may or may not turn out the way he described, and if any sort of a schedule estimate was made, there's a high likelihood that it will turn out to be optimistic (this is not limited to Omni, btw). Only you are forcing you to use this software; if it doesn't meet your needs, you should find something else that does. If you are buying software because you expect it to add some feature not in the product at the time of your purchase, you need a contract promising delivery of that feature or you have no one to blame but yourself if it doesn't appear.[/QUOTE]

What a colossally unhelpful Post. OG themselves recognise this as a big shortfall and it's fair for customers to note that too. Expecting sync in OO is pretty reasonable. It's an entry level requirement for multi-device software these days.

It undermines my confidence in OG as a whole.

whpalmer4 2012-10-21 08:31 AM

[QUOTE=enrvuk;116380] a colossally unhelpful Post. [/quote]
Now, now, there's no need to be so hard on yourself ;)
[quote]

OG themselves recognise this as a big shortfall and it's fair for customers to note that too. Expecting sync in OO is pretty reasonable. It's an entry level requirement for multi-device software these days.

It undermines my confidence in OG as a whole.[/QUOTE]

Is there any place on the product description where it is suggested that sync is provided, or even in development?

If you take the trouble to look, you'll find numerous statements by Omni to the effect that they only want you to buy and use their software if it meets your needs, and that if it doesn't, you should use something that does. They even offer a 30-day money back guarantee on their products (including those purchased through Apple, where making you whole costs them 43% more than they received from your purchase). Of course, if your choice is to stand around complaining about how the product is unusable, one might suspect you have made an error in forming your opinion, using "need" where "want" would have been more appropriate.

Which is more useful to you: an application which has an easy to use sync that gets your documents to all your devices with a minimum of fuss, but offers only weak beer when it comes to actually doing anything with the contents; or an application where moving files around is somewhat inconvenient, but which offers some utility in return? You ought to be able to find plenty of the former in the App Store for little or no charge.

enrvuk 2012-10-23 01:42 AM

What I find amusing is that OG recognise the failure but 'fans' get extremely defensive over criticism. The psychology of it cracks me up.

whpalmer4 2012-10-23 07:26 AM

This cold-eyed rationalist realizes that the current situation (functional app, lacks automatic sync) is better than the alternative (functional automatic sync, lacks useful app), and is attempting to bring the light of reason to those have yet to open their eyes. If you have work that you need to do which requires an automatic sync solution, you need to find some other tool in the short term. Some people don't realize that Omni has a refund policy; others are emotionally trapped because "I spent all that money, I need to make this work!" and other examples of flawed reasoning. Then there are those who try to place the blame elsewhere for their failure to understand the product they bought, thinking "all programs do this" or "XYZ program has this feature and costs much less, so this program must surely have it!"

Yes, Omni made a choice, and it has not turned out as well as they hoped. Welcome to life.

Ashcroft 2012-10-25 04:27 AM

Here's a suggestion for a strategy that may satisfy a large number of costumers for the short term and give OG more time (in terms of customer patience) to tackle the bigger problems that's been hindering them from introducing any automatic syncing (via Dropbox, iCloud, you name it...) at all - for such a painfully long time.

OG could introduce a new "slim" file format for OO with a limited feature set that's rather easy to sync. Extended features (images, audio notes etc.) could stay reserved to the current OO3 file format for which syncing will be introduced later. Think of something like .RTF and .RTFD! Or plain .HTML and .WEBARCHIVE!

So what if this new file format would only feature the most commonly used text attributes such as font-family, color, size, bold, italics, underline and strikethrough? Plus: colors for backgrounds, multiple columns, checkboxes and folding-states, of course. Basically, it could be something like OPML with text attributes.

I think this could make a *huge* number of people very happy. Whaddayasay?

Vinho 2012-12-05 04:19 AM

Syncing with the Omni Sync Server
 
Hi OO3-Users!

I'm also waiting for a comfortable solution regarding the syncing of my .oo3-files between iPad and iMac. Since DropBox and iCloud currently aren't working and probably won't be working in future either, I decided to try the Omni Sync Server.
Unfortunately, I have some problems with this way and I'm interested in if there is a way to solve them:
When I connect to the OSS via Finder on my iMac and it finally shows the files on the server, I am able to open one of the files by double-clicking it and then edit in in OO3. The problem: Often the changes are automatically saved to the server while I am about to edit the file - during this process I have to pause the editing and wait until the saving is finished. This happens too often, so I started to copy the file from the server to the desktop, edit it there and then copy it back when I'm finished. Additional workstep, but apparently necessary. The problem: Often after a while the connection to the OSS has broken: I can't simply move the edited file from the desktop to the OSS-folder (results in error message), but have to dis- and reconnect to the server first. A similar problem occurs, if i want to download another file from the OSS after having connected to it a while ago. Here also the connection seems to have broken: If I click on a file in the OSS-folder, it just disappears. Or if I click on it and try to drag it to the desktop, the transfer begins, but again results in an error message and fails. Here too I have to dis- and reconnect with OSS, then it works again.
Why is the connection to the OSS that instable? My connection to other servers like DropBox always works, I never have to renew it.
These problems make the OSS-solution completely annoying and inefficient...
Am I the only one with this instability-problem?

lordderth 2012-12-08 11:43 AM

still waiting
 
I use OF daily; sadly not the same for OO. Without the synch being more intuitive I have wasted my money on the various versions.

If I knew it would "never" synch easily, I would not have wasted my money.


Omni group support has always been great but unlike some, I do not add a program to decrease my efficiency.

wbm 2012-12-14 12:27 PM

[QUOTE=Ashcroft;116635]Here's a suggestion for a strategy that may satisfy a large number of costumers for the short term and give OG more time (in terms of customer patience) to tackle the bigger problems that's been hindering them from introducing any automatic syncing (via Dropbox, iCloud, you name it...) at all - for such a painfully long time.

OG could introduce a new "slim" file format for OO with a limited feature set that's rather easy to sync. ...

So what if this new file format would only feature the most commonly used text attributes such as font-family, color, size, bold, italics, underline and strikethrough? Plus: colors for backgrounds, multiple columns, checkboxes and folding-states, of course. ...

I think this could make a *huge* number of people very happy. Whaddayasay?[/QUOTE]

Agreed. This situation — where the functionality (and market viability) of a product is held hostage to supporting legacy features — is very similar to what is happening with Microsoft, where they are trying to conform tablet functionality to support the legacy features in Microsoft Office for PC's. In this case, OG is not providing (so far) a critical performance feature found in best-in-class mobile iOS apps — simple cross device syncing — to support a legacy feature (embedding attachments into outlines). I didn't even know that Omni Outliner could embed attachments, and even after I learned that, I still don't use it. As with some Office features, I'm sure it's a nice feature, but I don't think it's so nice that it justifies omitting a feature (cross device syncing) that many long-time, loyal OG customers expect and depend on for their work flow.

[QUOTE=whpalmer4;116389] Which is more useful to you: an application which has an easy to use sync that gets your documents to all your devices with a minimum of fuss, but offers only weak beer when it comes to actually doing anything with the contents; or an application where moving files around is somewhat inconvenient, but which offers some utility in return? [/QUOTE]

I guess I have discovered the answer to that question. Earlier this week, I threw in the towel and switched to the vastly inferior CarbonFin Outliner, which has an iPhone version and supports syncing between the iPhone and iPad versions.

whpalmer4 2012-12-14 01:24 PM

[QUOTE=wbm;118380]
I guess I have discovered the answer to that question. Earlier this week, I threw in the towel and switched to the vastly inferior CarbonFin Outliner, which has an iPhone version and supports syncing between the iPhone and iPad versions.[/QUOTE]
Hmm...that's a related question, but not identical, I think. You've switched to an outliner app that has an iPhone version as well as an iPad version. That's a pretty big deal if you fall into the set of people who want to access their outlines on an iPhone. In any case, I'm glad you found something that works for you! My goal here is to help people find solutions, preferably with the software they've already bought, but sometimes that isn't in the cards.

Scott 2013-01-09 07:50 AM

Embedding images: Just happened to be scanning the forums for a few hints and ran across this thread and the issue of embedding images caught my eye.
I just wanted to throw my two cents in and mention that the ability to embed images and files is the ONLY reason I use Omni outliner.

I admit that I have not read through these threads with any depth, but it seems there is an issue with syncing between devices and having embedded images. I haven't had a problem using my iPad and having the images show up. I do desire to be able to see the outlines on iPhone. Without the images though, that would be pointless for me. At this time, I print out the entire file as a PDF and view it on my phone. I don't do any work that way though. Obviously :-)

To take this a step further, I would wish, and I do actually, that Omni outliner could export into keynote and include the attached images.

Have a great day, Scott

pjb 2013-01-10 05:55 AM

Do you need to carry the images on your phone? Could they be on the omnisyncserver and loaded as needed via an embedded link? I don't know if that's possible but it could be a compromise between syncing some and syncing all of the database.

nicoledb 2013-02-11 04:51 AM

So what *is* the current status of OO-sync between iPad and Mac? I have OO3 on my Mac, and am now considering buying OO for iPad, but I'm not really sure I understand what exactly about syncing OO-docs between the iPad and the Mac works or does not work. Is there some place on the forums or on the OG-site that describes this in detail?

CatOne 2013-02-11 06:49 PM

[QUOTE=nicoledb;120251]So what *is* the current status of OO-sync between iPad and Mac? I have OO3 on my Mac, and am now considering buying OO for iPad, but I'm not really sure I understand what exactly about syncing OO-docs between the iPad and the Mac works or does not work. Is there some place on the forums or on the OG-site that describes this in detail?[/QUOTE]

I think this was detailed in the December blog post about "OmniPresence." It's not incredibly detailed at this point.

whpalmer4 2013-02-11 07:22 PM

Right now, there is no automatic sync for customers to use. You have to manually send your files back and forth, though you can store them on the Omni Sync Server.

anjanbagchee 2013-03-24 08:05 PM

Any sync changes with OO4?
 
This seems to be an oft-discussed topic here but will OO4 make the changes necessary to make syncing files a reality? As numerous users have already stated here, it is an essential feature and it keeps me from making OO my default note app on the iPad.

Thanks
Anjan

DerekM 2013-03-25 11:17 AM

OO4 and OO3 will both work with our syncing solution, OmniPresence. We are preparing to start private testing with it and hope to have it available soon!

jojoba 2013-04-09 01:13 AM

[QUOTE=anjanbagchee;121704]This seems to be an oft-discussed topic here but will OO4 make the changes necessary to make syncing files a reality? As numerous users have already stated here, [B]it is an essential feature and it keeps me from making OO my default note app on the iPad[/B].

Thanks
Anjan[/QUOTE]

Ditto. I made the sad decision to transfer 90% of my omnioutlines on my mac back to Circus Ponies Notebooks today, after having invested in the OO iPad app only last week. I tried really hard to make the omni sync server work for me, but it's just way too much hassle compared to the seamless dropbox sync of CPN, although I otherwise prefer the interface of OO to CPN.

Ken Case 2013-04-09 05:41 AM

We've solved this problem with OmniPresence, which is [URL="http://www.omnigroup.com/blog/entry/omnipresence-private-testing"]now available for testing[/URL].

Ken Case 2013-04-10 10:28 AM

If anyone has any questions or comments about OmniPresence, please feel free to bring those to the new [URL="http://forums.omnigroup.com/forumdisplay.php?f=73"]OmniPresence forum[/URL].


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