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Omni Group Layoffs (mjtsai.com)
286 points by keehun 11 months ago | hide | past | favorite | 247 comments

Nothing signals to me that the market for high quality software is utterly and completely broken than this piece of news. Sad to hear this - if the Omni folks are having difficulty what hope do other small shops have. I am always amazed at the creativity SW folks show when coming up with reasons/excuses for not paying for tools - the culture around this is very saddening. On the other hand my friends who are into electrical, woodworking or automotive take a deep pride in the tools they own. Many of these fields pay a fraction of what SW dev does.

I never fully understood why we do not have the "a good tool saves me x hours, and makes me happy while doing my work so I should pay for it" culture. SW engineers are pretty well paid and companies themselves have decent margins so this penny pinching tendency is upsetting.

> On the other hand my friends who are into electrical, woodworking or automotive take a deep pride in the tools they own.

I don't want to justify the "cheapness" of the software users, which is certainly excessive, but the feeling of ownership of a physical object is still very different from software.

For example, you can easily lend your toolbox to a friend, your hammer won't ever stop functioning through no fault of your own, you can re-sell or gift a chainsaw if you want to get a new one.

Since software is immaterial, we've ended up in a situation where these basic things don't work, people do not feel like they actually _own_ software, and thus feel less motivated to buy it.

I think the not owning the software subjective sentiment is made worse by the subscription model. Personally paying for Photoshop for example was more acceptable when it was "physically" an App in my Mac. I still have very old versions I can launch on vintage Macs or Emulators. As a kid I definitely remember owning and organizing my apps with their nice icons (the spatial file manager helped), thinking it was "real" things.

I think we're a middle generation that grew up before the internet that this makes sense for. The CDs are probably going at the next move, but I expect to keep my MP3 collection forever.

Note that the CD is your 'license' to the music. You shouldn't sell them or give them away unless you also erase the music.

Maybe it was a mistake for the software industry to give up on the nice big colorful cardboard box with software inside it. Bought at a physical retail store, with CD-ROMs in it an a thick printed manual. Certainly gave more or a feeling of actually having bought something, different from just clicking a "buy" button in an appstore.

Perhaps we should move from "buy the software" to "sponsor the developer" idea, such as what GitHub is doing with the "Sponsor" button.

To first order, no one donates.

We used to call that shareware.

Seems super wasteful packaging though?

And I don't know about you but the first thing I do when I get a paper manual is go online to try to find a PDF version. Seems more like a downside than a value-add?

I don't think that professionals are likely to loan their tools to friends nor do I think they consider that option when they decide if they will buy a tool. It's tools that make their jobs easier or possible.

This reminds me a lot of presentation slides that I read a few nights ago. I was reading presentation slides from Carnegie Mellon professor Heather Miller about the funding challenges that open source software projects have (https://2019.programming-conference.org/details/programming-...). So many people and companies rely on open source infrastructure and productivity tools, and while there are plenty of people contributing to open source software in the terms of donations and development, there are key open source projects that aren't getting the support they need despite the wide usage and importance of those projects.

I think one of the key challenges of this decade in the software industry is figuring out how the development and maintenance of high-quality software can be funded in sustainable ways. There is clearly a need for high-quality software that is not ad-supported, is not subscription-based, and does not monetize user data. However, the days of shrink-wrapped software and the shareware business model are over. If we want high-quality software, then we will need to come up with an answer to this problem.

What's wrong with the subscription model?

Vendors get recurring money and aren't incentivized to make sweeping changes to have major releases to get more money for the same product; consumers can manage cash flow by only paying while they need it, there is a lower barrier to purchase, and vendors have more predictable income.

As a consumer of software there are three MAJOR problems with the subscription model:

1) If it's for a piece of software I use on an ongoing basis the cost often rapidly eclipses what I'd have paid for standalone software, and it never stops rising.

2) There's usually some awkwardly contrived cloud tie-in, purely to enforce subscriptions, which breaks the software if your internet connection or the supplier's servers are down. This adds a completely unnecessary external dependency.

3) You're entirely at the vendor's mercy if they decide to change the software. At the very least, you're subjected to constant small breakages of your workflow, and at worst they change some major feature that you depend on and put you out of business for days or weeks until you find a workaround.

Edit: Also 4) The aforementioned awkward cloud tie-in often brings with it some gnarly privacy issues, with your sensitive files and private data being leeched off to the vendor's servers FoR YoUR ConVeNIeNcE.

I've found JetBrains and .. tele.. ? (screenflow) to both be decent compromises. Well... I guess screenflow isn't a rental - I upgraded through version 6 - I may upgrade to 9 now, as there's enough 'new' stuff (and I have a newer laptop) to make it worthwhile. I appreciated it not being a subscription, precisely because nothing changed for me - I kept using the same software for a few years, knowing I was missing out on some bug fixes (but also knowing I could upgrade to get them reasonably cheap - it was a choice on my part).

The JetBrains model is good because I'm able to keep using a version without paying for upgrades (but I have kept up anyway as the annual fee is so cheap for what I get).

The points you've made are why I don't typically get software that is truly 'rental only' or hits your other points. That said, I've not run in to too many in the past few years that are affected by those issues any more. Are there some in particular you're thinking of that have those problems?

Do JetBrains products still work if the company would go out of business or decided to undo the perpetual license? (I haven't upgraded my license since they switched to the subscription model.) [1]

[1] It would probably be difficult contractually, but such things happen. See e.g. TextDrive hosting lifetime accounts.

Your perpetual license only works on a historical version. It doesn't work with any updates. The incentive is for them to continue building products that make you want to upgrade. The perpetual license key works in a disconnected network so it doesn't matter if JetBrains went out of business. You just need to make sure you have a local copy backed up.

Honestly that's OK, if it doesn't break my current build arbitrarily then maybe later I'll upgrade.

The Jetbrains model needs a simple, catchy name so that more companies can be inspired to choose it. Perpetual subscription?

The "JetBrains model" is how all software used to work. You... buy the software. And then maybe you get free updates until the next major release. If you buy the next major release then that's another "12 month subscription".

JetBrains calls it a perpetual fallback license.

Rolling lease to own, maybe?

All great reasons. I would like to add, also, that I wonder how many subs developers think people in flyover country (not the 500K/year SV country) can actually afford each and every month?

80/20 rule, probably. Most of their revenue is coming from a handful of places, and and increasing the money coming out of other parts of the market might not be worth it.

Easy to support a couple hundred whoppers who pay big money on the coasts -- and who also have the time and money to really learn the tool. Expand that out to 100,000 customers with lower costs and greater support needs and it doesn't make sense.

When you're talking mobile apps and microtransactions and we call these people "whales" then this is a bad thing. In a professional setting is it suddenly OK to treat your customers like this?

> If it's for a piece of software I use on an ongoing basis the cost often rapidly eclipses what I'd have paid for standalone software, and it never stops rising

High quality software has always required a recurring payment model. It's not viable to sell standalone versions to a new set of customers each year. In the past this was informal with upgrade versions every year. You could theoretically choose not to upgrade but software developers would have all kinds of tricks to "encourage you" such as not providing forwards compatible file formats.

What the subscription model does is align customers with the realities of software development. Yes the cost of software never stops rising but neither do the maintenance costs.

No it hasn't. The only thing that makes you think so is the unrelenting churn of modern web development. Back in the day if you bought a particular toolchain you could keep developing with it for as long as you wanted and the only thing that could force you to upgrade is the need for more features. In the past you'd get nice-to-haves at every upgrade but if you didn't opt for it you would be perfectly able to continue developing your current condebase using your current, paid-for tools.

but neither do the maintenance costs.

That depends. On macOS the churn is high. But there are probably a lot of Windows applications from the nineties that still run unmodified.

macOS indeed requires additional effort. But regardless of that customers tend to get annoyed and stop giving you money if you don't ever fix their bug reports.

You fix the bugs in paid updates, and users decide whether the bug fixes are worth the cost.

It's a good balance—if you spend extra time on worthwhile changes, the users need to pay for that time. The users can also decide to stick with what they have if they don't think your changes were worthwhile, which may be a perfectly reasonable path.

I think you should look into the subscription model that Jetbrains has for their IDEs. It has none of the issues you described other than, inevitably, the recurring cost.

JetBrains products might be unusual in that the IDE is all about integrating lots of constantly changing external tools and therefore needs constant updates, so it's well-suited for a subscription model.

And for many people an IDE is something they can spend 5-10 hours a day in. I own a fair chunk of the Omni apps, but even doing the diagrams for my thesis I didn’t spent anywhere near that much time in Omnigraffle. The incremental cost of all of the subscriptions every month, in perpetuity makes the marginal choice to get another one (eg 1Password) tricky.

The mental overhead of renting every piece of software I own would be exhausting, not to mention consistently expensive. Subscriptions come out of a different part of the my budget than purchases do, and it is an ongoing expense I have to factor is versus coming out of my funds once every few years, if I can afford it at that time. There are several pieces of software I would have gladly bought at 2-3 times their annual subscription rate, but instead simply moved on from. I get it. Software developers need to be paid, but I’m not renting every tool I want to use. I also understand I’m in the minority because I understand why there is a new version every few years and would gladly purchase those. Simply put, the overhead and uncertainty of a subscription model devalues the vast majority of software for me to make me find alternatives.

And it’s much easier to expense a one off purchase on tax than adding up all the recurring subscriptions.

But yes, the cognitive load is a big one for me too.

Same for me. I describe it in terms of relationship. Each subscription is another relationship with a third party that I otherwise don't care about, that I don't want to be in any ongoing relationship with. I just want to a) pay for the software, and b) use it to do the things I need done. Just like if I were buying a hammer.

A power drill is my favorite analogy. If I drilled holes once every 18 months, I’d gladly rent from Home Depot. If I found myself doing a weekend project every month, I want to own a drill. That drill comes with the expectation that it has an 18-24 month warranty (support cycle) and if my power outlet (OS) doesn’t change after that, I expect the current drill (current version) to keep working, essentially, until the hardware dies. However, I do not expect Milwaukee to add a light or whatever new feature to the drill, or change the plug if my outlet changes. After that 18-24 month period, I expect that new features, breakage, etc will mean I buy a new drill.

I know it is an imperfect metaphor, but it helps get my point across that valuing ownership doesn’t make someone cheap. It makes them unwilling to lease software.

I don't think you're in the minority.

I think subscriptions will be terrible for vendors in the end as well.

First, because they have to compete with the likes of Office 365, which offers an Office Suite, 1TB cloud storage, and 60 Skype minutes (at least the used to) for little over 5 Euro per month. Subscriptions for more basic programs will look overpriced in comparison.

Second, as subscriptions become the new normal, we will see services like Apple Arcade. I think Apple Arcade will eventually eat up a lot of revenue as casual gamers will move from purchasing games to the 'all you can eat' Arcade. If Apple Arcade turns out to be successful, what holds them from launching 'App Arcade' [1]? Vendors that don't get into the App Arcade will lose a lot of revenue, vendors that do get into App Arcade will have a steady source of income, but will also be completely at the mercy of Apple (or Microsoft).

[1] I know there is SetApp, but anything that Apple launches has a lot more visibility. They also have more clout to get high profile applications in such a service.

There are definitely some benefits to subscriptions, but returning to the GP, it’s sort of like renting your nail gun. And your compressor. And your tool belt. And your screw driver. At some point it makes sense to own it and stop renting. Renting is very expensive.

In the enterprise space, subscription is just higher cost maintenance with the additional risk of losing the functionality to some high stakes bullshit at renewal time or spending lots of time on some rat race to upgrade.

Enterprises love subscriptions for the same reasons why they prefer leases over capital expenditure. They look much better on the balance sheet and allow to spread the cost over time.

Oh sure, enterprise CFOs love them. They love money too, and software companies who aren't Microsoft, Oracle, etc should be wary. Your entire company could be rendered irrelevant by a minor modification to a subscription offering that is critical. Why should I absorb a $7 user/month subscription for 100,000 people ($8.4M) forever when I can spend $500k upfront and 20% of that ongoing to hire someone to build a functional solution using O365, GSuite or Oracle whatever?

Look at Microsoft's behavior with O365. Many companies will be fully locked into Microsoft across voice, security and identity verticals based on tweaks to the O365/M365 licensing models. You need Azure AD to meet your email compliance requirements, but that's bundled with Intune, which in turn has a co-bundle with Defender ATP, etc.

Nothing, at all. There is a downside: every invoice, every payment is a checkpoint where the customer can cancel.

How do you "subscribe" to open source software?

It's time for us to give up on the dream of having good software for free. That's what this whole thread is about. It's a wake-up call for us all. We have to pay for what we value.

How were you paying for open source software before?

Were you paying for something like a Linux distribution? You can often do that on a subscription as well if you want to.

How do you “buy” open source software?

There isn't enough wealth to go around for every adult to have a $50+K/yr income. The developed world economy only works if most people are paid very little but woke anyway.

I was a delighted paying customer of OmniGraffle for a decade, and looked forward to each update.

I also payed for multiple version on iPad.

However at about the point that they released their own sync service, they just let it stagnate.

There are so many ways the iOS and MacVersions could be more modern and more useful on a day to day level, none of which require a massive re-engineering effort.

My conclusion is that they have just fallen behind the times.

> I never fully understood why we do not have the "a good tool saves me x hours, and makes me happy while doing my work so I should pay for it" culture. SW engineers are pretty well paid and companies themselves have decent margins so this penny pinching tendency is upsetting.

Don't we spend on software, though? Software spend is surely in the billions, if not tens or hundreds of billions a year. As consummate consumers of software, I'd think software engineers are more likely to spend money on software than the general public (and more likely to use open-source software as well).

Worth thinking about the number of companies globally that make a living writing software in the following categories of development tools

a. Debuggers

b. IDEs

c. Querying Tools

d. Text editors

e. Source control tools

f. Build systems

The market for development tools does not look particularly vibrant based on the above.

I work in the embedded space and so I have used a few proprietary debuggers/IDEs/build systems. They've still got a lot of market share.

The huge problem with them is that they're proprietary. They don't have the wide usage of the open source equivalents, so debugging problems is hard. If you want to develop at home, at work and on a PC in a lab, you have to navigate licensing issues. If you want to do a build and test as part of your CI process, you have to navigate licensing issues. Then you move jobs and they've bought into a different, incompatible proprietary system and you have to learn it all over again.

The open source options are actually good enough, and the advantage of being able to have the entire build system on a new computer after running a few apt-gets and downloading some free software is huge. The skills persist across jobs, I can use them at home for my own projects, I never have to worry about licenses expiring.

I have a company in this space and our software components and tools were more a marketing tool for our services than a product based business. Most often a customer buy a software component and require to build a product around it. Doing this we got customers like Trend Micro, Symantec, and Dell.

Most of these started off with proprietary options that people left. These tools often need to solve lots of little problems for lots of different people, and it's difficult for companies to keep up.

But, these are all pretty easy to start for a single hacker who can recruit help to expand an open source version.

Took a meeting with a potential customer years ago. He was high on our technology and seemed certain to purchase. At our last lunch he told us their software company's CEO had a policy, they only used FOSS software. The irony of it hurt. Still does.

At my company I take a very different view depending on where in the stack the tech is used:

Developer tooling (Developer machines, IDE's, source control, CI, issue tracking, etc): Pay for the best.

The product: Only use FOSS. Give back by contributing and by making some of our work available as FOSS.

For the product, especially for the client-side, I just see it as too risky to include proprietary software. Even if the pricing is fine for right now, it can easily change later (got burned by both Google Maps and Mapbox years ago), and in some cases even prevent you from using different pricing models because of base costs it may add per user.

On the infrastructure side I'm more flexible, but even there: 1. Stick to commoditized services as far as possible, where the pricing is predictable. I'd include most cloud services in this, and most "enterprise" offerings not. 2. Avoid hard vendor lock-in if feasible, but only up to a point (don't build something from scratch just to avoid the lock-in).

This is what everyone’s approach should be. The product itself should be standing on the shoulders of FOSS giants. Everything else is just quality-of-life improvements and tools which should be paid for if they speed up your productivity or decrease your mental load.

Proprietary software lock-in in your product can generally be very damaging when things go wrong. I know of one company which was so throughly fucked over that they had to halt all feature development for 6 months while they were busy building a replacement. Cost them enough time and customers to a competitor. For non-product stuff, replacing proprietary software is a bitch but far less disrupting.

I have seen this myself - every software startup feels that everything they build upon must be a commodity and the only value add should happen at their layer.

What is the irony here?

It took me a second to figure it out, too.

The potential customer was a software company, meaning that the only way they make money is if others pay—which they were unwilling to do themselves.

FOSS software can still be paid for.

We were trying to sell him software. His company sold software.

I agree with your general point. We don't value time savings enough. However, I'd offer a few observations.

A lathe does what a lathe does every time. Even if the company goes out of business, there will be parts available for it for a while. No one at the lathe company can decide that it will stop performing feature X because it isn't popular or make enough money.

This leads into the second point. Companies (and individuals) have become fearful of external dependencies. So they push for FOSS so that they can avoid lock-in. Or they adopt an "invent here" mentality. Look at how many technology projects Google has cancelled despite the fact that they have infinite money.

Google doesn't have infinity software. They have X engineers and hiring more adds more complexity and doesn't lead to more useful software.

Omnigraffle is an essential tool for me. I couldn’t write my articles without it, and it’s the best visualizer I’ve ever used.

I happily pay for it.

Me too, that is an absolutely amazing tool!

I have used it for years and years, for normal stuff like software diagrams and business process and shit like that, but also for stuff like floor-planning my house and doing mockups to decide what furniture and TVs to buy, to making easy-to-understand political comic books to influence how my friends vote (old example: https://masonmark.com/stuff/2008/America.pdf), and I even used it to create the CV which helped land me the awesome job I have now (http://www.fivespeed.com/mason/resume/mason_resume.pdf).

According to rumor, the principal guy behind OmniGraffle had a fairly unusual employment arrangement and wasn't typically seen that often in the halls of Omni — I don't know the details, or even his name, but as an OmniGraffle-dependent user I'm wondering with some trepidation if he was part of these layoffs.


Because free-to-use online tools like Draw.io are "good enough" for many people who would have previously stumped up for Omnigraffle for more basic needs.

I also wonder if being MacOS/iOS only has hurt them, in the long run, more than they'd like to admit?

Our product team is mostly Mac, but avoid using Mac only software as they need to interop with people on other OSes, plus the lock-in factor.

This is very sad. But I used to buy all the Omnigroup software until a couple of years ago, the prices went up a lot and I stopped.

Wow really? I remember looking at their prices 5–10 years ago and thinking they seemed a bit inflated.

20 years ago.

This story is more Omni slipping rather than the model failing universally.

Personally, I own most of Omni's software, but I won't be upgrading to new versions when they come out.

OmniFocus was once the cornerstone of my productivity. It was expensive and I didn't use the scripting aspects of it, but it provided value. The Apple ecosystem didn't bother me too much, but it was a pain, and I was doing more and more work on my Windows machine and going to my phone to add/update tasks was creating friction.

They came out with OmniFocus web, which would allow me to solve the issue... but it's too damn expensive. I've already spent ~$175 for licenses to OmniFocus for Mac and iOS, now you're asking for $50/year on top of that.

The competitors are hungry in this space, and Todoist offered more for less. I switched to their premium plan, which is cheaper than OmniFocus web itself, let alone the full subscription and includes clients for everything, plus a web-only client as a last resort.

The same pattern holds true for the rest of their software lineup. I own most of it except OmniPlan.

TL;DR. Omni isn't providing value compared to its (paid) competitors, to say nothing of FOSS.

I would have to make compromises to move my work over to Todoist from OmniFocus. It sounds like you were a bit of a light user whose situation got changed on him (Windows.) That’s fine but it doesn’t mean OmniFocus is behind its competitors.

Dealing with paid software in corporate america is a terrible experience for all involved.

As a user: I see some software I might be interested in trying. I have to go to generally some nameless, faceless group to get them to buy it. I open a ticket, or get an inquiry started, and they start asking boilerplate- do we have similar tools already, what is the license, etc. If we get past this phase, there is typically some kind of legal review. Maybe a few weeks later we can actually have this on our machine in some form.

From a company perspective: A user wants to buy yet another piece of software that we have to manage and keep track of. We will have yearly contract renewals to deal with most likely, understanding and holding them to their support model, ensuring they don't phone home, ensuring we are in compliance with our number of licenses, etc- this is all quite a bit of continued work. Also- how do we package this software and get it out to our users- there is a process for that as well.

With FOSS, we have none of these problems aside from the potential phone home problem, which isn't really a problem, because we restrict by default. It's just a much more pain-free process.

I don't doubt that any of this is true. But commercial software is the best way to ensure that everyone involved in developing the software is reliably compensated for the software itself (and not for some related service). The freeloader problem in open-source software is very real. If we want to make sure developers get paid, it has to be mandatory, and unfortunately that includes license enforcement and other things that we find unpleasant about commercial software.

> this penny pinching tendency is upsetting.

I think the word you are looking for is "greed".

OK, I'll bite. I have a fundamental aversion to paying for something that has zero marginal cost. I feel I'm taken for a ride if I do so.

If I pay for a book, I feel it cost some effort to produce it physically, print it, bind it, ship it. I cannot force myself to pay for an e-book, which is a pdf copied at no extra cost. Same for digital music and software or any other digital "good" or subscription. I sympathise with the creators, if they will produce something that does not scale, I will pay them for it. Otherwise, sorry, but not my job to figure out their business models.

I also have that aversion. But regard, zero marginal cost doesn't mean 'zero cost'. There's overhead to amortize. Like, the effort to have a company that hosts that stuff. And the desire to run a for-profit company, else we'd all be at the mercy of volunteer organizations.

They seem to have 'figured out' their business model already, and it involves each person copying the PDF, paying a nominal fee.


You make a good point of course -- my issue is that this amortization has become totally divorced from use. For example, a taxi driver also needs to amortize the upfront cost of their car, but the more they drive, the more the car wears down, so it is all predictable, and somehow feels "fair". With digital goods, you may sell it twice, or a billion times, what you earn is independent of how much cost you sunk into it (apart from hosting and other infrastructure as you mention) -- which explains the runaway successes of our times, but it's just something I am unwilling to participate in :)

Yes it seems like new rules are needed for synthetic businesses of this sort.

I've argued elsewhere on HN, that the reward for building an automated system should be, pay for building the system. In America at least, we consider the entire lifetime output of said system to belong to the builder. That is unsustainable. Imagine a future where everything is automated. There will be no need for workers, and not much further development. The economy becomes a static owner-vs-unemployed deal, and how can that survive?

Wouldn't that discourage automation? By which I mean, wouldn't the economy optimize for busy work instead of producing more value for less effort?

Referring to reassignment of automated machine output? I don't see this slowing automation much. It makes for a simpler, more reliable process across the business. Why deal with hiring people when automation solves it forever?

And even if some folks do decide to go the 'boutique' route and hand-make something, there is always another person who will go the automated route and cut their prices by 90%. Free market after all.

It will be upsetting for sure. Lots of entrenched interests in renting automation at high rates. Maybe have to do it in a phased approach - VAT or some such?

This is the wrong way to look at this. You are not paying $12.95 for a bound copy of papers with ink on it, nor for a printed disk with magnetized bits on it, nor the electricity that powers the servers that host the transfer of those bits. This is so obvious I didn't think it needs to be said. It's advantageous for you to think of it this way, though, right? In your way of thinking, no software should ever cost anything if delivered electronically, and no more than $3.00 if delivered on a physical medium.

What about physical things with near zero marginal costs? Do you feel like your logic applies to an album on a CD when everything was on CDs?

It’s absolutely immoral to me that you see a long chain of work (research, writing, editing, marketing, printing) and judge it solely on its last component (printing). There are so many physical goods where the final piece is just a small portion of the final cost.

It's a continuum of course more applicable to some, less to some other things. I find books mostly fine, and I own a huge library, to a large extent inherited. CD albums already seemed dubious to me and hardly bought any, with software products it is entirely on one extreme of the spectrum.

Why are books fine? Publishers don't print to order. The publisher has already printed thousands before you'd even heard of the book. The only marginal cost here is delivery, and that delivery person is already likely to be going down your street with a van full of goods whether you order or not. The marginal cost is just them adding the extra stop and unload for you, which is probably pennies. Or if you go to a bookstore that already had it on the shelf, it's practically zero marginal cost.

Everything is an exercise in amortization. You seem happy to amortize the obvious parts (printing, binding, stocking, delivering), but not the behind the behind the scenes parts (writing, editing, marketing). That's a crappy distinction.

Do you pay for cable tv or Netflix?

No, I haven't watched TV in almost two decades, except when visiting relatives or friends.

Do you pay for internet or electricity? Once you are connected, the marginal cost to send you another bit or electron is virtually zero.

I discovered Omni yesterday when League of Legends dumped 20 gB of text logs on my brother’s old MacBook, eating up all available disk space and crashing it. He asked me for help. I didn’t know what was taking up all his disk space so I searched for a tool to help me and found OmniDiskSweeper. Unlike the MacOS builtin tools that try to hide the underlying file system, OmniDiskSweeper actually helped me understand the contents of the file system and discover what was eating up all the storage.

If anyone who worked on that project is reading this, thank you.

IIRC, OmniDiskSweeper and OmniWeb are just things Ken and Tim (CEO and CTO) work on in their spare time, mostly because they enjoy hacking on that stuff. Not sure if they're on HN, but Ken (@kcase) will certainly respond if you tweet your thanks at him!

I'm partial to DaisyDisk for it's wonderful graphical view

Space gremlin is pretty awesome as well.

I've used Grand Perspective for this: http://grandperspectiv.sourceforge.net/

I like GrandPerspective too.

As a poor college student, I went for the cheapest storage option on my MacBook. Running OmniDiskSweeper every once allowed me to maximize the storage I did have.

I use WinDirStat for the same thing on windows. Lets you pick and then scan a drive and then gives you a graphical view where the bigger the file the larger its block is proportionally to the other files.

Not sure if WinDirStat got updated to use a different method by now, but a few years ago many people switched to WizTree [0] as it is almost instant thanks to reading the data differently.

[0]: https://antibody-software.com/web/software/software/wiztree-...

WinDirStat is still slow as shit. I use it weekly. haha

I use Directory Report on Windows. It is faster than WinDirStat

ncdu is also a nice (free) alternative and can be installed via Homebrew (brew install ncdu):


WinDirStat is similarly nice for those on Windows, or JDiskReport for cross-platform

dust (du + rust) [1] makes for a good oss alternative.

[1] https://github.com/bootandy/dust

Not in the same league UI wise

I have been an OmniGraffle user from the very beginning (~2000). I love OmniGraffle. But I've seen Sketch come (and go) and there have been no significant updates for OmniGraffle for a very very long time. Omni only added to their iOS offerings and totally forgot about desktop. I understand that mobile "is the future" but, there is a significant need for desktop design applications. And although I still use OmniGraffle I would no longer buy updates.

I have a few theories on this:

- Lack of macOS staffing meaning that it's very much in maintenance mode (it was "make sandboxing work" in 2013 and "make dark mode work" recently), which parallels general pushes from Apple on iOS and iPadOS.

- Lack of need for new features: I think Omni could have pivoted towards Sketch/Figma style "export to mobile" (which would have actually probably meshed really well with the rest of the mobile app dev business, since we did mocks in OmniGraffle), but I'm curious what else Graffle really needs to be useful. I think historically there has been enough net new customers to not need to provide all that much upgrade incentive.

- In 2013 the codebase was a beast, and this was like v4 or v5... I can only imagine adding major new features to it.

> (it was "make sandboxing work" in 2013 and "make dark mode work" recently)

Honestly starting to feel like the past 4 years of OS X changes have just been too much burden for the few remaining OS X software developers across the board. I recall when the Mac App Store came about a lot of developers moved their software to it, then sandboxing happened and that seemed like an absolute nightmare for most to implement, then after months of that they started to leave the App Store and then there's Gatekeeper too.

Now I'm not saying these are bad things, I definitely see the benefits but there just isn't the mass of engineering talent or money in building OS X software to justify the work required.

This has been tangible to me, 6 years ago my Mac was running all Cocoa apps apart from Creative Suite. Today all the apps I'm running are Electron apart from Textmate and Creative Suite.

The neglect of the Mac platform and the divvying up of the small Mac userbase into Mac users, iPad users and iPhone users means the future of the OS X app experience is just going to be running Javascript apps in Chrome wrappers.

Surely this is the motivation for Catalyst.

The problem with Catalyst is that it’s just bringing iOS apps to the Mac, and iOS does not produce profitable businesses in many categories. The #1 paid iOS app, Procreate, has only 17 employees, OmniGroup pre-layoffs had ~40.

I would wish for some features of Sketch actually yes - then I wouldn't have had the need to buy Sketch (and next switch to Figma). Also some better/easier integrations with Powerpoint/Keynote would be nice, I draw 50% (in the past >90%) of diagrams in OmniGraffle that I use in PP/Keynote.

I agree that the basics are excellent (alignment, copy & paste, sizing, ...) and still best in class.

I'd honestly be completely shocked if Sketch wasn't already rewriting into webtech behind the scenes.

Think Figma took them completely by surprise, Sketch's success was built on the user experience of a cocoa app feeling much more solid and slick than antiquated Adobe software, don't think they ever expected webtech to be able to compete but obviously with the force behind it and OS X being stagnant, it did.

Sketch/Figma seem like a different class of product to me, I don't see much overlap.

Unfortunately OmniGraffle for iOS is still far from the desktop OmniGraffle quality. Sometimes the app crashes when you try to do anything. Sometimes the app doesn't crashes, but refuses to save your past 10 minutes or so of work. It has been frustrating experience enough that I usually just fallback to Draw.io (which works surprisingly good on iPad Safari...)

Their other stuff on iOS, such as OmniFocus, OmniOutliner and OmniPlan has been nothing but fantastic.

OmniGraffle is not their only software. I use several of their desktop apps and they continue to support them, they have not forgotten about them.

Unfortunately Omni's software is pretty old and bloated at this point, although I've only used OmniFocus and OmniGraffle. The former is very powerful but this is a blessing and a curse, in that the UX is very cluttered and quite intimidating. I honestly think that Things has exceeded it now, being less customisable but also capturing the essence of what makes OmniFocus good without getting bogged down in too much customisation and verbosity. OmniFocus is the opposite of a productivity tool to me, it keeps you in the app for too long configuring and setting things up just right, instead of getting out of the way

OmniGraffle is great, and probably the best diagramming tool I've used, however it feels like it hasn't had a really significant update in a very long time and it's starting to show frankly

15 years ago I loved Omni software. I hate the term “bloated” for software but I agree it’s gotten massively more complex for no benefit to me. I’d use my old version of OmniOutliner if I could (there’s no way to run PowerPC applications on a modern Mac). It was nearly perfect, with only one or two obvious flaws. Sadly, instead of fixing those, they seem to have added a million word processor styling options.

They’re not the only ones. 1Password was also nearly perfect, and then instead of fixing the couple of minor flaws/limitations, they took it in a completely different direction.

I don’t have a great solution to this, but they certainly make me hesitant to pay for (proprietary) software. I now assume that whatever state the application is in now is the best it’s ever going to be.

Right there with you. I'm still on an old build of 1P; I feel like eventually I'll have to migrate to something else, because I don't want their new version AT ALL.

I eventually quit using all the Omni tools for the same reasons -- OO was PERFECT and now is a mess, OF got a terrible redesign, etc.

The flip side of it is that OmniFocus needs to be so customizable because the defaults are not great. (I feel the same about the default styles in OmniGraffle.)

I was a die-hard OF1 user, but they've completely lost me with the OF2 redesign. Large checkboxes on the right stress me out on mobile (that's where my scrolling finger rests), and it took months before there were layouts in OF2 for Mac that had the same information density as in OF1. I haven't even tried OF3.

Hard same. The redesign for OF2 drove me away completely; I eventually landed in orgmode, where I control everything and don't have to worry about seasonal / fashion oriented redesigns.

Planning and scheduling tools are weird. Everybody has their own system already. So software is either simple (and doesn’t work for most people) or incredibly complex (and requires massive customization). Or they say “just redesign your whole life around our app!”

I’m not even sure which one OmniFocus is trying to be.

I had the same experience with OF2, but honestly think it wasn't entirely their fault as ios 7 sort of pulled the rug out from under the world.

that said, even with stupid round checkboxes of2 runs my life, which would be much more chaotic without it.

It doesn't take 30 years to write a diagramming app. It's basically done. They should really slash the prices and profit from the margin. Well, they should have before the web destroyed the low end market.

We will all be old and bloated one day. Hopefully society treats us as well as Omni has treated their employees over the last decade.

It's sad to see apps full of ads/tracking and ridiculous subscriptions thrive, while quality software like this gets into trouble.

I've been happily using Omnifocus for a long time;

- Single purchase, no subscription

- e2e encrypted syncing between devices (+ server storage)

- 0 tracking, ads etc.

I don't think subscription is that bad.

Development and support is never ending.

Single purchase, you also get "single development", and then it dies.

At some point the market is not infinite.

“ Single purchase, you also get "single development", and then it dies.”

This is a lie perpetuated by the saas industry. If you compare saas companies shutting down “services” to prior product companies stopping updating versions you don’t see much difference.

Also, sw engineers used to care about designing something well. So when you used something the first time it was occasionally delightful. Now it’s just “launch and we’ll worry about that in our next sprint”.

I don't know about the other platforms, but I do know that on iOS if you have a non-trivial app you have to update it every year, otherwise things stop working. That's work!

I'm not saying the product can or cannot be good on first release...

But the world is ever changing. Let say you build a UI for database. In a few years, a new version of mysql or postgresql will be released, and you have to update your software as well to use the new features.

What I'm saying is that almost whatever you are building, the development will never be done.

It's not relevant, because then the developer can release a new major version and require a new payment. The user will know exactly what changes this new major version has, and can decide whether he wants to pay for it or not.

With subscriptions however, this all becomes hidden/vague. You're always paying, but it's no longer transparent what exactly it is you're paying for. Which is obviously very bad for the user.

(Of course it's a an entirely different story for services like Netflix, AppleTv+, Spotify, etc.)

I think companies should use something like what Jetbrains does with its IDEs. You get a lifetime access to the version you paid a year subscription for. Keep the yearly subscription up, and you are getting updates, getting a more recent lifetime access, and the sub gets cheaper.

Yeah, I think that's pretty much the perfect model and I wish most companies would adopt it. It supports both types of customers: people who always want the latest updates and features, and those who want the most stable software.

I am firmly in the second group, but get why so many people prefer the first. I like that those users can get all of the updates they want, while I don't have to constantly burn mental energy figuring out UI changes and new bugs.

Yes, this is also what Sketch does, and it's great!

I really like their model as well.

That's what Omni does.

Often you don't need more than you have, and its nice to have fixed costs. An example - you buy Photoshop or Lightroom, and they cover 100% of your needs. As long as you can run it, you are happy with what they provide. Well apparently that didn't generate enough cash for Adobe but that's a long story.

Tons of businesses uses commercial software with little need of support in form of some patches. Usually toolsuites are mature and they don't try to hack every last bit of it.

That's right.

Now let say you make photoshop, it's great, people loves it. And most of your customers got it for a fixed price, and they are happy with it.

Now, You want to improve the software and add features that some professionals need.

But most of your customers are happy with previous version. you no longer have a lot of money coming in.

Repeat that a couple times, and now most of your market is happy, and you don't have any money coming in.

And then you close shop. And people wonder why.

People give adobe a lot of grief for moving to subscription model, but I think they managed it the best they could. I used to pay ~$100/year for just the LR software. Now I pay ~$120/year for the software + 1TB of storage + the mobile apps. They at least attempted to add value for the subscription fee, and I love having my 500gb+ of photos always available/editable on all my devices.

I used to love Omni Graffle. But after spending a bit of time reading about their current product lineup, I can’t stop wondering why they didn’t transition to web apps years ago.

Notion, Figma and Whimsical are eating their lunch. They have a far less robust feature base, but they’re fast, built for teams, simple to use and the pricing scales well.

On the other hand, Omni is almost entirely native apps, bloated feature sets and pricing that spent make sense in a team environment.

I’d love to see them rethink a few core apps with a fresh coat of paint and a better pricing scheme, developing web first. It’s definitely not too late.

I don't know if I'm an outlier here, but to me the Omni Group is/was almost like an extension of Apple themselves. Like with Panic's or CultureCode's applications, they just work in the way a seasoned Mac user would expect. They fit into both the look and feel of the Apple ecosystem and support all integrations you would expect.

Of course the market for high-quality Apple only software is small. But I think they would be even less competitive and successful if they pivoted to the Web.

It would be almost like suggesting Microsoft drop their desktop Office applications and just focus on Office365.

“ almost like suggesting Microsoft drop their desktop Office applications and just focus on Office365”

Not sure if you’re experience is different, but this seems to be exactly what they’re doing. Outlook windows app is buggy and terrible. Outlook 365 is great.

Excel is the only app better on native then web.

And OneNote 2016, I hate the web/app version. Outlook has always been a bizarre mess, it is the only application I have seen with a 'cancel server request' because it has stopped responding. 17 years later (I think since office 2003), it is now needed on every Office desktop app because of horrible lag interacting with OneDrive/SharePoint. I've actually installed LibreOffice because I can't stand the shitty performance. In 1997, MS Word opened in about 3 seconds on a fast PC, and now it is an ordeal.

I have spent a lot of time using GTD and trying to find the right software for me. Omnifocus is always at the top of GTD software lists but I'm stuck on Windows and would love to have a windows option.

I saw lots of discussions of this back in the day, when the GTD cult (I kid) was really in ascendance. All the really good implementations I saw, though, were Mac tools.

There ARE some options that are text-based, I think. And if you really want and are nerdy enough, you can do it in OrgMode. But I dunno what nice polished native apps exist for Windows.

That's what they were, when Apple cultivated "insanely great" products.

> I can’t stop wondering why they didn’t transition to web apps years ago.

As someone who depends very heavily on OmniFocus, this would be an absolute wreck for me. I depend on my todo lists being available to me offline, and the idea of having to deal with the clunkiness of even a modern, high quality web app for something I use so fast and so regularly is horrid. And, yes, I find VSCode clunky compared to a real native app.

I won't use web apps unless there is no other choice.

I don't want my data in the cloud, I don't want perpetual subscriptions even if my usage dwindles. I don't want big price increases when the provider is bought out and I'm locked in. I want a rich interface which matches the platform. I want decent performance. I want to work offline. I don't want third parties to have access to and sell my data.

Web apps have always been inferior to mobile or desktop apps. Sluggish, less featured and dependent on the network at least part of the time.

Moving to the web would be a downgrade for most of their products. Maybe OmniPlan could be some on premise SaaS, but otherwise it doesn't make sense.

And Omni truly crafts native apps. Really sad to see them struggle, I used their software for about 5 years, but had to go back to Windows. Outanding quality, maybe Apple ahould have them consult on MacOS...

My take is that their core expertise is in the Apple ecosystem (from the earliest days), and a pivot to web would require major hiring efforts (effectively fire most of the people and hire a bunch of web devs). That's not really the company culture as I knew it, and I think that most folks are probably happy to ride this one into the sunset than try to rebuild the entire business.

I've used omnigraffle on and off for 15 years. I can't quite put my finger on it, but something about the UI seems to shout "Mac OS" (or maybe more accurately Cocoa).

Cross platform support is important to me.

Sure maybe Web is clunky. But I find that being able to access applications from anywhere just trumps that concern.

I moved from Bear to Notion and Sketch to Figma for that reason.

Re "Notion, Figma and Whimsical", are any of these companies profitable?

UPDATE: Whimsical mentions being profitable as of May last year https://whimsical.com/blog/on-the-path-to-sustainability I’m definitely still curious about the other two.

Notion has been profitable since at least early 2019 (the company's statements have been a little unclear about when they reached profitability; it might have been late 2018).

The whole value proposition of the company is that their stuff is better than web apps because it uses NextStep/Mac UI components.

A web app would be clunky and use 2GB RAM

I like the fact that they make and sell things. They don't insinuate themselves into your life and force everything into the cloud and their website.

It would be really really hard to get omnifocus to be as performant in web app form as a native app

Agreed. The future of productivity apps is on the web. Pretty soon the only category of apps that will have to be native is heavy multi media apps like video editors and digital auto workstations.

That was supposed to happen any moment now for the past 10+ years. The reason it didn't is because web apps are clunky and less dependable.

It's happening right now as the original article shows. Web apps are eating native's lunch with a few exceptions and that list of exceptions just keeps getting shorter. The web is good enough now to build most of these apps and getting cross platform support more or less for free along with making it much easier to build in collaboration features turns out to more important than the advantages of any particular native toolkit might be for most cases.

The only native app I use anymore is a digital audio workstation. Deny it all you like but the trend is unmistakable. Even Sketch has been sidelined by Figma where I work now.

The original article shows that one company let some people go and a couple more developers have been affected by the current crisis.

For some apps collaboration or centralized control are important and those lend themselves well to web technologies. For others (like the Omni apps), said collaboration and getting mediocre cross platform for free are not as important.

I'm sorry to hear this. In a subscription model world, Omni stand out in producing very high quality one time purchase software. I love OmniGraffle! Such a great product once you learn it.

> one time purchase software

Probably exactly what brought them to this point.

They seem to be moving to a subscription model: https://www.omnigroup.com/omnifocus/buy/

Not really moving, more providing the option. Given that iOS and desktop are two separate versions, with new licenses required for upgrades...

(Maybe not the point, but maybe there wouldn't be layoffs if it was a subscription)

Unlikely. A few niche apps don't need development forever. Users have finite hours in a day, they don't have infinite appetite for more features. We are drowning in software.

I think Omni Group's locked down to Apple is a mistake. As a iPad Pro/iPhone user I wish to buy their products but as a Windows/Linux desktop user the lack of cross-platform support is a huge dealbreaker.

It's also what made the company: they were originally developers of software targeting NeXT machines/OS. Their products are a better fit in the role of 'big fish in a small pond' of the NeXT and then Mac worlds. Also, the Windows world has never valued the kind of craftsmanship Omni puts into their products... it's much more of a corporate market where managers and purchasing departments decide which products win.

True, but sometimes what got you here, won't get you there.

That's fine. A 30year career doing what you love on your own terms is a winning life.

The flip side is that I'm never ever going to use a diagramming tool that isn't compatible with windows.

Even if it were great, the fact I can't use it on my company workstation? Useless. Or even if I happened to have a mac workstation - being unable to share the source files with colleagues? It's dead on arrival. So basically it's a great diagramming tool so long as you work at a company that exclusively uses Macs. Which there really aren't many of. It's basically a diagramming tool for employees of Apple. Who, by the way, produce their own similar (less good) tools.

The productivity tools? Fine, you don't need to be able to share that. But Omnigraffle is juts a bizarre decision.

Sometimes it's best to stick to what you do well and do it really well. The market for their product is very different on the Windows side.

I haven't used their products but how the market is different from the Windows side? Aren't they general productivity tools?

Non-Mac/iOS users generally don't pay for software/don't care enough about polish to pay a little extra for something. That's why the majority of developers develop for iOS first and release on iOS first even though Android has the far larger market share (https://www.cultofmac.com/601492/app-store-google-play-reven...).

The type of person who is willing to pay extra for the polish Mac/iOS has over Windows/Android, is usually also the type of who is going to be willing to spend more for a better app.

Their USP is their integration into the platform.

How was this for the best when they had to lay off "usually off market" talent?

It worked pretty well for three decades.

Seems like a great opportunity to build a Windows alternative. Omni software is deeply Mac, using Mac UX/UI components that don't exist elsewhere. If they GTK/QT/JSed it, it wouldn't be Omni and it wouldn't be worth $50-$250 a pop.

Not really. In the Windows world Visio pretty much owns the market. Sure, the retail price of Visio is higher but it's also typically built into corporate pricing schedules for Microsoft software (i.e. discounted and on the pre-approved vendor list)... good luck competing with that. For anyone price-sensitive there's open source / freeware / web-based stuff. This doesn't leave much room for another desktop product.

Are you saying using mac components alone gives it the $50-$100 a pop value, if so thats some quality brainwashing going on.

I’ve been paying for OmniGraffle since 2004 or so and also bought licenses at various employers. The price has never been a problem.

But if it wasn’t a native Mac Cocoa app, I would never use it. A lot of OmniGraffle’s value comes from UI that abides by platform guidelines and the high-quality rendering and integrations enabled by being a native app rather than a lowest common denominator cross-platform port.

The difference between using software developed explicitly and exclusively for the Mac (and/or iOS) platform vs a cross-platform application is often quite dramatic.

Omni in particular makes extremely clean, friendly applications that feel aligned with the platform.

Yes. I would pay for a native Mac experience. I would never pay for any app that uses something like Electron. If you’re okay with mediocre software, why buy a Mac outside of doing development?

The way things are going you're not really going to have a choice in a few years.

We do have a choice now, and that is to pay for good software. When we resign ourselves to "the way things are going", it tends to be a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Apparently they are working on the web version of OmniFocus.

It’s out and has been for a while, but it’s not a standalone product.[1] You need to set up your database in one of the apps, and some functionality is not implemented (yet).

[1]: https://www.omnigroup.com/omnifocus/web

Brent Simmons seems to be keeping pretty good spirits—the last paragraph of his blog post made me chuckle. Good for him, he seems like a lovely person.


> The hard part of all this: normally everyone would get together for a happy hour for a few drops of encouragement and friendship. These rituals are nice, and they matter to me.

> But — (gesturing again at this fallen world) — nope.

Is this the company behind omniGraffle? I love their product. I don't know what other products they have, but it doesn't sound like the current situation should have an effect on them, at least not yet. Sounds like they have been struggling regardless.

OmniWeb was my favorite browser when it was around.

Which was originally the web browser on NeXT computers.

The title of the web browser on NeXT, however, must go to TBL's WorldWideWeb, world's first.

[1]: https://www.w3.org/People/Berners-Lee/WorldWideWeb.html

Yes, OmniGaffle is one of the many "Omni-" products they make.

It’s an amazing product.

I cannot afford the price tag. I wonder how many more people would buy it if it was just a little bit cheaper.

Not nearly enough... that's the problem: the business models that produced products like that won't be around for much longer as the price gets closer and closer to 'free'. The economics of mobile are dismal for paid productivity software.

To be fair, what mobile app is as good at what it does as Omni* is at theirs? Or, to short-circuit exceptions proving a rule, what is the proportion, or furthermore, how many segments of the mobile market has apps as good?

Yes. It is unfortunate. I’ve bought a couple of their products and recommended them to others. However, the price means that people (if their employers aren’t paying for it) have to plan it, and most won’t spend that amount on software.

I assume that 30 years of research has taught them that they won't get double the customers at half of the price.

Way easier to get away with finding half of your existing customers that can pay double than to cut your prices by half and double your entire sales funnel.

Or at least this was the wisdom imparted on me by a long time sales manager for a large VAR.

Or segment your product so you can extract the most value out of your customers.


I know it's relative but I don't think their product is expensive since it's a one time fee. I think I paid $99 once but don't recall exactly. Especially if you intend to use it regularly. I think most updates you get for free. But maybe for major updates you need to pay extra. Not sure.

omnigraffle pro is $250.

I was saying the same thing earlier today. Most of their products are $100-200. I like OmniGraffle but I only need to make graphics a few times a year, and free alternatives like draw.io or even Keynote often suffice.

Yeah, I feel this. I strongly believe that the "App Store economy" has taught developers to underprice their work, and that $25, $50, even $100 isn't unreasonable. But Omni's stuff... it gets steep if you're a relatively casual user, especially if you want both Mac and iOS versions.

While it's possible I'm an outlier, I can't help but wonder if a different pricing structure -- say, $49.99 for most Mac programs, $19.99 for most iOS ones, and a (gasp) subscription of $39.99 per year for upgrading to the Pro version that covered both iOS and Mac versions of the app -- would actually make them more money in the long run.

Same boat with Omni + SketchUp. I would happily pay $100, for "metered credits" to an online service. There's a big difference between using SketchUp for 40 hours total v. 40 hours a week.

That is the issue. It is not that it isn't worth $250 for the Pro version if you use it everyday, but it isn't worth it if you only use it twice a year.

I don't really know Omni or their products, but I wonder from reading some comments here that while the bottom end of their market has been eaten by cheaper/free alternatives, the pro market that will happily pay $250 for a great tool has been eaten by things like Figma with the online collaboration that has become essential for professionals.

I’m slightly confused. What about the current pandemic changed their business so much? Do people suddenly have less need for their apps? That seems unlikely. It seems like this has been coming for awhile. OmniGraffle missed the online diagramming collaboration wave, and OmniFocus missed the same thing on the project management side.

While I'm sad to hear they're suffering, I agree about OmniGraffle.

I am a paying customer and I use it for my job... but if I'm doing anything at all I expect other people might need to edit, I can't use it. Because the other people won't have licenses, or won't have Macs.

So I use it for a lot of quick and dirty diagramming but don't really ever invest the time to take advantage of its power features, because anything that complex needs to be available for editing, even if it's less nice.

The Mac solution for that is to buy more Macs and Mac software licenses.

In my experience their stuff has a surprising amount of friction. It also used to be buggy, but it's not that anymore. I can't quite put my finger on it, but it feels a little like they're just not getting the basics right.

Just one example: In omnigraffle, pinch to zoom has all kinds of janky jumpiness that is simply disqualifying. And they only got it to this point very recently.

I thought the Omni group mostly worked remotely; it's too bad that they don't have the cash reserves to pay people to keep working at home, because it's a good time to crank out some code!!

I like their products and Omnigraffle in particular, though they still seemed to have old-school high pricing.

Unless things changed dramatically, Omni has no remote folks, it's entirely Seattle based.

As for pricing, they charge a fair price for their software given the audience (mostly professionals who are willing to pay a premium for high quality software). It's never been the cheapest, but it always had a large enough userbase to pay folks a good wage, have great perks, retain great talent, and enable incredible work/life balance.

Source: worked @ Omni in 2013

I like their products and Omnigraffle in particular, though they still seemed to have old-school high pricing.

I guess they have done their market research and concluded that lowering the prices does not add enough users. I like OmniGraffle a lot as well and recommend it to others. But I don't think anyone else has bought it on my recommendation. If you are the type of person (like me) who draws graphs maybe 10 or 20 times a year, the pricing is very steep, and people will just use something like draw.io.

I strongly dislike subscription pricing, but I think it might work in their case. They would be able to extract more money from existing customers + the barrier to entrance is lower for the occasional user.

I have tried to use the other Omni products, but the never really resonated with me. OmniFocus has quite a strict and focused GTD-driven model. I found it constraining and switched to Things. Though all these tools break down in a team setup, because they do not really support team sharing of tasks. OmniOutliner always felt too complex as a replacement for e.g. Markdown or org-mode and too limited to compete with the likes of notion.so.

Was one of the first interns @ Omni back in 2013. I'm really sad to hear this, and I have only good things to say about Ken, Tim, and the whole Omni team.

Most folks are highlighting what feel like obvious flaws in the business model:

- "They charge too much for their software"

- "'Apple only' meant limited distribution"

- "SaaS apps are making desktop software obsolete"

Those all may be true; however, I think these miss the point as they aim for something that wasn't really Omni's goal. Omni succeeds because it builds amazingly high quality software targeted at a specific group of users, and charges a fair price for it (vs the vast majority of software that is of questionable quality and heavily subsidized by VCs and/or your attention). There are (were?) still enough people in the world willing to buy high quality software at that price point to sustain the company.

I think the other point missed is that, unlike what I feel like a lot of SV memes portray, Omni was designed to be an infinite game, "A finite game is played for the purpose of winning, an infinite game for the purpose of continuing the play"[1]. The company isn't trying to blitzscale its way to a billion dollar valuation and let the founders cash out after five years--it's designed to be the best place for the best indie MacOS/iOS devs to have fun building great apps for as long as possible. They've succeeded for a long time, and I have no doubt that even with the downsizing there is still room for the company to succeed in that goal

If you're looking for awesome macOS/iOS devs, these really are the best of the best, and you'll be lucky to have them. Given that a big chunk of the team was also support and QA, there are likely a few of them available as well, and definitely check them out if you're in the market for those.

[1]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Finite_and_Infinite_Games

Fun story: the first Omni app I ever shipped was OmniKeyMaster, which let you swap your Mac App Store license key for an Omni App Store license key. Within an hour of submission, Apple pulled it from the App Store (for obvious reasons). Always fun to have your hand slapped a week into an internship!

Second fun story: speaking to the nature of the company... as part of the internship offer, Omni agreed to pay for our housing, and ended up renting the five of us a house in Wallingford. Turns out the house ended up being a scam (we all showed up to move in and someone else was living in it), and so they put us up in the Residence Inn in South Lake Union for two weeks until they got us furnished apartments right next door to the office. It probably cost them a hell of a lot, but to them it was the right thing to do and they take care of their employees (even though they had just hired us). This company does its best to do right by its people, so I know this must have been an incredibly difficult decision for them to make.

I agree with all of the above, but unfortunately no matter how good the intention and clarity of market ("high quality software targeted at a specific group of users"), if that user group is not willing to pay, then you are doing a bad job of solving their problems.

We can lament how sad this news is - and it is - but it does expose that, at some level, the company was not able/willing to meet the needs of their (potential) customers.

Uhhh, no - they're well known for meeting that need. They're also very well known for being good at what they do.

It's just economics of the race to the bottom in software development, likely coupled with a touch of worldwide pandemic.

Omnifocus Pro 3 user here. Totally worth every penny.

It's sad to see this happening. I was using OmniGroup software for probably 10 years now. But, their stack was just outdated. OmniFocus 3 still looks like Windows 95 in comparison to Things 3.

Their web version is a step in the right direction. But it took them ages to adapt to a faster development cycle, and the web version is still not usable for me.

I don't see it as a subscription vs. one-time pay problem. I am happy to pay for good software, but to be honest, OmniGroup still lives in the past.

When I visit their website now, and look at the screenshots they present, boy... I wouldn't buy these tools if I wouldn't know that they are actually so good.

OmniOutliner is one of my favorite pieces of software.

The idea of hierarchical organization of knowledge is, to me, a really powerful one. I started using it when I was in law school, and it helped me stay organized as I was changing careers and learning how to write software. Even today, where my employer uses Jira and spreadsheets to stay organized, I use an outline as well, which despite being additional effort still provides a lot of value to me.

I've heard really good things about notion, and I may try it out one of the days. But for me, OO has been a particularly effective organizational tool in my arsenal.

I would love to hear more how the COVID19 has exacerbated the business down period. I naively thought that enterprise software would not see a strong impact from COVID19 in the first 2-3 months.

99% of all businesses are planning on at least two really bad quarters coming up. Very few have cash reserves to cover shortfalls. If you’re planning out the rest of the year, and you were already in a little trouble, you have to cut expenses immediately.

I’m not sure Omni is as tied to quarterly planning/reporting; but for those who are, and are on the regular calendar schedule, this all happened just in time for a lot of the potential Q1 end of quarter sales to dry up as everyone tightened up.

Honestly, I don't know how much of this was COVID and how much was just a slowing of the business over the past few years and this is an inevitable consequence of that. I think the business has always more or less run on fairly thin margins (again, it's mostly designed to fund a lifestyle of building awesome Apple apps, not get the founders rich at the expense of employees/customers/VCs/etc.), and so even fairly minor disruptions could cause that to become a big issue.

In times like now, new sales of premium niche software are one of the first things to vanish. Better diagramming isn't my core concern right now

i wouldn’t think so either but in no way is omni in the category of enterprise software.

Just recently I took over a very rapidly evolving project, and I realized that OmniFocus for iOS (as much as I love it with all the custom „perspectives“ I created) is way to slow in quickly capturing and organizing new tasks & projects. That‘s why I temporarily switched to a paper based approach and than rediscovered Things3 (which I used prior to OmniFocus). Now after a week or two I realize how much lighter and quicker Things3 is compared to OF. And how impractical OF on iOS always felt.

OF for Mac is fine. Although I must admit - after using Things3 for a week or two - that OF feels like overkill, interface-wise.

Other Omni products feel like from distant past: OmniOutline (orgmode feels way lighter, better), OmniGraffle was super cool several years ago, but it hasn‘t evolved much.

I feel very sorry for this company because several years ago their products were so unique and typical for the Mac experience. Things have changed.

Oof. This is a little upsetting to me. Inessential has been on my RSS feed forever and I've enjoyed reading it for a long time. Makes me feel somehow connected to what's going on with Brent because he's written about his work at Omni so much. Hope he finds a company to work with soon. Tough times :(

I would, and I'm actually considering, to offer them $2000 just to compile me Omnifocus 1 (latest of v1 branch) as 64bit app, as it's currently 32bit and can't work due to CatalinaCurse.

Omnifocus 2 was a joke in any category, while I have mixed fealing about 3 (speed, ergonomics, features).

Anyone want to chip in? :)

Is is Omni Focus 1, right? (https://www.macworld.com/article/1132832/omnifocus1.html)

I don't use it, But I'm curious as to what are the major changes of v2 which disappoint you? I like the v1 interface as shown in the above mentioned article.

Have you looked at Things, I've been using it for the last year and am really pleased with it.

Oh, man. Hate to see this. I used to use OmniGraffle for UX wireframes and diagrams. Very good software. I left the employer that held the license, and honestly, haven't found a replacement that is as fast... especially for diagrams.

You could buy a license?

If I were doing wireframes monthly, I'd buy in a heartbeat. At present I do so sporadically, and my daily driver is no longer a Mac.

I use omnigraffle every day. Recently tried to create penrose diagrams but discovered you can't create custom open-ended shapes; and modifying any of the few open ended shapes they have closes them. Guess I can't hope for any improvements any time soon.

OG is probably the main reason I'm still on a mac. Nothing else comes close. I hope they can rethink their plans and create a more sustainable & successful business. Their other apps are pretty good too. Easily the best software shop for mac.

What a shame. I rely on Omnigraffle every day. Some aspects of it are showing their age, but it is still the best tool on MacOS.

...can someone please give me an excuse to go buy Omnigraffle? I want to, but I need a reason.

What would I be able to use it for in my daily life as a layperson doing layperson things?

I use it for UX wireframing, mind/node mapping, and visualizing processes and data flows. Personally, we’ve used it to figure out some household organization but it’s more of a professional tool.

This seems a good thread to memorialize OmniWeb — for a few years there, it was the best web browser of all time.

When was that? 2002-2005 ish?

Big Omniplan fan.

I recently signed up for OmniFocus cloud, should I be worried? It’s a fantastic product.

Really good people. :-(

Been a customer since their web browser for NeXt. Dang.

OmniGraffle is the best substitute for Visio that I've found in 25 years, that is affordable (US$100). They are also extremely responsive to bug sightings.

Omni has a great product (products, really) but not launching them as a SaaS was a big mistake. Hopefully, not all is lost and they can still do this.

Also, they need to embrace freemium model when it comes to project management like Bitrix24, Trello and Asana have done. That's why they are undisputed leaders right now.

I'd spend a lot of money for an Android version of OmniOutliner (and OmniGraffle); 100 EUR/year would be no problem. Sad they bet on a failing platform.

Incredibly focused, well rounded products that are unmatched.

Curious why you consider iOS to be a failing platform when the App Store consistently generates 2-3x more revenue than the Play Store even with considerably lower volume (and iOS developers can typically charge more for their apps). Fragmentation in the Android ecosystem makes it considerably more costly to develop and the lower average cost of apps mean you're required to hit significantly higher scale in order to generate the same revenue as a developer.

Omni's business model (small number of incredibly loyal customers paying top dollar for the software) likely wouldn't have survived on Android.

Sad they bet on a failing platform.

Mac sales aren't growing much but it's a stretch to say it's a failing platform.

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