Hands on With OmniGroup's iPad Apps

June 17, 2010 | 6 Comments

Within a few days of the announcement of the iPad, OmniGroup published a blog post declaring their intentions to fully support the iPad with all of the products. At the time, I still wasn’t sure the iPad would a great device for productive work, but they thought it was. And they were right. The two apps they have already made available are part of the reason for that.

OmniGraffle for iPad
I consider OmniGraffle to be a sleeping giant on my laptop. I use it for making site maps and the occasional chart or illustration. But I know it can do so much more. OmniGraffle for iPad brings the same experience to the iPad.

I think what I appreciate the most about OmniGraffle is the diligence and workmanship that OmniGroup put into it. OmniGraffle was available the day the iPad was released, so it was developed before OmniGroup they had access to an iPad of their own. From what I understand, the 1.0 release had a few issues (I didn’t use it until 1.1), but for the most part they did a lovely job of thinking through how the app would work. (Take a look at their demo videos to see what I mean.)

My use for OmniGraffle on the iPad is a little different than it is on my laptop. While it can serve as a stand alone app, I find it most helpful as an extension of the OS X version. For intricate work, I find I still prefer the pixel precision of a mouse. Here are the main uses I’m finding for OmniGraffle for iPad — most of them are related to my design and development work:

  • I love using my iPad in meetings. It’s low profile feels like less of a barrier between others and myself. With OmniGraffle, I can bring along a site map to show a client, and even change and manipulate it on the spot. Saves the hassle of going back later and trying to decipher all my scribblings and arrows on a piece of paper.
  • OmniGraffle is my favorite sketching program. Even freehand drawings become movable objects, so it is easy to sketch out a layout by hand and manipulate it as I please. There are stencils that offer elements for wireframing, but I like to scratch it out, and then do something between a wireframe and a design comp in Photoshop.
  • I’m not much of a mind mapper, but I find that it is helpful to cluster and see ideas visually. Again, this is a use I’ve found handy.

I know that there are specialty apps available for wireframing, mind mapping, and sketching. They all might serve their unique purpose better than OmniGraffle, but the combination of these purposes, the thoughtfulness of OmniGroup, and the ability to open documents between my laptop and iPad has found OmniGraffle a place on my home screen. And in my heart.

OmniGraphSketcher for iPad is a slick app, though I have to admit that I don’t find much use for it. In short, it allows you to sketch out charts and graphs with your finger. It smooths the curves as you go, and easily manipulates lines and fills. As you would expect from OmniGroup, it is well though out and works beautifully. (Again, a demo video gives you a feel.)

If you have a need to create charts and graphs for presentations or documents, it’s worth a look. I don’t, and so it sits a few screens deeper in my iPad, just in case I need it someday. Something tells me I’ll be glad to have it come fantasy football season, when I want to visually talk smack about the superiority of my team.

Wrapping Up
One gripe about both of these apps is their price. OmniGraffle comes in at $50, while OmniGraphSketcher sneaks $20 out of your iTunes account. Are they worth it? That’s up to you, and unfortunately, the app store doesn’t have a means for demos so that you can try them first.

OmniGroup tends toward premium pricing in all of their apps, but they consistently craft some of the most useful and reliable apps. There are a lot of not so great apps being cranked out for the iPad…it’s nice to know that OmniGroup, among others, is making great ones. (Yes, I do have a crush on them, okay?)

Disclosure: I received promotional licenses for each of these apps. I was not required to post a positive review, or any review at all, in return.

  • gregr209

    Thanks for the insight on these apps. I have to agree with you on their pricing. It is way to high. I am really really scared that the OmniFocus iPad is going to be another gouge which will really upset me. I have already spent 20 bucks for the iPhone app plus the money for the desktop. I guess we will see hopefully in a few weeks.

  • I agree with both John and Greg – I’m REALLY looking forward to OmniFocus, but the pricing will be critical for me. $20 on the iPhone app is already high; I hope it’s not higher for the iPad.

    And as much as I love OmniGroup’s software and have it on my Macbook, I just can’t justify the cost of OmniGraffle for iPad, and am making do with other software that, while not as pretty, is good enough.

  • John

    I think, and expect, OmniFocus will be more than $20, though I don’t know anything directly. Of course, I wouldn’t complain if it was $20!

  • gregr209

    Anything higher then 20 bucks will be criminal. I have a bad feeling it will be. I have already download and have been using ToDo on the iPad and like it a lot I guess if worse comes to worse I could live with it on the iPad. I guess we will see! I just wish OmniFoucs would have been a universal app. But oh well.

  • Nice work. I always like hearing more about the usability of these apps since I currently don’t have much use for them, but are quite curious.

    Now about that pricing. First off I wanted to mention that Omni has instituted a 30-day money back guarantee, which they laid out in this blog post:
    This is a pretty ambitious move given the way the App Store works. They stress that this is not a trial period, but a way to keep customers happy with the products they make. These apps are not for everyone, so a slip of the “Buy” button could cause some regret once you dive in. Developers get 70% of app sales in the App Store with the other 30% going to Apple. Omni will refund 100% of the purchase price, meaning anyone who gets a refund is literally taking money out of Omni’s pockets. A bold move indeed, but they stand behind their product.

    They also laid out in a forum post, at some point, that their iPad pricing is derived directly from Apple’s iWork pricing structure. The desktop suite costs $80, while the same on the iPad fetches $30, or about 38% of the desktop cost. Omnigraffle and Omnigraffle Pro are $100 and $200, respectively, on the desktop, so $50 is either 50% or 25% of the desktop cost, or if you split the difference, almost exactly the same as the iWork suite in relation to its desktop counterpart. The logic goes: if you think $200 is crazy for Omigraffle Pro, then it’s probably not the app for you, and straight on down the line.

    All that being said, Omni offers unmatched service in terms of tech support, user feedback, openness, beta availability, etc. Personally, I think their prices are extremely fair for what they offer. I just don’t need OG right now 🙂

  • John

    Thanks for your comments. Following that logic, OmniFocus for iPad will be about $30 which is right about what I was anticipating.