It's a pity Omni doesn't monitor its forums more closely!

Helpful. Thanks! It is a true pity that Omni Group has chosen to develop elaborate automation, then just simply ignore user questions about how to use it. I have my own outstanding question (how to use Handler in JS to apply conditional formatting). Posted on this forum, Slack, even Twitter. Many, many weeks now and just nobody home. Real shame. Anyway, many thanks for this example. @kcase @Sal

The best way to reach our support team with technical questions like these is to send email or to call us on the telephone during business hours. We do sometimes catch conversations like these in the forums or Slack (as I am in this moment), but these public communication channels are set up for customers to be able to communicate with each other, not directly with us.

We track and answer every email sent to our support team, striving to answer each message within one business day. It’s a much faster, much more reliable way to get a response to any question you want answered by us.

Ken, thanks for responding! Unfortunately, I am unlikely to want to get up in the middle of my night to try to telephone support on a general question, not a specific technical problem. It’s confusing to think a general question about the API (in reference to an old public post by you personally, suggesting @Sal would be making examples available on the Omni Automation site that never were, for reasons perhaps outside his control) should relegated to a private email conversation exchange. It’s of interest to other users too. The OO forum is pretty much a ghost town. Things languish for weeks, months. And (in the case of this thread about Organize) years! Not a good look for the Omni Group. Given the low level of activity one wouldn’t think it would take many resources to monitor it properly.

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The reason we ask people to contact our support humans by email is because every member of our dedicated, full-time support team are already quite busy with the email traffic they’re handling. They need every bit of efficiency we can send their way to stay on top of it all. With email messages, we can assign each message a ticket number and we have a system in place which lets them claim tickets so we don’t have two people working on the same ticket at the same time, etc.

Our forums and Slack don’t have any such system for distributing work among our support team, and most messages posted here wouldn’t be intended for our support team anyway. It’s simpler and more efficient to segregate our support traffic completely—which is why our welcome messages both for these forums and for Slack direct people to use email if they’re trying to contact our support team.

Now, that said, I certainly agree that some of our support team’s responses will be of interest to other users! You’re more than welcome to share answers you receive from our support team back on these forums.

(As for your specific question: Sal actually did write that content quite some time ago, but then heard from our engineering team that those APIs weren’t ready for prime time yet and the documentation shouldn’t be published until they’re ready. We didn’t hear much feedback through our support channels asking for this functionality, so it’s fallen off our priority list in favor of the things we do hear about every day. But if people who are interested in this reach out to support and ask about it, that feedback will make it to our development teams where it can help guide our development priorities and roadmap. So if this is a capability you’re interested in, that’s another good reason to reach out to us by email!)

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P.S. — I do love it when folks from Omni have some spare moments to participate in conversations with customers, here or on Slack. But it’s a completely different scale of interaction than the hundreds of support messages our dedicated full-time team answers by email each day.

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Thanks so much for taking the time to respond, Ken @kcase. It’s helpful to know that Omni deemphasizes the forums and the Slack channel because of the way it has chosen internally to track user issues. I had no idea. I’m doubly grateful, then, for the unsupported efforts of @Mockman, @draft8, @unlocked2412, and (occasionally) @Sal.

My specific case is apparently an instance of “let no good deed go unpunished.” Your good deed was to venture, despite the second class nature of the channel, into this 2017 thread Dynamic Named Styles based on text or saved filter? and mention the upcoming ability to “create an automation handler which notices when a row changes and automatically updates its format based on that row’s content.” You provided a tantalizing example that would make possible “conditional formatting” similar to other applications.

That all sounded great to me and I think others in that thread, and I’ve read similar questions since on the forum, and on Slack (after I became aware of the existence of the Slack channel). It was encouraging to see an entry for Handler in the API documentation (which I only dimly understand, but originally took to be strong evidence of implementation).

Have I understood correctly that it is because forum participants did not ALSO immediately and persistently send emails to Omni Support saying they understood and wanted the feature announced by Omni management on the forum over three years ago that the feature never materialized?

If that’s the case, then I’d say, “Houston, we have a communication problem!”

Scripting/automation is hard. It really helps to see what specific problems others are encountering and how they can be solved, and just to get a feel for what’s possible. One-on-one email and telephone support just doesn’t fill the need. It’s unrealistic to expect users to get an answer by email and then turn around and post the solution publicly.

That leaves a nice (and I assume expensive to develop) capability mostly lost on many users because of the way Omni has chosen to track support issues.

@kcase One big benefit of allocating some resource to answering forum questions is that the responses are public and searchable by other users.

If I have a problem and it has been answered already I don’t have to burden the support team with it. Thereby freeing up resources to answer more forum messages :-)

Public answers also help educate users on what the software is capable of and alternative ways of using it.

The ‘old’ OF1 forums were a lot more active than this one and iirc had a much more active omni staff presence.

Feature requests are a different thing and your tracking demand by email is probably more useful than ‘me too’ posts on a forum.

Please consider allocating some resource to the forum (if only for a three month trial) to see if it is beneficial or not.

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The OmniFolks might have to maintain a certain decorum in maintaining the public face of the company, but I am under no such constraint.

I never thought I would live to see the day when the idea of being able to speak to a real live company representative would be un(der)appreciated. Live in a different timezone? Send an email and go to bed. I read here of having to wait “many weeks” for a response in forums, when an answer could have been had the next morning via email. I have had to contact Support several times over the years for bugs and such, and in every case the support is courteous, professional, knowledgeable, and timely. Anyone who would think that OmniGroup provides anything less than stellar service, has no idea what bad service looks like. Shouting into the wind in a forum is not how professional organizations handle support.

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This is my exactly my experience also over many years. Feedback is tracked and taken into account. In addition to this well-managed process, the Omni team does often provide information on this forum and on Slack.

Hi @regexp and @MultiDim,

Longtime user of two Omni pro apps here. Also a longtime user of a number of other complex software apps, including at least one @regexp has mentioned. I’m no stranger to dealing with support. And I myself am known to provide support on forums too:)

No one here has suggested that Omni does not have “courteous, professional, knowledgeable, and timely” telephone and email support, “old school” channels but well suited to bug reporting and specific one-off problems. They obviously do.

And no one has suggested that Omni never provides information on this forum. They do (though I haven’t noticed much for a long, long time in the OO section; perhaps I wasn’t paying attention).

What I have stated––as constructive criticism––is that questions on the OO forum have languished unanswered for days, weeks, even years. And that a cool upcoming feature announced by @kcase here on the forum was quietly shelved, despite a tantalizing entry in the API documentation.

Omni obviously have their internal reasons for doing this that they can’t be expected to explain here. Like all businesses they have to allocate limited resources.

Perhaps OO is late in its product life cycle and thus low priority. And perhaps a judgment call had to be made that there just aren’t enough users in other time zones who find it inconvenient to call or compose an email in English (perhaps not their native language) about a problem they only half understand (automation can be particularly hard) to justify monitoring the forums and supporting those who are more comfortable browsing open forums to spark discovery and find answers without embarrassing themselves.

I don’t know the answers. To me, though, the OO forums currently don’t have a good feel. The vital signs are feeble. That, I suspect, has significant implications both for support (helping existing users and retaining them) and marketing (attracting new users).

Like I said, my impression is that the Omni team do communicate with their users in a public fashion on this forum and on Slack, far more than most other software companies. If there’s a question that’s important to you and didn’t get answered by anybody after a certain period, I think it’s a reasonable effort to send a short email — that’s the process they have organised around and they provide excellent support through it.

Most software companies won’t ever talk about future releases because if plans change they risk backlash from users. Many examples of this can be found in the OmniFocus threads sadly. I much appreciate the information on release plans that Omni often provides, and understand that it’s normal for priorities and implementation plans to change. It seems that what triggered your complaints is an instance of this.

13 posts were split to a new topic: Learning how to use OmniOutliner Automation

Hi @multidim ,

my impression is that the Omni team do communicate with their users in a public fashion on this forum and on Slack, far more than most other software companies.

Perhaps true for other Omni apps(?) My comments are specific to OO, in the context of my experience with premium apps by other developers. The OO forums definitely could use some judicious life support! They’re far too often a place where questions go to die. Even once helpful links to the old, more active, forum now appear to be dead.

My comments were triggered when, on a new project, I really needed conditional formatting and revisited this thread Dynamic Named Styles based on text or saved filter? thinking the automation feature previewed by @kcase there (that would allow me to roll my own conditional formatting) must surely have long since been implemented, especially since Handler has an entry in the API.

Similar questions appear periodically on Slack and the forum. Here’s the latest example on the forum. Unanswered of course!

@SGIII I spend the most time in the OmniFocus threads so you may be right that the OO threads are not very active. If so, that might be an indication of the relative user-base sizes of the two apps.
I think it’s unreasonable to expect every question or request on the forum to receive a definitive answer. Sometimes they are highly specific to a particular workflow, hard to parse, or the information is provided in product documentation or elsewhere on the forum. If something is of interest to many, people will usually contribute to the discussion and offer solutions.

Your request about conditional formatting and Automation handlers does seem to fall into the ‘plans may change’ (for good reasons) situation I referred to. From what I saw on Slack I gather this feature is not fully baked in.

Regarding learning how to use Omni Automation, my advice would be to learn ‘just enough’ JavaScript for scripting (basic syntax, how to use functions, etc). Read @draft8 ’s excellent guidance on Slack. ‘Eloquent JavaScript’ is one good resource, there are many free learning materials online. Then read all the introductory sections on omni-automation.com which is a very comprehensive site (learn first about the structure of plug-ins and each app; you can explore all the classes later based on your needs). You will need to put in a bit of study, but it’s quite accessible to make simple yet useful scripts (one of my automations which I use the most is two lines of code inside the standard plug-in action template). I don’t think either topic can be well covered in forum posts or one-to-one support.

Hi @multidim,

Agreed it is unreasonable to expect a “definitive” answer to “every” question. Also agreed “hard to parse” questions are frustrating.

Still, for a premium software product, is it wise to leave a company hosted forum littered with unanswered questions? To me that’s like listing a company phone number without making sure it is answered––by a professional expert, by volunteers, by an answering service, by a machine, by someone’s mother-in-law, whatever it takes. Just letting it ring sends a powerful message of just the wrong sort.

Your advice on learning Omni Automation is well taken. I’ve had modest success doing just what you suggest, getting a simple, but useful, plug-in to work by studying examples generously provided by @draft8, @unlocked2412, and @sal.

But… I still don’t have the promised ability to roll my own conditional formatting given that feature is not built into the app!

I’m hoping @unlocked2412 has some sort of solution. (Edit. Just noticed reply in other thread. Am off to try it!)

When all is said and done, I hope that at least some effort can be put into documenting basic and general usage, including numerous examples (separate from tutorials, which by their nature, are very specific).

Speaking from an applescript perspective, there is often a difference in how apps handle the processing of a single object versus a list of objects versus a reference to a list of objects, or making a new item versus controlling an existing one. As someone without a background in programming, I think that a lot of assumptions are made when producing documentation, for example, on conceptually trivial things like how to make some text into a link, for example, or how to affect a row and also all its children.

I’d like to add one comment on the matter of these forums. Some have commented that people shouldn’t expect the forums to provide solutions for certain (or maybe any) problem types. But if staff did occasionally peruse them, they could direct posters to support (or whatever would be the best avenue to take). For example, I’ve seen many companies, who upon encountering complaints on twitter, direct those customers to provide more details or contact support. Indeed, in past years I’ve been advised to contact support but I haven’t noticed this occurring recently.

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I’ve split off the questions about learning how to use OmniOutliner Automation into their own thread.

I’m sorry to see questions going unanswered here in these forums! Our goal is that none of our customers should ever have to wait more than one business day for an accurate, helpful response from our tech support team. The best way to accomplish that is to make sure people know how to reach our team, so I’ve updated this forum’s welcome message and all of its category headers to include email addresses for our support team.

When I do get a chance to visit these forums, most of my time here is often spent just dealing with all the spam we get. This is much less problematic on the other communication channels our customers use to communicate with each other, including Twitter and Slack.

This brings up a serious question: is there enough value in these forums to keep up that effort? Or should we retire these forums in favor of other communication channels which our customers now have available to them?

While forums are a good place for several users to talk things over and upload solutions, in an ideal world, the discussions could be right next the documentation when it’s related to an existing feature or behavior, something like footnotes maybe? (I find I have to search both docs and forums, and still never figure things out.) But I don’t think it’s the format of the forum – I think the problems of users not finding answers is multi-pronged.

For example, I haven’t found a top-down statement that says (a) in a normal-sized typeface, b) with a freshness date that’s easy to parse, not “JAN 19”, c) with a clear indication of which version of the software (not just “5” which doesn’t always give the Automation menu) how AppleScript and OmniJS interact and how a user might choose one approach or another, and a link to 10 examples of each with basic instructions of where to put them, console or separate file. Seems the most basic content for a webpage on the topic.

There are many things I like about OO but things I consider basic are lacking or impossible to find through Help in the Menus or with a Google Search or with a keyword search in the forums.

The documentation which is built into the app is the reference source for most of the information about our apps. Because it’s built into the app itself, It always reflects the version of the app you’re using—so, unlike reading posts from other users on the forums or other websites, it will never point you at a menu item which won’t exist until you update to a newer version of the app. The built-in documentation is the ultimate reference for much of the information about the app’s capabilities which gets shared in other contexts—but for ideas and examples of how to put those capabilities to use, you’re often going to want to look elsewhere.

The forums are a great place for people to share those ideas and examples. But yes, most people sharing things on the forum are likely to be using the latest version of an app (such as the current OmniOutliner 5.8.2 release), not one which is several years old (such as 5.3.4) which is missing all the benefits from the last few years’ worth of feature improvements and bug fixes.

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Personally, I would miss the forums, even though they’re not as active as I would like. Much of what I’ve learned about scripting OO I’ve discovered here, whether I’m looking at someone else’s posts or occasionally trying to help another user. They’re very casual in that you can read whatever and post whatever and then go do something else. You don’t even have to log in to see if there’s anything new. And of course, they’re a source of new ideas.

Regarding the built-in documentation, I would simply add that scripting gets scant coverage in the app’s help (or maybe none).

And alas, I’m one of those 5.3.4 users as I’m still running Sierra.

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