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

@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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Please keep these Forums. Please invest in them to make them more useful. I agree that if nothing is done they will die as too few people are actively involved.

Yes, they have less traffic than the previous forums, that I suspect, is due to the software and documentation improving but more the absence of omni staff in answering questions and possibly the historical posts containing answers to user’s questions. E.g. Due Date vs flags - read the historic posts and you probably don’t need to ask the question.

Fully understand that with limited resources Omni needs to decide where to deploy them.

What is the general trend though? are user groups generally departing discourse for Slack? If so it is a matter of time (unless the trend reverses.)

I don’t use slack and there are several other groups that I review/use on DiscourseHub (pulls all the discourse groups into one place on an iPad). Would I follow omni on Slack? Probably not.

If Slack had a searchable history (don’t know, haven’t tried) and that history included the knowledge base of user workflows and different approaches, perhaps.

Are slack replies indexed by search engines? If not a major route into finding answers would be removed.

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Regarding the reminder about the in app documentation, I’m as guilty as many (probably most?) users in not going through it in detail, especially since, on the Mac, it seems I can’t even do a search on it the way I can on iOS/iPadOS.

Seeing the discussion here I decided to look for references to “automation” in the OO Help on OO Pro 5.8.2 for the Mac and OO Pro 3.7.2 for iPadOS. To my surprise, I came up with zilch, nada, nothing, nary a mention. It must be buried in there somewhere and I’m just missing it.

I imagine developing cross-platform automation must have been a substantial investment. It’s a cool feature few apps have. Why discourage use of it by killing the forum, one of only a handful of good sources of information about how to make it work?

I find browsing and searching through forums easier than navigating Slack channels. I’ve never had a hit on Slack when I do a web search, whereas forums can pop up. Forums can have a spam problem, I suppose, but I wonder how that could possibly be as hard to manage as email spam!

Please keep the forums! And make sure legit questions are answered so this place doesn’t become a ghost town.

(Here’s yet another example of a question that gets asked, and just hangs there, ignored, for over a year https://discourse.omnigroup.com/t/possible-feature-for-aliases/50752.)

In my inspection of the documentation I ended up making a (somewhat) amusing round trip.

@nutellacrepe had a question here https://discourse.omnigroup.com/t/i-never-get-a-plug-in-preferences-window about the automation menu. Fairly certain there is nothing in the documentation built into the app (to which we have been directed by @kcase) I began rooting around on the website and came upon this “manual,” the only OO for Mac manual I could find there:

https://support.omnigroup.com/documentation/omnioutliner/mac/5.7/en/menu-commands-and-keyboard-shortcuts/#the-automation-menu

I was puzzled until I noticed it apparently describes an older version of OO than I have. And it directs out to @sal’s site and back out here too: “For sample Plug-Ins and to learn more about scripting OmniOutliner, visit the Omni Automation website, or join the discussion on our forums.”

So here I am back out in the forums, which, it seems, are even being considered for the chopping block rather than being considered a valuable support channel commonly provided by developers of premium software… Yikes!

When I started using OmniFocus, these forums provided the information I looked for every time. I had no need to contact support with these kind of questions.

I think the (private) exchange between a user and support don’t replace the dinamic that takes place in the forums. Here, we can share and learn in a community. Plus, a database of ideas and solutions to common problems grows.

I used to post often but I’m (currently) in a little town with no Wi-Fi connection. I hope that situation changes in the near future and I can continue sharing as I used to do.

Having said that, I clearly see how bug reports should be sent to support. However, often a user reports a bug in the forum and, perhaps another member can point out an error in a certain procedure or confirm the problem.

Speaking about the company, I think they made a great job with OmniJS API. It’s a world class cross-platform scripting solution. Also, Ken Case and Tim Cook were super responsive and helpful each time I contacted them regarding this topic.

I see how understanding the API is difficult. However, perhaps the forums could become the place to share questions about it and learn collectively.

I started doing automation in this place several years ago. I hope the forums continue to exist and I can continue sharing what I’ve learned.

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I just came across another another frustrating (to users trying to learn Omni Automation) and embarrassing (to the Omni Group’s reputation) example of a legitimate question simply being ignored for weeks and weeks because a user happened to post it on an Omni-hosted forum instead of going through private (preferred by @kcase but clearly not preferred by many users) channels.

The lack of response is mentioned here:

Maybe @unlocked2412 or @draft8 or @Sal can give pointers on this problem?

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