Businesses running primarily on Macs, iPads and iPhones can now wield a powerful new project management tool with the release of OmniPlan 4 for iPad and iPhone.

What is OmniPlan?

OmniPlan is a well-designed tool from one of the world’s most experienced Mac developers, the Omni Group. As a former NEXTSTEP consulting company, the firm has roots in the Mac platform that predate macOS; it has introduced apps for Apple’s platform since day one.

Used by top-tier Fortune 500 tech companies and in a variety of industries, including construction, OmniPlan 4 is a great option for project management. It combines interval tracking, recurring tasks, scheduling and schedule alteration, a useful project wizard, and many more tools and features.

samplesimplereportmac OmniGroup

A sample simple report on macOS.

It also supports dark mode, syncs automatically (and speedily) via iCloud, and does a great job helping project managers assemble complex tasks within Gannt Charts. These charts aren’t simply images, but can host dependencies, so the tool becomes a working window into project completeness. It means project managers can easily assess overall project status and also swiftly focus on deeper project data to stay on top.

What OmniGroup says

I spoke with OmniGroup founder and CEO Ken Case, who explained the fundamental aim of the software:“OmniPlan is designed for project managers, typically, that’s their professional role, sometimes they’re dedicated project managers — but it can also be somebody for whom this is one of many hats. They don’t have a lot of time to just spend in project management tools the whole day, they don’t want to spend a lot of time when they’re working with it.

“We wanted it to be easy for them to capture a project, get into it and organize it to the level of depth they need — to grow into the project and become more advanced in using the app as needs grow.”

At the same time, Omni also wanted to ensure its project management solution could meet the needs of complex projects. That’s why you’ll find increasingly powerful features nested inside OmniPlan.

“We didn’t want people to be limited because they found the app didn’t have enough depth for what they wanted to do,” Case said.

In an interesting aside, Case noted his father was an industrial engineer working for Boeing who made extensive use of Gantt charts using pen and paper as he managed huge-scale projects. To help, he built his father a work scheduling app on his first computer, an Atari 800.

Making complex projects simply powerful

OmniPlan 4 is smart. What drives the app is the notion that beginning use should be relatively approachable, while more powerful tools and the capacity to zoom in for additional insights into project progress should also be available.

So, for example, in the event you are working on a complex project and a component is running late you will receive a “violation warning” that lets you know this in order that you can manage the impact. At the same time, it’s easily possible to ignore the more powerful tools — you’ll still have excellent insight into what you are working to achieve.

You can also sync your plan across members of your team, so long as they are running the app. That’s useful, but what makes it more useful is that you can choose when you want to sync this data or share it in PDFs or other formats. This makes it a little easier to automate elements of project management that you might otherwise forget.

sample simple report ios OmniGroup

A sample simple report in iOS.

Already available for Mac, it’s now also available on iPhone and iPad in an integration which means you won’t need to re-learn how the app behaves to make use of it on all the supported platforms.

What are the highlights of OmniPlan?

To dive into project details, project managers can use a new view in which the entire window shows the project outline. You can zoom out or zoom into project status using the task roll-up option, which automatically collapses sub-tasks and milestones into a single line in the Gantt chart. Manual task scheduling and support for scheduling recurring tasks (daily, weekly, monthly) should help project managers focus on what needs to be done.

The app also boasts a tool you can use to stress test projects, called “Monte Carlo simulations.” This is basically a series of automated tests in which OmniPlan simulates what happens if parts of a project are delayed in order to deliver a relatively credible assessment of the likelihood the project will be delivered on time.

If you’re anything like me, a tool like this is a useful way to ensure you don’t end up promising a schedule you simply cannot deliver. As Douglas Adams once wrote, “I love deadlines. I love the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.”

There are also powerful automation features developed by Apple’s former automation wizard, Sal Soghoian, while the iOS version includes Scribble support.

With a view to an in-depth comparison, I’m working with a handful of project management solutions for Apple’s platforms. So I’ll briefly touch on what I most like about OmniPlan: the beauty all these features (bar one) persisting across both Mac and iOS versions of the app.

  • Simplicity: OmniPlan is easy to use – a little experiment and you should be creating complex project plans and proposals in a few hours. The use of dependencies and (on Mac) powerful automation features means the app very quickly becomes a window through which you can achieve deep insight on project progress.
  • Utility: Dig behind the veneer of simplicity and you’ll discover many powerful tools. One I particularly like is the built-in cost-tracking, which helps you manage and assign project budgets. Not only does this track costs as a project moves forward, but you can also assess qualitative values such as experience or productivity to give you better insight into costs. You may have a senior developer who delivers work at double the rate of any of your other staff; they may cost more by the hour, but OmniPlan lets you recognize where in the project they might be best placed at any time.
  • Views: Gantt chart, Project outline, Network and Resource views really seem to help build a good insight into what’s happening in a project. The capacity to alter and edit individual components within the plan is exactly what you’d expect from a project management app. It’s also easy to create reports using the Reports Window.
  • One more thing: The automation tools (AppleScript and JavaScript) are highly sophisticated. While AppleScript only runs on Macs JavaScript scripts and plugins run across all your devices, which means you can automate reminders, project updates, document sharing, meetings — all from within the app on any of your devices.

How much does it cost?

You can purchase the software with a universal app license, which means you buy it once for use across Mac, iPhone and iPad. This is a big change and means that the apps link in with your Omni account so you can download those applications you own down to all your devices once you access your account.

This also means it is possible to purchase the software directly from the Omni Group online store and also from Apple’s iOS and Mac App Stores.

OmniPlan Pro subscriptions are available for $19.99 a month or $199.99 for an entire year. If you prefer to purchase OmniPlan as a one-time traditional license, OmniPlan Standard is available for $199, or $399 for Pro. Discounted upgrade pricing is available at 50% off for customers of earlier version.

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Copyright © 2021 IDG Communications, Inc.

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