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OmniPresence, the Omni Group's new cloud sync service, hits all the right buttons

Marco Tabini | May 23, 2013
Syncing is a hot topic these days, with plenty of alternatives and lots of angst over their perceived limitations and shortcomings.

Syncing is a hot topic these days, with plenty of alternatives and lots of angst over their perceived limitations and shortcomings.

If you happen to be a user of the Omni Group's apps, like OmniGraffle and OmniFocus, you'll be happy to know that the company is releasing its own sync solution--aptly dubbed OmniPresence--on Wednesday, bringing yet one more option into the fray.

Easy and powerful

From the user's point of view, OmniPresence is designed to be simple while still offering a powerful feature set. The core of that is compatibility across both OS X and iOS apps, allowing you to effortlessly sync data back and forth.

On the Mac, OmniPresence runs in the background and resides discreetly in the menu bar, where it can be accessed at any time. Once installed, it asks you to connect to an OmniPresence server and designate a directory on your hard drive that will act as the synchronization point between your computer and the server. From there on, documents are automatically synchronized back and forth any time you update them in one of Omni's apps.

On iOS, Apple's sandboxed environment means that OmniPresence is tightly integrated with each of the company's apps, which will offer a document management panel similar to the one currently used by iCloud.

A sync for the ages

Unlike most of its competitors, including iCloud and Dropbox, OmniPresence is not based on technologies that have been developed from scratch; instead, it relies on the well-tested WebDAV protocol, which builds upon HTTP--the very foundation on which the Web runs.

Omni CEO Ken Case explains this choice as a way to maintain control over his company's products. "We thought about using iCloud and Dropbox," Case said during a phone interview with Macworld, "but they are based on proprietary solutions, and we wanted a solution that was going to last as long as our products."

As such, OmniPresence is built on the extremely popular Apache Web server, which already powers many of the Internet's websites. In addition to relying on a well-tested technology, this solution also allows Omni's apps to piggyback on the same connections as regular Web browsers, which should increase compatibility with even the most stringent firewalls.

Better, smarter, more focused

Maintaining control over its sync technology has also allowed Omni to make some smart choices when it comes to functionality.

Compared to Dropbox, for example, OmniPresence works at the document level, rather than dealing with individual files. As such, multiple users can work on the same documents at the same time, with the sync server detecting conflicts and either merging them automatically or keeping multiple copies of the same document without forcing anyone to lose their changes.


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