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Build Your Own Dropbox Alternative with OmniPresence [Mac/iPad]

omnipresenceOmniPresence is a new sync tool from the OmniGroup that can be used to keep your OmniOutliner, OmniGraffle, or OmniGraphSketcher files in sync between the Mac and iPad. It goes one step better, though, and can be used to sync any type of file on your Mac, working much like Dropbox works, but using a sync server of your choosing. While OmniPresence will never replace Dropbox, it does offer advantages over Dropbox in some areas.

Let’s get one thing out of the way – if a Windows machine is essential to your workflow, then OmniPresence isn’t the answer for you. OmniPresence only runs on the Mac, and also supports OmniOutliner, OmniGraffle, and OmniGraphSketcher on the iPad.

But if you use any of the three mentioned Omni apps, OmniPresence is the only way to keep them in sync (short of manually moving your files around). The type of files that those apps use don’t play well with Dropbox, so there is no Dropbox support built into the iPad apps.

On the Mac, OmniPresence goes beyond just support for those three apps, and can be used to keep any type of file in sync between multiple Macs. Drop files into one or more  folders you’ve designated to sync, and those files will be moved to your other Macs.

OmniPresence Mac


Why would you use this instead of something like Dropbox for general file syncing? Here are a few reasons.


1. Roll Your Own Sync Server. One nice feature of OmniPresence is that you have the option to host your files yourself, bypassing a third party service entirely. If you run OS X Server, you can set up a local OmniPresence server and sync your data that way.


2. Pick Your Own Third Party Server. Of course, if you don’t want to be bothered setting up your own server, you can use the official OmniPresence server, or a number of third party servers using WebDav.


3. Sync With Multiple Services at the Same Time. If you don’t want to keep all of your eggs in the same basket, or if you want to sync some data with one server, and other data with other servers, you can configure the OmniPresence client on your Mac to sync with different servers at the same time. Right now, I use the official OmniPresence sync server to sync all of my OmniOutliner documents, but also use a free encrypted 2 GB CloudSafe account for my “work in progress” documents. You can pick and choose which folders to sync with which service.


4. Unlimited Sync and Storage – For Now. At least for the time being, the Omni Group has said there are no announced storage limits on the official sync server, but that they reserve the right to address issues as needed. I wouldn’t count on using the server to sync and store massive amounts of data, but for now there are no set limits.


5. Free! Unless you’re paying for one of the third-party hosting solutions, OmniPresence is free – both the tool, and the official sync server. I’ll be curious to see if it stays that way, or if the Omni Group limits it to users of their apps in the future, but right now it doesn’t cost anything.


There are drawbacks to OmniPresence. As mentioned, it is Mac only. In addition, there is no standalone OmniPresence iOS app. Instead, OmniPresence works behind the scenes, being baked into OmniOutliner, OmniGraffle, or OmniGraphSketcher.

The best way that I can sum up OmniPresence is that there are other tools that offer some of the above features, and might handle one of them better than OmniPresence. But personally, I’m excited when you consider all of those benefits together.

Have you tried out OmniPresence? Let me know your thoughts in the comments.