I started using Omnifocus in mid-2009 when I moved from Windows to Mac, initially only for one-off personal tasks. At work, in a Windows-based environment, I was already using ToodleDo. While I initially liked the simplicity and versatility of Omnifocus, it started feeling complicated and overwhelming once I added in all my recurrent tasks after a year or so. I was missing a clear ‘today’ view and felt paralysed by the many ‘overdue’ tasks. I bailed out and tried alternatives including (in order of preference) ToDoist, NozBe, 2Do, MyProjects, Things and Wunderlist. I agree, dear reader, none of this made me particularly productive. And as my youngest daughter would say: ‘first world problem, dad’ – and she was right of course. As every other app at some stage confronted me with a deal-breaker, I eventually returned to Omnifocus, delved a bit deeper into the documentation and came to the conclusion that I had been overusing due dates and under-utilising ‘perspectives’. I have since overhauled my Omnifocus setup, brought in all my work tasks and I am now loving it.
The best features of Omnifocus for me are:
- It has a built-in review process that encourages you to review your tasks and workflow regularly.
- It allows you to specify whether tasks in a project are sequential or parallel.
- The availability filter makes it easy to focus on those tasks that you can complete now and a special ‘focus’ button lets you concentrate on a single project or context to minimise distractions.
- It allows you to create project templates that you can save for future use. As I am a project manager, this feature, together with nested (i.e. indented) tasks, was a major selling point.
- It is incredibly flexible, customisable and robust. Notes added to tasks can be one line or an entire web page.
- Data can be entered in a variety of ways including quick entry, email, web clipping and linking with Evernote. The default location for new tasks is the inbox.
- The iPad version is fantastic, introducing features like a calendar view and ‘drag and drop’ that complement the functionality of the desktop version and making it fun to review projects (some people say I should go out more).
- Omnifocus comes with all the bells and whistles you can expect of contemporary task managers, including nested tasks, location services and a search capacity. It comes with a good manual and is fully compatible with the GTD approach.
I see its limitations as follows:
- While Omnifocus is easy to start using, you probably need to invest a bit of time to understand the full potential of this application.
- It is not cheap. When I last looked, the iMac version was US $79.99, the iPad version US $39.99 and the iPhone version US $19.99.
- The desktop version runs only on the Mac operating system.
I have seen many people ask questions about Omnifocus and other task management applications in online forums. If you are one of them, I hope this post helps you make a more informed decision.