Coming Into Omnifocus

The Techie Scheky series offers tips and tactics for being more productive and creative through technology (especially with a Mac).

One of my least favorite things to do is admit that I’m wrong. I mean, what fun is that? A while back, I set out to start cleaning up my digital crap, to get my life a little more organized. A lot of what I’ve been sharing in the Techie Scheky series is aimed at sharing the tools and tactics I’ve been employing. A few weeks ago, I shared my three tools for three types of tasks. At time time I was using Things to handle the bulk of my daily to-do list, but a week ago I finally listened to every geek out there and made the switch over to Omnifocus. Simply put, what the hell was I thinking waiting this long?

When I was first starting out, I looked at both Things and Omnifocus. I chose Things for two reasons:

  1. It was significantly cheaper ($50 for the app, $10 for the iPhone and $20 for the iPad app.).

  2. It looked significantly easier1.

At the time it felt like the right decision, and Things really adheres to my philosophy of complexit-ease, but to be honest I’ve been having trouble with Things since day one. The syncing was a nightmare2 and I constantly found myself losing data3. While I loved the simple interface, it was never quite as intuitive as I would have liked. And while this is certainly my own fault, I just never managed to become a power user of the app.

Omnifocus on the other hand is far more complex, you have far more options and the learning curve is dramatically steeper. It’s also significantly more expensive at $80 for the app, $20 for the iPhone and $40 for the iPad app. Once again, David Sparks came to the rescue with his thorough, yet easily understood three part screencast on how to use most of the key features of the application. After watching his videos, I felt more confident in Omnifocus in one day than I had in Things after a year4.

While Things did an excellent job keeping me on task, it just lacks the overall cohesion of Omnifocus. In the past, projects and contexts5 felt like obligations rather than useful tools. My gut reaction is that Omni does a far better job making use of these tools. While I love Things for its simplicity, I’m really enjoying the ability to customize different views6 in Omnifocus. While I worry that it will land me in a tinker trap, the ability to keep a perceived simplicity is very appealing. Overall, its focus on start dates rather than due dates7 makes it far easier for you to get a better picture of what’s on your plate and this alone already has me feeling more in control of my destiny.

I have a lot to learn when it comes to Omnifocus, but considering my geek crush on it, I’m certain that it is not the last time you’ll hear about it here on this site. If you are considering a switch or even if you are looking to start from scratch, I seriously recommend you take the time to watch David’s screencasts in order to get a feeling if Omnifocus is for you.

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  1. ‘Cause, I’m lazy.  

  2. Although their cloud sync is finally in beta.  

  3. If you leave Things open on two computers, everything goes haywire.  

  4. Again, probably my own fault.  

  5. Tags in Things.  

  6. Or perspectives as they are called in the app.  

  7. Things default.  

2 Responses to Coming Into Omnifocus

  1. You’re right that Omnifocus has a steeper learning curve. If you’re familiar with GTD, Omnifocus is one of the best software programs out there for using GTD. However, what I love most about Omnifocus is that you can customize it a lot.

    My roommate and I have written about how we use Omnifocus in 10-part article series:

    I hope that will help you get a grip on Omnifocus. Our approach is very different from what I’ve other people seen use Omnifocus, but hopefully it will be of help for you.

    • So far the learning curve seems worth it and I could not agree more on the customization. While the app is more than I think any one person needs, the ability to scale it down to be less so is very appealing. As far as GTD, I adhere to some of it, but find certain things to be too rigid for my liking. Thankfully Omni seems to work well into my workflow (something it seems to do well for many).

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