My Somewhat Unrealistic and Unlikely Wish List for OmniFocus

Spend enough time with an app and no matter how much you love it, you inevitably start thinking about what you wish it could do. Spend as much time as I do with OmniFocus and you’ll occasionally find yourself obsessing about it. To be clear, I love the hell out of this app. It has made my life better, it has made me more productive and while it has a steep learning curve, it gets the job done. But since OmniFocus 2 is in the works, it never hurts to think out loud as to what we would love to see (even if we don’t end up seeing it). Let’s go in order from the likely to the improbable.

Better Design

This one is almost a given for 2.0 as it’s very likely that we will see some of the beloved design of the iPad come to the desktop version. I’ve never tweaked the design myself, but agree that it leaves a lot to be desired and I know that many obsess over the appearance of their OmniFocus. This is partially due to the fact that for the design conscious (which I am not) it’s enjoyable to improve upon an existing design, but it’s also a response to what is often considered to be an underwhelming stock model. Hopefully 2.0 offers an aesthetic that makes it unnecessary to make your own. I also believe that a better, more focused design will make the Mac app far easier to use, which at the moment can be a challenge for those just starting out.

Web Interface

This has apparently been in the works for a while. In fact, it seems that work on the web version of OmniFocus was interrupted by the iPad. While I’ve been fortunate enough to weasel my way into using a Mac in our Windows-based office, I know the pain of not having access to an essential application because of technology that you are required to use (my Windows days were a dark, dark time…). While iOS devices certainly mitigate these challenges, even a web interface for OmniFocus would be a glass of ice water for those who are stuck in Windows hell at work. It could also help with my collaboration fantasies, but more on that in a minute.

Project Templates

While there is already a hacky way to create pre-fabricated templates for similar projects (e.g. a writing assignment, meeting prep, travel prep, repetitive, yet infrequent projects), it’s complicated for the average user to implement. The more I use OmniFocus, the more I have need of these templates and the more I hate the existing unsupported method for creating them. An officially supported, built-in way to create and access these templates would be a helpful step forward.

Collaboration Tools

Let’s start getting into the unrealistic part of my wish list! Unrealistic wish #1, a way to send tasks to others and for them to either pull the task into their own copy of OmniFocus or, if they do not have OmniFocus a way for them to provide updates via the mythical web interface described above. I’m torn on my imaginary implementation of collaboration… Should people be setup as a context or should this be an additional field with the ability to create groups out of people for managing larger projects? Speaking of projects, how nice would it be to be able to track the progress of a multi-person project using OmniFocus? But let’s not get greedy… for now, just the ability to send tasks and be notified when they are completed would be amazing. I’m hoping that with 2.0 the OmniGroup decides to address the popularity of collaboration features in apps like Asana and begin to bring the ability to share and complete tasks into OmniFocus.

OPML Export

This is a small one, but the ability to export projects, folders or even my entire library to OPML, complete with any notes and relevant information (including start and due dates as well as context) would be a welcome addition, especially when it comes to my monthly review. While I really enjoy the iPad for regular reviews, I’ve long desired the ability to visualize the work that is currently on my plate. In my fantasy, I’m able to take the OPML file, drop it into iThoughts HD on the iPad and have a 30,000-foot view of what’s currently on my plate (and yes, I agree, I have very sad fantasies…). There are ways to pull an OPML file out of OmniFocus, but I haven’t found a way to achieve my desired outcome. It’s unlikely that a niche feature like this would ever see the light of day, but a boy can dream, can’t he?

An OmniAPI

Here’s the super unrealistic one! While it’s exceptionally easy to get tasks into OmniFocus, it’s not ideal for taking that information and using it in other places. There are some geeky ways to pull your tasks out, but there aren’t many ways for applications to take advantage of the information held within. I’d imagine that the feature request list for OmniFocus is long and that there are so many areas that will just never be a focus for the OmniGroup. So as the app continues to evolve, I hope that it seeks to become more of an ecosystem. These are just small examples, but I’ve never found it to be the right tool for things like my grocery list or for little reminders. Still, I would prefer to keep everything under one app and it would be amazing if there was a seamless way to create reminders in an app like Due for specific tasks or to be able to use Listary for a specific contexts when creating lists. It would be preferable that small reminders and lists to have a home within OmniFocus, but it’s unlikely that the main app will ever handle tasks like these as well as a more focused app. I can’t see this happening any time soon, if ever, but it’s certainly fun to imagine the possibilities if the OmniGroup began to open aspects of the app where they are unlikely or unable to focus their efforts to other developers…

Like I said at the beginning of this post, OmniFocus is an amazing app and I’m betting OmniFocus 2.0 will be nothing short of exceptional when it arrives. I spend more time with it and get more out of it than just about any application on my Mac. I know it’s expensive, but when it comes to my personal productivity, it’s the best money I’ve ever spent. Now it’s probably far too late to have any of these ideas even considered, but I thought it would be fun to share my mental wish list as 2.0 starts to become less of a rumor and hopefully gets a little bit closer to becoming a reality.

Are you a fellow fan of OmniFocus? If so, what do you hope and what do you expect that we’ll see in 2.0?

11 Responses to My Somewhat Unrealistic and Unlikely Wish List for OmniFocus

  1. You hit the nail on the head with two items on the top of my wish list (collaboration and project templates). Any idea Omnifocus 2 is coming out?

    • No one has any idea except the folks at OmniGroup. I believe they’ve said late 2012, but there’s no confirmed date. Those two are certainly my top two as well.

  2. Michael, what do you exactly want to do with Due and Listary? Be able to create FROM either of those apps and have OmniFocus record the tasks, or create from OmniFocus in a special way and have Due and/or Listary recognize these tasks?

  3. Agreed! Collaboration yools and a web interface is on top of my list.  

    It’s been interesting to me that there hasn’t been OPML export considering the application’s genesis was Kinkless GTD, a hack of an OmniOutliner document.

    My wish list includes, I wish certain projects could be blocked until completion of another project.  I know that you can include them as a group of actions, but some times it’s better to keep them as their own.  Also, when assigning a project to an inbox item,  it would be nice to control if it becomes the next action or last action in the project.

    • Hey Pete,

      I’ve actually found a clunky way to pull out the OPML using OmniOutliner. There will be a post on this on Monday. Also, regarding your project request. It’s a good one, but there’s also probably a clunky way to do it now. Create two projects, enter your tasks for both, put the second project on hold and make the last action of the first project to “Make [Name of project] Active”. You’re right, it would be great if this was automatic, but that should get you pretty darn close.

      I also see what you’re saying about the task order, but also wonder how often it perfectly fits as first or last.

  4. I have used Omnifocus daily for 3 years on Mac and iPhone. Historically I’ve used “Due Date” rather than “Start Date” because of the latter’s “issues”. I just re-tried to use “Start Date” (called “Defer Until” in Omnifocus 2) and have concluded it is a broken concept in the way I use Omnifocus (including the new Omnifocus 2 on iPhone).

    Briefly, if you use StartDate (to alert you as to when to start working on an action):

    – FORECAST view is unusable (on iphone). Any action with a start date in the “past” disappears from the “past” screen of Forecast. (This is so bad I’d class it as a “bug”.) And that’s even when you’ve set it to show Start Dates).

    – I have a “ABC” Perspective set to show actions grouped by start date. Most users of Start Dates would. OK on Mac. Totally unusable on iPhone as 100’s of StartDate=(not set/blank) actions have to be scrolled down to get to the real action list. [***see below] OK on both Mac and iPhone if you use DueDate instead.

    – If you give a PROJECT a StartDate that becomes “available” it will drag ALL of its actions into this ABC Perspective [*** see above]. Thoroughly cluttering it. [you also can't filter to just see ACTIONS not PROJECTS in the Perspective.]

    – You can’t (safely) set your projects to DEFER UNTIL or ON HOLD if you use StartDates. If you do ALL actions will be made “unavailable” (you won’t see them) irrespective of the StartDate. (If you use DUE DATES this works fine.)

    – Following on from this issue. Omnifocus just doesn’t seem to understand the following concept (illustrated with my example). ** I have a project called “Mac Stuff” It’s continuous/never ending and normally “On Hold” I’m not focused on it. ** But I do want all my Mac actions in here. Not scattered across multiple other projects/single action lists that need reviewing/managing – as I’m NOT focused on this. ** I get an email e.g. for FREE version of Software-X next month only – I create an action for the same. ** That action needs a START DATE = Nov 1 and a DUE DATE = Nov 30. ** I will LOSE visibility on this action from FORECAST view and my START DATE ABC-perspective [*** see above] ** My “Work from list” (Hit List / Punch List) is the ABC-Perspective. But my action has been buried by Omnifcous and I now have an untrusted system. Again not a problem by just using DUE DATE.

    Regrettably I’ve switched back to using Due Dates. Clearly there’s a definite NEED for a working “START DATE” (DEFER UNTIL) feature. But I can’t use it the way it’s been implemented in Omnifocus v1 and the new v2 (iPhone).

    Would welcome comments – perhaps I’m missing something.

    • I assume you misunderstand the concept of GTD: “Defer until” means you cannot do anything about this task before the specified date but NOT that you have to start at this date. If you have this in mind the OmniFocus implementation makes totally sense.

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