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Omnifocus 2 and why I'm disappointed

Before I start, there are some things I want to make clear

I've not played with Omnifocus 2 so this post is based on reviews of the launch event and blog posts from others. Most of the posts I've read are consistent in what they say so I've based my thoughts around confirmed changes

I respect Omni as a company they are driven and focused. Omni engage with their customers (not users) and provide quality products at a fully justified premium price. This article is not a criticism of the decisions they've made. just my take on Omnifocus 2.

I use Omnifocus all of the time Of that usage 95% is on the iPad, 4% on the iPhone and 1% is on the Mac. unfortunately I use a windows computer at work.

I love Omnifocus it's a brilliant product which helps me out several times a day to ensure I get everything done that I need to. I've used it exclusively for the past two and a half years

Omni have worked incredibly hard on Omnifocus 2, this article is not in any way belittling Omnifocus 2 as a product.

Before I get onto the reasons I'm disappointed, let me tell you what I like about what I've seen of Omnifocus 2:

  • The iPad look and feel have been taken to the desktop, this isn't just a copy, it's all been thought through and it looks much improved
  • Review and Forecast have come across which are the two biggest 'missing' features from the desktop
  • The two versions open the product up to more people with OF Pro being expensive, but worth if it you'll use perspectives and AppleScript, but the standard version matching the iPad experience and offering a lower price of entry to OF on the Mac.

As explained earlier, I don't use the desktop version very much, but I like what I've seen so far, and if I had the opportunity to use OF for Mac more, I'd buy the Pro 2.0 Version

If you don't use the Desktop, why do you even care? I use Omnifocus on the iPad version of Omnifocus for hours every day, it's central to my day. It's a great product, but that doesn't mean it couldn't be better.

Omnifocus 2 for the Mac is the first version 2 product across all Omnifocus products, and as such, it sets the tone for the other platforms. The back end has had no significant upgrades that I can determine from the reviews and this suggests that there will be no significant back end changes until version 3 which could be 3, 4 or 5 years away.

Why does this matter?
Lack of change to the back end have left out two of the biggest features I was holding out for on OF 2

Multiple Contexts / Metatdata / tagging

One of the largest omissions in my opinion is that Omnifocus on the ipad does not allow you to set multiple 'tags' or contexts against each task, e.g. energy, priority, location, estimated time, tools or people.

But GTD doesn't allow you to do that, it's not Canon. you're right, but what is often forgotten is that GTD was released in the early 1990s, these days we have the Internet, phones, tablets or notebooks with us all of the time. GTD's Canon on contexts isn't relevant in 2013.

Here are a few examples where multiple contexts or tags would be a massive benefit

  • I'm tired and I just want to batter through low energy tasks, watering the plants, filling my stapler, ordering stationery, other contexts may not matter.
  • I have x minutes between meetings and want to complete a task(s), phone call, email, it doesn't matter so long as it takes less than X minutes.
  • I'm in a particular location with several tools and want to knock some tasks off, the location is the important thing
  • I'm in a meeting with several people who are contexts of mine, but instead of tagging tasks to the meeting (as well as the people's individual contexts) I have to go through each person's context to see what can be completed.
  • I serve 14 Directors and similar numbers of managers, but some tasks only need sign off from one of three of those people. Yes, I could set up three actions, but that's wasteful.
  • I need to be in a particular location with a tool and a person to do a task. Yes I could split it into a project with multiple tasks, but quite often all three can be true with little effort, and setting up the project is a waste of energy

Multiple contexts or tags would make me much more productive, but Omni don't agree that this is the way forward. I respect Omni for making this decision, they always think things through carefully, but I feel they've missed on opportunity to make OF a more rounded product.

Group working

The Second area where I feel that Omni have missed on opportunity is that ability to either share tasks between people's discreet databases, and / or create secondary team databases which hold team projects and tasks as a separate entity to your own database. This is kind of possible on the Mac, but it's a kludge, and not possible on the iPhone or iPad versions

It's something which was mentioned as a potential feature of OF 2 which has not materialised and it's omission closes the door on OF as a collaborative team product.

So this leaves me wondering if there's another product out there which meets my needs better. It will be a wrench to move to another solution, but I may need to.


  1. I don't know if I'd enjoy having someone try to forward me a project/task without asking my permission. Teamwork is oftentimes more complicated than just delegating a project/task to someone else's database. At least with e-mail, I can tell someone that I am forwarding the request to someone else or refuse to entertain it with the reasons why.

    For higher horizons or perspectives, a project management program like OmniPlan would be better suited for collaborative projects with goals, timelines, shifting milestones, etc. Those are things that OmniFocus are ill-equipped for. There are a lot of things to do with more complicated collaborative projects that aren't covered in OmniPlan.

    There are tentative rumors about OmniPlan being able to push tasks to OmniFocus 2. Upon completion in OmniFocus 2, the tasks would be marked as completed in OmniPlan.

    I think the idea is to keep OmniFocus as the personal task management tool and OmniPlan as the collaborative project management tool. Those are two different levels in terms of tool set and needs.

    Yes, multiple contexts and tags would be interesting but the OmnIFocus forums have indicated that they are not in the cards at the moment. But it will always be considered later down the line.

    If you need tasks that can be done in 15 minutes or less, you can always create a perspective sorted by duration and look in the 15 minutes or less section.

    Locations are already a part of the iPhone and iPad app.

    If you are in a meeting with a group of people, instead of putting context by people's name, how about creating a context for the group itself? Something like the Architects agenda when you are meeting with a group of architects. A context called hardware store where you can visit a wide variety of hardware stores and not just one. Instead of creating a context labelled for separate grocery stories, just create a context called General Groceries. Whenever you are in any supermarket, just select the General Groceries context.

    We don't always have to make a software bend to us. We can also bend to it. I know that sounds like a cop-out but sometimes we have to be flexible too. I know I hate Microsoft Word and prefer Adobe InDesign for layouting a book. But my boss wants me to use Microsoft Word for compatibility reasons. So I learn to bend and go with the flow.

    Despite Things having tags, I don't see it being touted by the blogosphere. Things is great for people who are task oriented. OmniFocus is better for people who are project oriented.

    1. All good points, but I'm not looking to use Omnifocus as a project planning tool, rather a task management took, just with the ability to pass those tasks from person to person. as with anything like this, it would need agreement between people outside the system before assigning duties.

      Locations are a part of the iphone app, not so much on the ipad.

      You missed my point on people and groups. I work with approximately 20 people who I need to consult regarding things. if I'm in a meeting, or bump into them in a corridor, I can't be checking several contexts to see if there's anything I need to ask them. I'm not asking software to bend to me, merely to be a little more flexible.

      Thanks for your comments.


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