Returning to OmniFocus

I have leveled some pretty heavy criticisms against OmniFocus (Mac, iPhone, iPad) in the past. I was disappointed by the lack of feature parity among the different versions of the app, frustrated that there was no web interface, and annoyed by the high price of the software.

In January I decided to switch over to a different system. I ultimately chose Appigo’s Todo Cloud because it had most of the features I was looking for including a web interface and great iOS apps that all had the same features. It was also reasonably priced at $1.99 per month. It seemed like a no-brainer.

After using Todo for several months I started to feel uneasy. The web interface wasn’t terribly elegant and I simply didn’t feel confident in the system. It’s lack of a review feature had me worrying I would miss something important and I “solved” that problem by assigning a due date to everything. This made me feel overwhelmed and I lost trust in the system.

It was around July that I started to contemplate a return to OmniFocus. Version 2.0 for the Mac had been released in May and the folks at the OmniGroup were promising to ship OmniFocus 2.0 for iPad along with iOS 8 in the fall. When I compared Todo to OmniFocus, I wrote:

When I was using OmniFocus I felt like I was completely in control of my work and all the demands placed upon me. I trusted the system and it never let me down. I do not have the same sense of trust with Todo and that’s a scary thought. While I haven’t made the jump back to OmniFocus yet, it’s looking more likely every day.

In August I dove back into OmniFocus and found myself feeling more confident. I was back to a trusted system and once again had a handle on my work. The last couple weeks of August were perhaps the most demanding of my entire career as a principal but OmniFocus helped me stay on track.

The OmniGroup stayed true to their word and launched OmniFocus for iPad alongside iOS 8. The iPad app was the oldest of the three apps and was in dire need of a refresh. It now looks fantastic and is a pleasure to use.

So, where did all of my criticisms go? The lack of a web interface is still a problem that I think needs to be addressed. Adding this would increase OmniFocus’ user base and perhaps increase the pace of development due to increased revenue. Of course, this is pure speculation on my part.

Feature parity was another big stumbling block for me but this has mostly been solved. Forecast mode is now available in all three versions (Mac, iPhone, iPad) and this is probably the area of the apps that I spend the most time in. Perspectives can now also be created on the iPad thanks to an upgrade (which is free for those who purchased OmniFocus 1.x for iPad). The only feature that I consider critical and does not exist on all three versions is Review which is missing from the iPhone.

Finally, pricing is now more palatable. OmniFocus 2 for Mac cost me $25 because I’m a grad student. If I weren’t a student, it would be $40 for the standard version which is 50% off the 1.0 version. The iPhone app is still $20 but the iPad app has dropped from $40 to $30. A $20 in-app purchase is necessary to gain some of the advanced features but users who purchased 1.0 get these for free. While I still like Todo’s subscription pricing better, I am glad that it now costs less than $100 to buy the full suite of OmniFocus apps.

In addition to addressing my criticisms, OmniFocus for iOS now has another incredible feature which has been covered at length in other reviews. The day’s tasks are now shown in the Today section of Notification Center which allows me to see what I should be working on very quickly. I use this every single day.

Since switching back to OmniFocus, I can honestly say that I have better command of my work. The app helps me to quickly determine what I should be working on. Most importantly, I know that because I have everything in this one system, nothing will be dropped or forgotten. I can defer a task or project for months and it will show up when the time comes. This gives me an increased sense of confidence and allows me to devote brain power to other things.

I firmly believe that technology should make our lives better by helping us to be more efficient and allowing us to focus on what’s truly important. OmniFocus fulfills this promise by serving as my external brain. I once again feel comfortable recommending OmniFocus for Mac, iPhone, and iPad to any busy professional trying to balance his or her responsibilities and commitments.