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A perspective on OmniFocus

The two standout apps for managing todo lists on the Mac OS and iOS platforms are OmniFocus and Things. There are several other very good todo list managers, but these two consistently float to the top in online reviews and user feedback. I ended up with a licence for both apps, as I was struggling to decide which one of the two I would commit to using long-term. I've recently made up my mind, and my decision surprised me a little. I'm going with OmniFocus!

Why is this a surprise? Because Things is so easy to use and aesthetically appealing. Version 3, which was released last May, has won an Apple Design Award and been widely acclaimed in the Mac world. It's a great bit of software. Irrespective of which device you use it on, you can pretty much jump in and find your way around without too much trouble. An in-built help tutorial project will clear up most questions any new user might have. That's about it—after 10 minutes or so most users will be good to go.

2018_03_12_OmniFocus 2
2018_03_12_OmniFocus 2

OmniFocus, on the other hand, is not quite so clean in terms of design and it's a bit clunky. By that I mean it's harder to work out how to use. You really need to invest a chunk of time to learn how do get around this app and to appreciate all its functions and capabilities. I have to admit the first time I tried OmniFocus, I gave up. It was all too hard. After all, this is a todo list app. It should not be complicated.

But it did not sit well with me that I had abandoned a bit of software so many people said was simply brilliant—so I tried again. Turns out OmniFocus is not complicated—it's just not that intuitive. Most users will need to be shown around via the in-built help documentation (I read the whole guide believe it or not!) or some of the Omni Group's excellent online tutorials. I am no expert, but after investing a bit of time I feel confident that I know my way around the app and can use it efficiently.

Things I really appreciate about OmniFocus are:

  • Its two-way integration with Fantastical (Mac and iOS calendar app)
  • The ability to see calendar events within OmniFocus
  • Its versatility when it comes to handling projects
  • The in-built reminders to regularly review your projects
  • The ability to create custom perspectives that provide shortcuts to display certain information
  • The focus on defer dates rather than due dates (this is revolutionary for some users)
  • The large circle item markers on both the Mac and iOS apps (making it easy to tick completed items)
  • The fact that the Omni Group is very transparent with its users in outlining the development plan for its apps (a brand new version of OmniFocus will be released this year)
  • There is a large online forum of users providing helpful tips and tricks

In the end, both OmniFocus and Things are outstanding todo list managers—you can't really go wrong with either of them. But if you are considering OmniFocus, be prepared to invest a bit of time to learn to use it properly. You wont regret it!

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