Omnifocus… For those that want to be in control.

For many years, I have been listening to the so called Getting Things Done (GTD) experts say that while the tool used to manage tasks is not important, if there is an application out there that follows the basic principles of the GTD methodology, that application would be Omnifocus.

I am an Information Systems PhD student and an Information Technology Compliance Professional. In addition, I manage  personal and family tasks. In other words, I wear multiple hats and tackle multiple tasks on a day to day basis. From having a task that reminds me that I have to issue the meeting minutes for Project X, to a task that reminds me that I have a paper due tomorrow or  that I have to buy a tire for my daughter’s bicycle, my tasks vary in terms of complexity and context.

Background

Throughout the years, I experimented with several well known To-do applications such as Remember the milk (RTM), Toodledo, Google Tasks etc. They were all useful, but for some reason their user interfaces were not user friendly, lacked synchronization or basic features and/or mobile capabilities that made me look for other options. Once I decided to try OmniFocus, I immediately noticed that the application was very clean, user friendly and robust. The fact that I own a Mac and an iPhone, made the decision easier although the price point was something that made me think twice about my decision.

Synchronization using Omni’s servers vs Mobile Me

Initially, I started using the synchronization service that is offered through MobileMe. This allowed me to maintain the Omnifocus from my mac synchronized with my iPhone application. While the service did not have any problems, the fact that I had to pay for the mobile me service and I did not have any other use for the Mobile Me service made look for other alternatives. At that point, I decided to try Omni’s own synchronization server which is free ( as of May 2011) and provides the same service provided by Mobile Me. The transition to Omni’s servers was flawless.

iPad Application

While Omnifocus’s iPad application looks awesome and as a matter of fact provides some additional features that are not part of the iPhone version, it is expensive especially if you take into consideration the fact that you have to buy all three versions ( iPad, Mac and iPhone). At this time, I am using the iPhone version on my iPad to manage my activities.

iPhone Application

This is were most of the action happens during the day. When a new task comes up or a task is completed, I use the iPhone to update Omnifocus. This application provides all the functionality I need to be productive.

Mac Application

The Mac Application is as other Omni applications, very user friendly and easy to use. The keyboard shortcuts make it easy to add new actions. Drag and drop is useful when you want to move actions between folders.

Training:

To discover how Omnifocus can help you be more productive, I would recommend the following screencasts where David Sparks provides a comprehensive overview of the OmniFocus applications.

Things I would like to see in upcoming versions:

  1. Web Interface:  Let’s face it, while I love working on my mac computers, PCs are all over the place. If we had a web application for Omnifocus (something like the one in Remember the Milk) I would be able to manage my actions on any PC or device with a browser.
  2. Actions Comments: While the actions field does have space to enter any comments that you might have , sometimes I wish I had the option to enter updates to the actions (i.e. a date/time, why the task was not completed, etc.).  Yes, the action is in the “waiting” context, however, sometimes it can be there for a long time and updates are necessary. I now you can accomplish this by creating a project instead of an action but sometimes is easier just to be able to write a little update about a specific action.

The bottom line is that I love using  Omnifocus , they keep me up to date at all times and make me feel that I am in control even though in reality I can be buried in actions.

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