GTD app suggestion

Hi all,

Request for app suggestions please! This is my first post to MPU. I’m new here (was signposted by a kind internet stranger from elsewhere) so apologies if I have posted in the wrong topic.

I’ve been turning this problem over in my mind now for a few months, and would very much appreciate input from others.

I’m torn between the best GTD-style app for work. My work is very much focused on my diary (telling me where I need to be and when) and tasks with deadlines (much get document X to Y by Z time etc).

Should be simple enough, right?

I’ve been bouncing between:

  1. The built-in Reminders app.
  2. Adding items to the calendar.
  3. Things3 (which I bought ages ago and haven’t really used to full potential).
  4. Omnifocus (which I’m using on trial at the moment).

I like having the ability to break down projects, some with soft deadlines (it would be good to write that article this month). Other deadlines must be met.

I like how Reminders integrates with the calendar so that if a deadline falls on a particular day, it shows up in calendar view. I also like the way I can use projects, headings and groups in Things. The trouble with Things is that it doesn’t seem to cross-populate with my calendar, meaning deadlines in Things don’t show up there. I would also like to have the option of putting on numerous alerts in advance (a week before, 3 days before etc), and the ability to add reminders to items in Things is limited.

I have to confess, I’m really struggling with Omnifocus. It strikes me as terribly complicated, and probably more than I need, which is really a tool to manage deadlines.

Have I missed any other apps? Is anything else particularly recommended?

Thanks for reading.

I can understand it can seem a bit overwhelming
What in it strikes you as complicated?

Looking at your use case it would suit it very well I think.
using defer dates as “nice to do then” and due dates as “must do then” for example.

Have you looked at the intro videos posted at @timstringer’s Learn Omnifocus site?
Might give you some pointers to help you decide what’s best for your workflow.


It all depends on your needs.
OmniFocus is the best, period. It’s also a very deep app, akin to Photoshop.
Do you need the equivalent power of Photoshop for task management?
If so, you will have to learn it. I did, and it took me a year of a love-hate relationship to get there, but boy, am I glad I did.

If not, don’t fret. Stick with something simpler. Things is usually a very good candidate for people who don’t need OF’s power.


Omnifocus is a great app.That can be complex or simple depending on how you set it up. It’s main problem for me is it’s clunky workings on iPhone and iPad. Multiselect is horrid. Things just flies on iPhone and iPad. By far the best keyboard friendly app is Things. It does have it’s limitations though. No attachments like photos and no geolocation. Obviously I use the apps more on iPhone and iPad. Also neither Things or Omnifocus have collaboration. Although Omni Group says it’s eventually coming.

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Well I’m a long time (since 2009) user of Omnifocus. I have played with other things but nothing comes even close to the power OF has. Even now I still find new things I can do within the app and better ways to use it. I’s like a fractal. The deeper you go the deeper you can go. But you can set it up very simply at the beginning.

If switching apps and the conversion process that entails is something you want to avoid at all costs IMO you can’t go wrong with OF as it will continue to be useful and powerful no matter what your future situation.


Have you looked at Todoist? That can do the calendar stuff. More light weight.

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My vote is to use Reminders. You’ll also need the calendar for scheduled items (not for tasks). I, personally, use Things (like the look and don’t need the power of OmniFocus), but would be content with Reminders as well. Move up once you hit the limits of Reminders. Start simple. Build up the habits. Then if Reminders isn’t enough, pick something more complex.

To do GTD, really all you need is:

  1. An inbox
  2. A today box to work from during the day. I’ve recently learned to not over fill it, keeping it to 3-5 items (I can always add more later)
  3. A list of next actions from which to fill the today list (filtered from the projects)
  4. Some way to organize areas of focus and projects

Here’s how I would do it if I started over with Reminders.

What Reminders doesn’t let you do is context tagging, eg. @work or @errands or @phone.

I put a huge widget on my iPhone’s first screen with the Today list to shame me out of procrastinating! It’s only 3-5 items, so it’s something I can do.


I echo the recommendation for OF. I used Things for almost a year and I love the app. It is elegant and has a lot of great features. But, it also has limitations. While I’d prefer to use Things, I came to the conclusion that I needed the power and flexibility of OF more than I needed the elegance of Things. This is why I also use DEVONthink. I don’t love it but I need it.

I wish I could use the default Reminders app but it lacks a lot of the features I need to manage a lot of relatively complex projects across divisions and teams.

I view this a bit like buying RAM and storage. Generally speaking, it is better to buy more than less so that one has the power and capacity if and when needed. While I don’t always need the power of OF or DT, when I do, I do and then I’m glad I have it. :slight_smile:


You say you’re looking for a GTD-style app, but you don’t say whether you actually need it for a GTD system. If you’re all in on GTD, then I agree with the various recommendations that you would benefit from taking the time to learn OmniFocus and figure out how to use its power to fit your needs. I’ve been using OmniFocus for my GTD system for however long OmniFocus has existed, and only lately have I truly opened my eyes to what one feature — perspectives — can do for me that I hadn’t ever considered much beyond the defaults.

Then again, if you’re just borrowing some ideas from GTD and doing your own thing, I wouldn’t necessarily recommend OmniFocus specifically, only because I have no experience using it that way.

I’m also almost wholly Mac-based when it comes to my system, so if you’re looking for something that you’d use equally or primarily on iOS, I also wouldn’t necessarily recommend OmniFocus, but only because I’ve never relied on the iOS app and wouldn’t be able to speak to its strengths and weaknesses.

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+1 for OmniFocus. A bit of work to set it up so it feels right to you, but once that is done, it is the best autopilot ever. IMHO.

what do you feel about OF’s sync? It is todo app with the longest sync time (with Omnisync), even longer than 2do’s Dropbox sync.

I like reminders because of its integrated Apple background sync, but I like Things because of its power and very fast sync time.

That is definitely not normal. OF syncs always extremely quickly for me, way faster than 2Do’s slow Dropbox sync. (And I have a BIG database)

Just to chime in here and definitely NOT from a power user perspective, I’ve vacillated between simplicity and complexity. I’ve had OF since the beginning (kinkless GTD even) but have struggled to use it effectively. I’ve been using Reminders, which works well for simple things (like me! :wink: )

Based on this thread, I’ve decided to replicate my Reminders structure in OF and start there.
This means I can maintain the simplicity in my task capture and review process and when something more complex pops up, I won’t be looking for “something else”, I’ll update my workflow.

I’ve just set up the Reminders sync to OF and it works well, though a little more delayed than I thought, but now I can trust that. So capturing on the iPhone or watch will get to Omnifocus.


I struggled to use OmniFocus for over a year, and then I just made myself double down (triple down) by paying the separate fees for the Mac, the iPad, and the iPhone versions. Then I told people that I was using it so that my friends could ask me about my progress and shame me into using it so I could report back honestly. Yes, that’s how much OmniFocus was not intuitive for me - I needed massive tons of peer pressure. But I stayed with it because I could see how much it could do for me if I would only buckle down and learned the darn tool. Now it has a permanent place in my dock and in my default “good morning” screen set up.
I agree with another poster that this is a tool that you can grow with. I started out by using it for just very basic things, and it was waiting for me when I was ready to use the more advanced features.


I’ve grown with OmniFocus. I use just the features I need today and ignore the rest. I"m very sure that I use 1% of the power of Word, Excel, and Photoshop. I use the features that gets the job done. I know that there will be more features for me to unlock when I need to use it. There are a few features that I’ve never used in OmniFocus but I know it’s there.

I think Things or Todoist a good starting point to learn about task management workflows. It teaches you about how the developers perceive what their ideal workflow of task management looks like. Learn that workflow and master it. If you need more flexibility, OmniFocus can provide that.

The difficult part about OmniFocus is that there is no “template” to follow. You can build your own workflow. But if you don’t know what your workflow looks like, your OmniFocus workflow can crash under the weight of a complex workflow.

I generally think of working form a paper planner first to develop a workflow. Use the alarms or calendar on your computer or smartphone to help you with notifications. But use the paper planner for everything else.

In the beginning, I also focused on a small setup. Maybe it’s just checklists that you want to focus on? Or maybe it’s just daily/weekly administrative tasks to track? Or it’s a project or group of projects that you irresponsible for? Develop solid habits that focus on checking your lists or projects on a daily/weekly basis. I started off with administrative tasks that I do every week or every day. I focused on checking off those tasks in my task manager and got that part of my life under control. Then I started adding Big Rock projects that I was in charge of. After I developed a workflow for Big Rock projects, I proceeded to work on those single one-off tasks/promises/commitments that I made every day/week. Focusing on one area to tackle at a time helped me identify what I wanted to be responsible for and what I could delegate to others.

I’ve found that a paper planner forces me to simplify my workflow to the basic foundation. Digital task managers will only exacerbate the weaknesses in your workflow. If you don’t have the habit of doing a daily or weekly review, your task manager will crumble under pressure as your lists becomes out-of-sync with reality. The daily/weekly review was the crucial element that allowed me to update my digital task manager to reflect current reality. I’ve seen some users who don’t do the daily/weekly review and their app becomes terribly out of sync forcing them to go to digital bankruptcy and review everything all over again.

Any task manager can come crashing down if good task management habits/routines aren’t set up first. Set up the workflow so that you can flex between most of the apps with minimal change. I think I’ve figured out a lot of Things workflows that I could use in OmniFocus with some slight alterations. Yeah, I might miss a feature here or there but I can develop alternate workflows to make up for each app’s weaknesses.


  • Identify what you want to focus on - Administrative tasks, Big Rocks, One-off tasks, commitments to other people.
  • Record in the task manager of choice the lists or projects that will handle that area of focus.
  • Do a daily, weekly, and monthly review to update the lists to reflect current reality.
  • Do the damn work and check it off.
  • Build solid habits that can be used in any task manager, paper or digital.
  • Start with a paper planner to simplify the habits. Slowly transition to digital when you feel you have mastered or created your own GTD workflow.

OP: looks like a lot of good feedbacks for you. Just another +1 for Things. Used both OF and Things, and finally settled for Things because it’s beautifully designed and not too complex for my needs. OF is more for projects and more complex GTD workflows - my 2cents.

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I never think about sync times. If I add something on one device, it always turns up reliably on my other devices. I use OmniFocus across Mac, iPhone and iPad, and I have not had any reason to be annoyed with sync times.

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Dear all,

I just wanted to post a reply to you all to thank you for all the answers to my query.

Having carefully considered all the points made, I have decided to take the plunge with Omnifocus. I’ve paid for it, partly due to hoping this encourages me to use it, having made the investment. I have spent a couple of hours setting it up. It is nowhere near as beautiful as Things (which is surprising, given the cost) but I can immediately see the extra power it has. Hopefully, I will continue to make progress.

Thanks again to all for your feedback and assistance. It was invaluable.


This has always been my experience on this forum as well. Great folks reside here.


As I said in my original post, this was my first use of the Forum. Wonderful community right here. I’m hooked already.