Omnifocus 4 Beta Feedback

For everyone that is on the TestFlight beta, what’s impressions so far?

I am a long time OF user and finally got my invite this week to take a look and truthfully my initial impression is being shocked this ever made it out of a UI design meeting. What has always been a piece of software that has a lot of power to let you turn it into whatever you need it to be has seemingly become very opinionated about how it should be used. The navigation, especially on iPhone, is very cumbersome – lots of tapping and no swiping. When you tap on a task it just brings up a series of feature icons (tags, defer, due, notes, flag, etc), but no explanation as to what any of it actually does. So it becomes on the user to internalize what each function does, which makes running through there as a brand new user or someone in a hurry to be a frustrating experience. I’ve tried changing layout settings between default, fluid and columns, but it doesn’t seem to change anything on the phone. Also once you activate a task by tapping on it there is no way I have found to “untap” it (i.e., remove the highlighted, active status of that task in the UI).

The UI is a bit better on the iPad, the larger screen giving them room to make it less of a pain to navigate between perspectives, but the same UI oddities listed above for how tasks are displayed remains. Additionally the ability to customize the inspector appears to have been 86’d and on both platforms they have added several items to the menu bar and give no explanation as to what they actually do (even after tapping a few of them it’s not immediately obvious).

It’s to the point where I’m a little concerned about the direction they are going in the future with OF and I’ve started to look around at all of the same options that have always been there in the task management space (and that have always been completely underwhelming to me).

So I wanted to see what everyone else thinks of the experience. Is there some fundamental piece of knowledge about how to navigate this UI that I am just missing? I know this was supposed to be a big shift for them with Omnifocus, so I’m not above thinking that there is just a part of it that I’m not getting. As beta software goes I feel like it’s pretty stable at this point, which is great from that standpoint. So I’m hoping someone else here with more knowledge than me on this can help me navigate through some obvious thing that I am missing on the UI.

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Did you see what Ken wrote to testers recently (might be pinned in the testing Slack channel?) Here’s part of it:

Thank you to so many of you for all of the great feedback! After reading through some of the recent comments I With over two thousand testers now, we’re hearing feedback that even in its current state v4 has dramatically improved the experience of using the app for a number of people, which is great to hear. But we know that’s not yet the experience for everyone, and I’m very aware of all the work we still have ahead of us.

To those of you who are frustrated by what you’re currently seeing in the TestFlight, I hope you won’t get too discouraged by our work-in-progress. We made this TestFlight available for you to test much earlier in the process than usual specifically because we wanted to get feedback about our overall direction before spending months of time polishing what might be fundamentally the wrong set of interactions.

As a result, what you’re seeing today is very much a work in progress—like coming in to view an early sketch on a painter’s canvas, months before their work is finished. There are still big gaps of unfinished functionality[…].

If these TestFlight builds were close to being done, we’d be opening the TestFlight doors wide rather than requiring month-long signups. We think there’s a lot of value to getting feedback from new customers throughout the process. We do have a clear set of goals in mind—which I hope you’ve all seen and read!—and in the current test builds some of those goals have been realized, while other areas are still just a rough sketch of the broad picture. We still have months of work ahead of us.

[…]

During the initial phases of this TestFlight much of our attention has been focused on what information is presented where and how people get from one place to another. As we move on to later phases more of our attention will be turning to how best to convey that location, hierarchy, and structure: by adjusting layout, tuning whitespace, tweaking font sizes and weights, and so on. We consider that work to be essential to providing a good experience, but we need the subject matter to be in the right place first.

If any of you are discouraged by the process, please feel welcome to step away for a week or month—or even until the whole release is done and ready to ship! We’ll have a free two-week trial period when the app ships, as usual, so you’ll have plenty of opportunity to evaluate the final product then. (And with thousands of testers, we have no shortage of great feedback!)

Thanks again to everyone for taking the time to help us refine these designs! We appreciate all of your feedback, both positive and negative, and you’re all helping us make the final product better.

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I put down my experience on the Omni forums

I absolutely do not like the new interface, period.
I want to, I tried to, but just don’t

If this is the way they are going I think I have until the next iOS/macOS release to look for an alternative because v3 still works (for now)…

But oh boy, will I be losing a lot of automation benefits

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My thoughts as well. I have been saying so on several occasions in the Slack channel. If this is the way OF goes, I’ll hold onto v3 for as long as it will work.

Thanks for posting the note from Case.

As someone who’s divorced OmniFocus in favor of some other shiny thing, twice a year since OF 1 was launched, and then went back again and again, I have mixed feelings about the app. I really want it to work for me because the underlying philosophy of the design is very appealing, but the time always comes that I feel I’m lost in a swamp when I use OF. When I first opened OF 4 beta on an iPad I thought: “ah, refreshingly crisp looking”, but then I got lost in the swamp again when I wanted to modify a perspective. I’ve put OF 4 aside for now; no divorce, yet.

I was not impressed by the beta either. Expanding and hiding different panels on the ipad has been very disorienting.

Not sure what time scale they’re planning to release it. If it’s along ios 15, I don’t think there could be a significant enough change.

I like the amount of work they’re expecting from OF4 beta users and have certainly put in my share of screen recordings submitted via Settings > Contact Omni. It’s a pretty cool heads-down mood in the Slack, actually, due to so many communicating with Omni by submitting bugs and requests directly.

Speculating beyond that to the larger goals and the launch, unsure what I think. I’d certainly like them to accomplish their goals, especially on iPad where I really just want to sit down and quickly type into and shape task and metadata outlines. They have a design and development challenge ahead of them as they seek to increase the utility of the mobile and tablet apps at the same time as they’re rewriting to use Swift UI. I’m sure @KillerWhale and other Swift developers can tell what kind of trouble they’re having with Swift UI by some of the quirks in the builds.

If pressed, I’d say that I will have trouble going back to OF3 once OF4 solves some UX issues and becomes feature complete. Which makes me happy with the vector of the OF4 beta, if not its current state.

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What they have achieved with SwiftUI so far truly is a feat of strength and an inspiration as to what you can do. However, in my humble opinion (as a user), I have a major usability issue with them relying on the auto layout of the tasks’ metadata. Everything frankly looks ugly beneath the tasks, with no alignment, poor typography, which makes it impossible to scan efficiently a task list where everything is compact and remains in the same place as with OF3. I wish they would put stronger constraints as to how that metadata displays. (SwiftUI allows for more rigid placement, it’s a design choice.)

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The Release Notes did state that they were experimenting with column layout and temporarily took it out of the most recent TestFlight release.

Column layout is difficult on iPhones and smaller screen and works better on the larger iPad.

The first few days is definitely a shock because we’re trying to retrain our muscle memory with what each new icon does. Once I figured it out, it was a breeze. It didn’t take long.

I think the actual intent was to hide any field that didn’t have data if there is no data set. If there is data inside a field, it would show. If a task is selected, it reveals the icons so that we can choose which field to set.

It’s muscle memory. Once we figure out the language and what each icon means, it becomes easier.

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At the Moment it is possible to deselect a task by tapping the left most part of the selection (I tap right below the check-off circle) … not intuitive and maybe just a work in progress solution?

That said after reading Kens post I decided not to use the beta anymore for the foreseeable future. There are just too many things I don’t like about the current state (and I’m afraid direction). I was actually hoping for a more minimal UI but this far they managed to put even more buttons in the top and Button menu bar which even on my XS Max looks overloaded … let alone on a Mini?

But again, I get that it’s a Beta and work in progress and things probably will change - but my first impressions were definitely disappointing​:pensive:. Well I keep my fingers crossed :crossed_fingers:

Some friction can be that we are not familiar with the new UI elements and it feels like it’s too busy.

The Help screen is available inside the Settings icon (the gear wheel). It is a good way to get acquainted with the new design language by RTFM first before deciding to just delete OF4. Visit the Help screen and you’ll discover a lot of new ways to interact with OF4.

It would be a shame to just give up when you haven’t learned about what each icon does.

The Help screen is still fluid because the TestFlight is ongoing and final features are still being ironed out. Check back on the Help screen every once in a while. It can help when you’re unsure of something.

No swipe gestures. Touch targets are small, I keep selecting the date/time picker when using multi select. Multi select is horrid. Things 3 blows this new version away in my opinion.

The Release Notes state that swipe gestures are forthcoming. Touch targets are still being played with.

It’s an opportunity for us to get familiar with OF4 and to provide valuable input from the many testers about the direction of OF4. Nothing is set in stone. I think the main focus is on getting the outline’s inline editing to a new level. If we decide to put aside OF4 and just go back to OF3, we won’t be able to contribute.

I’d say let’s install OF3 and OF4 side by side. You can use the Omni Sync server to sync your database to both versions. Or use OF4 by itself if you’re leery of using your data with the TestFlight.

Use OF3 when you’re getting work done. Play with OF4 when you have the time. Some of us will be daring enough to try using it in a real world situation. If we put OF4’s feet to the fire, we can find where the hiccups are and give input into what we encounter and maybe offer ideas about how to tackle a given situation.

The more people putting OF4 to the test will give the developers more ideas about what’s working and what can be improved upon. The more real world use that is applied to OF4, the more battle ready it gets.

That’s the whole point of TestFlighting. C’mon, everybody. Don’t try a TestFlight for a couple of weeks and then decide it’s not for you. OF4 is still evolving and there are exciting things to come!

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No doubt. I always test for apps like OmniFocus and things. It’s the only way they become better.

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I find it stable enough for day to day use, and only got crashes the first days. Actually it’s pretty cool to see the app shaping itself into what it will become. I for one prefer the new look and feel. Obviously ymmv.

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I’m still undecided but am sticking with it for the reasons you state. I’ve only had to resort to OF3 for a few (more heavyweight) maintenance tasks.

just got the invite but it requires iOS 15 so I can’t test on my phone….

i’m running the beta with IOS 14 on my phone, and IOS 15 public beta on my ipad - no issues with compatibility.

Hmm…the beta version in my Testflight requires iOS 15 (it won’t let me install on iOS 14. I’ll give it a try on the iPad which is running 15b4.

Yesterday’s OF build was the last one supporting iOS 14. The app has been rebuilt in SwiftUI and there are many new features in the framework that Omni wants to take advantage of (such as swipe gestures in lists) to take the app to another level. I think they’re right to do so. (Which answers your gripe as to why there are no swipe gestures yet, @ptgn123 )