this (quite long) post is mostly about me sharing my feelings (towards task managers, I know, but hey, we’re Mac Power Users). So don’t expect anything too deep or even actionable. I also do not expect a “solution”. I just think often about the topic. I even thought about writing a post about it on a yet to be created blog (although the post would have been a more objective comparison of the features of Things and Omnifocus 3).
So thought I share it with you.
Long time ago, when there was a seemingly abandoned Things 2 and a very shiny Omnifocus 2, with a living community and indefinite levels of subtask nesting, I was in search of a task manager to help me clarify my tasks (and with that somehow also my life). The indefinite nesting was a crucial feature for me, as it allowed me to zoom in on tasks that were too daunting for me, breaking them into ever smaller pieces until I reached the baby steps.
Also the great scriptability with applescript played directly into my tinkerer nature, making Omnifocus behave as I want it to, adding the features I was missing. We were happy together, but there were times and situations, where I needed something different. Something simpler.
I was using Plaintasks in Sublimetext for my daily list. And even wrote some sort of half baked “syncing” with Omnifocus. I thought that was just my desire to tinker and try something new. And finally, I could rearrange the tasks of my day in the order I wanted to tackle them. Just with
At that time, I was still on Android, but the prospect of taking Omnifocus and its inbox everywhere with me, and an incident with my previous phone and the water bowl of my spouse’s dog made me buy an iPhone. People look quite irritated when you tell them that you bought an iPhone so you can finally sync your task manager. Of course, there was also the promised land of the Apple ecosystem, where also everything else should sync flawlessly…
My dabbling with apps for my daily lists continued.
I even used Typora for my daily lists. Those beautiful frameless windows. I realized that though intellectually Omnifocus was very attractive, visually it was not.
I tried the Omnifocus designer, but neither am I a good designer nor did I find a good looking and functional outfit for Omnifocus.
And although having the app on my phone was great, not having my custom scripts there was only half the Omnifocus I was used to. I started using a context to process certain tasks at my mac, for example to decouple the first instance of a repeating task. And that was contexts, not tags, so this sometimes meant ditching the real context or remembering to process the task on the mac. Suboptimal. Small feel-bad-moments did accumulate.
And then Things 3 came out.
It was beautiful and on sale and there was no crazy backlog of tasks in it. I realized that I had used Omnifocus’ power and flexibility mostly to build a today view à la Things. But I was using folders and subfolders and nested tasks for my work stuff, so I was trying out Things just for personal stuff. However, having two task managers does not really work well (at least it did not for me at the time). So I ditched Things, only to find myself very jealous some months later as a colleague of mine was going Things. Was I really jealous of somebody else because he was using a task manager I owned? Yes, I was. Long story short, I realized that the look and feel was much more important to me than arbitrary nesting. Even more important was the realization that a task manager that works out of the box almost as I want it, is much more useful than a task manager that I can applescript to the perfect task manager for me, because on iOS, you (mostly) have to take what you get. No custom keyboard shortcuts. Nowadays I usually don’t even have a physical keyboard for my iOS devices.
And here I am now. I have bought Omnifocus 3 for the Mac and used it for a last project (more as an outliner). I sometimes miss the crazy perspectives that I could build, if I was using Omnifocus. Especially with the cool new condition builder (with arbitrary nesting ). I am looking for reasons to use it, but I cannot find them. And then I would probably just try again to recreate Things in Omnifocus.
And I really cannot go back from the stunning optics of things to the technical looking Omnifocus (and sadly for me, I did like the Omnifocus 2 looks better than the refresh for Omnifocus 3; and there is still the ugly gray title bar at the top).
But my feelings are still strong. All that raw power. I sometimes feel like a confused teenager trying to make a rational decision.
Please do not make this a post Omnifocus vs Things (it’s highly subjective, as is my post). I love them both but there is only room for one in my life.
Unless… unless there would be a global hotkey for quick add for Omnifocus web, because my new job is on a windows machine… that might change things… or I try and stick with Microsoft To-do… or I put an iPad next to my work machine… only time will tell.
Thank you for reading.