Whining: Things user is sorry that it didn't work out with Omnifocus

Hi there,

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 Ctrl+Cmd+Up/Down!

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 :heart:). 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 :wink: 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.


OF3 has e2ee and is just more powerful.

For me, Things is more of a personal GTD. If you run complex projects , OF3 is the solution.

Do you find that you need a project manager too?
OF always seemed like a complicated task manager, rather than a project manager.

Thank you, @Nils, for this reflection. That I could follow along and empathize and agonize right alongside you says something about us all—that we are aware of how simultaneously silly and impactful these choices are. I wish you, myself, and everyone else who obsesses about such things luck at the tinkering, the handwringing, the getting to done.


I’ve come to the point that I have stopped fiddling and obsessing about the apps. I use. For projects and tasks, I’ve settled on Asana for team related projects, of which I have many, and the new Reminders app for all personal projects. This is working well enough for what is important—getting the work done.

There are enough serious issues and stresses in this world. I’ve decided not to add make choosing a project application one of them. :slight_smile:


I had the same “issue”. I actually went through the OmniFocus Field Guide and truly tried it out but… I’m not that busy. I am 25, no family, one single job that has its own task management. Things and apps like it are enough for me.


I was thinking about it, but I need a centralized “brain” for all my projects. I use Bear for this and every project has a pinned note with a link to Devonthink, InkDrop (md editor), Things (I am just starting to play with OF) and important/final documents. I need my task manager for quick looks on due tasks and reminders with an easy reference of what needs to be done in the near future on the given project. I don’t want to clutter the task manager with too much information, so even if OF kinda lures you to put too much stuff i it, I try to keep it simple. The main difference to Things is e2ee, easier automation and I can create complex projects that flow to my liking without the need for constant compromise like in Things.


ZLet me just say, like others have, but I feel you. I went through the nearly exact set of dilemmas recently. I appreciate the complexity of OmniFocus. But in some ways you can see the legacy of OmniOutliner within OmniFocus. To many, and for me for a couple years, this level of complexity and Organization has some value. But in the last five or six months I have sought something simpler. When I initially move towards a belief that I needed task management, I debated between things and OmniFocus. But since I had very little experience with the task management system in general, I saw “feature set“ (in hindsight) as the value of a product. I saw feature sets as a quantitative metric, as opposed to a qualitative metric’s.

So, in essence, I made a significant investment into task management with OmniFocus. Spent months fine-tuning my understanding of the feature set in an attempt to build an affective workflow. For full disclosure, I am a college professor Mana Jean anywhere between six and nine classes of 40 students or more, in combination with the fact that I might be teaching between 3 to 5 different class topics in a given semester. And not only do I need to focus on class management during the semester, I also need to focus on pedagogical development between semesters and during the semester — in hopes that every semester will be better than the last.

OmniFocus allow me an opportunity to organize my life. But I ran into the same dilemma. Do I need this much customizability and complexity? My jealousy of the beauty of things three periodically emerged with me clicking into the App Store and reading user reviews here on the forum. It had always irritated me that there was no way to trial things. So I decided to jump in to the iPhone app, as it is not that great of an expense.

What it came down to, as many of sad but if you truly realize, your task manager is an extension of your self. It is a tool that always works in tandem with your own contexts, tendencies, psychology. As you say, there are far too many variables to objectively determine whether this or that task manager is the “right“ one.

The feature that things offers, that really sold me, was the “today“ view and The “start date“ feature. I do recognize that you can replicate these features within OmniFocus with some customization. But the combination of aesthetics and simplicity and things to gave me the flexibility to determine what needed to be done within my chaotic life.

I still find moments where I wish I was back on OmniFocus. Particularly when I take on very complex projects for the college administration or professional development. And maybe I will return at some point in the future. But at this point things does the thing.

(So it goes, in another episode of task management therapy)

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I use Curio with Kanban-type boards to do my project management. When Kanban is not your cup of tea, you can also just use the Status Shelf in Curio to track tagged figures. I consider this aspect one of the hidden gems of the app.


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Curio looks great, but it has no iOS app :frowning: I love doing research inside Margin Note 3 on iPad using Apple Pencil and basically being able to do it anywhere.

But I like the idea of Curio. Reminds me a little of Tinderbox. I will take a closer look at Curio. It looks extremely uselful :slight_smile:

I have to put in a plug here for Agenda.
It nicely integrates and links notes, reminders, and calendar events together. And keeps getting better.
Available on all the Apple OSs.

I used it. It is a great app, but I started to hate the way it handled categories and projects. After a while, my left pane was overcrowded … I went to Bear for that reason and Bear can also encrypt notes, which is important to me. But I miss the calendar approach of Agenda.

Agenda is developing at a nice pace, so if they add/change some of the stuff, I would love to come back :slight_smile:

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Can someone really explain what it is that you like about the Things design? I just flat don’t get it. To me it’s clunky and doesn’t provide sufficient info easily.

From my response up the tread, here was the elements that really sold me.

But to build on that:

  • an uncomplicated “Today” view really provided the key feature for me. Today is a list of things that I am currently working on. Not a list of things that I need to do by today. In effect this is a start date. But the keys here is that if you don’t complete your tasks on “Today,” they just roll over to the next day.
  • the “Evening” feature is nice, but I wouldn’t have switched for that. But it helps delineate what I might do when I get home, as opposed to right now.
  • while aesthetics shouldn’t be a primary motivator, I really do enjoy the look of Things - from typography to layout - the UI/UX in general.
  • simplicity in “view.” I didn’t want to see a lot of data and information until I needed it.
  • efficient gestures are nice - the “Magic Plus Button” (I think they call it on iOS/iPadOS) is a great feature that allows you to create todos in place, as well as headings (I would not pay for the macOS version - too expensive)
  • how the app deals with headings and notes is nice and clean.

But as you say, you want “info” easily. I don’t. Frankly the new Reminders in iOS 13 nearly ruined my excitement about Things, but I find reminders a bit too clunky myself (although it has some features I would love in things)

In OF all tasks stay available until done. The forecast view gives the due date version. I’ve never even thought about wanting a version of Today, like you describe. That’s not how I interact with my list of things to do. Ditto for the evening thing you describe.

I use contexts (tags) to decide what I can do at home. Or in my case since work and home are the same place I use contexts for all sorts of locations.

Aesthetics is so subjective. I found Things hard to read and confusing to interact with. So much wasted space and so little useful information without a lot of hassle. viva la difference I guess :wink:

Another use case I don’t use. I don’t add things to OF via iOS at all. I do all my processing on my main mac. iOS is for doing and checking things off, whether via iPhone or iPad but not for adding or reviewing. That’s part of inbox clearing for me and only happens at my desktop machine for efficiency. Part of my whole, just because I can do something everywhere doesn’t mean I should. I do things where and when I can be most efficient at them for the way I think and work.

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Our life situation changes over time. When my life wasn’t complicated, I was quite happy with a f
Ranklin-Covey dayplanner and ran my life on that during my college years. I had a structured life with my work and class assignments explicitly spelled out for me. When I graduated, got a job, had kids, and a side job developed, I had to ramp up and get busy with a digital task manager. OmniFocus has managed my life quite well. I imagine that if I retire and or quit my side job, I can transition to Things or even Apple Reminders.

Life ebbs and flows. If you need the power of OmniFocus, it will be waiting.

I think that most of my frustration with OmniFocus (or any other task manager) was that I was in planning mode and tinkering with my setup so much. But once I figured that out, I was good to go. Nowadays, I only visit my task manager when I am doing project curation and reviewing. My last step during planning mode would be to pick the the three Most Important Tasks (MITs) I want to do today and write them on a fresh page of my Bullet Journal or piece of paper. Then I hide my task manager on my Mac so it’s not visible. Next, I go into action mode and look at just those three tasks. I’m not looking at my Today view. I don’t even want to open up OmniFocus or things to see what is on the Today list. if I have to open up my task manager, that is just an invitation for me to get distracted and suddenly go back into my projects list for another task that is more appealing to do other than the three MITs I already selected.

I feel the zen when I don’t have my task manager visible. I am focused on what needs to be done. At mid-day and the end of the day, I go back to my task manager and check the tasks off. I also add any new tasks I wrote down in my bullet journal and process my OmniFocus inbox. Like email, I don’t want to keep my email app open. I already have enough work selected in my bullet journal. I purposely choose midday and end of day to spend time in there. Otherwise, I’ll be stuck in email swamp-land or task manager quicksand and I’ll feel like I’m drowning.

The less time spent in my email app and task manager, the more focused I am on actual work.


It seems that OmniFocus is more like a platform that you turn into anything you want. See @Kourosh ‘s book for that: internal links, unparalleled scriptability and infinitely customizable perspectives make it more like a tool that you can make yours and will look like nobody else’s, but that you can make sing.
Things, in comparison, gives one take on your tasks that out of the box, with a peaceful and simple design. But, ever so subtly, you are forced to work the way it has decided for you, the way it breaks tasks and projects down, the way it decides what « Today » is. If it suits you - and it does for many people with a few well-separated areas of responsibility - good for you. You are right to eschew OF’s complexity.
But if you are juggling with vastly different roles as a freelancer for example I find that nothing can scale the way OF does. Because you can truly create workspaces within OF with links, launch tasks (again plugging @Kourosh ‘s awesome work here) and the vastly underestimated focus mode.


ooooo I think you hit the nail on the head…

I am a farmer, programmer, community activist, artist, archivist, board member, etc. etc. etc. I can’t imagine handling all my roles in anything less capable.


Oh a thread comparing OF with Things3, my favorite topic. I sank so much time into trying both over multiple months, I even have a github repository full of applescripts for omnifocus that I execute with Keyboard maestro.

Despite being a “omnifocus power user” I kept going back to Things and the main reason for that is mainly: keyboard shortcuts. Things3 has excellent keyboard shortcuts on all platforms, omnifocus doesn’t and I just can’t get why the omnigroup isn’t finally adding them.

I want shortcuts to quickly change things like tags, project, defer dates, due dates and so on without having to use keyboard maestro to frankenstein my own bindings together (which itself isn’t even working so well because it involves moving the mouse to certain coordinates sometimes). The app is expensive and yet I can’t do basic things without moving the mouse??

Things, on the other hand, is 100% usable without ever touching the mouse. That’s what I call a power tool. Even on iPad I never ever have to touch the screen. A lot of my workflow is quickly tabbing into things, moving some stuff around and tabbing back to my actual work.

There were other oddities like not being able to reorder tasks (which might have been fixed now?) or creating a new task in a perspective not being possible because OF has no idea how to create a task to match all of the perspectives filters.
With applescript and all, I spent far more time organizing OmniFocus than actually using it. OF started taking up mental space to think and research about possible flows I could try to make it better, instead of freeing up mental space and letting me concentrate on the actual tasks.

Things3 isn’t perfect. I want saved searches to quickly filter for certain tasks. Tag support also needs some love to make it good. But in my opinion, Things3 wins for me for being the power tool I need.

Also Things3 is currently 30% off, perfect time to get it.

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You can have “perspectives” in Things. Search for a tag and save the link of the search. It can look like this: Omnifocus and Things.

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