Worried About OmniFocus?

Last year I joined the OF 4 beta almost immediately after it became available. I was eager to see the mobile experience improve and at first, I thought it was a breath of fresh air over 3. Leading into the end of the year I was starting to worry more and more about the platform. When I open the app now it feels like a mess, buttons everywhere, unclear icons, confusing settings for what is available to edit inline vs. in the inspector, the list goes on. I wonder, should they have put all their eggs in the Swift UI basket?

As an experiment, I started playing with Todoist after Viticci was touting the Obsidian integration and I’ve got to say I’m really happy with what they are doing. The Obsidian plugin is pretty crazy cool and they have some wonderful web API hooks and integrations with other platforms too. I absolutely love simple things that make data entry and accessing to-dos easier, such as markdown links in titles :exploding_head: and natural language support for entering tasks with tags and projects :exploding_head::exploding_head:. Visualizing my projects into sections helps out a lot too. It’s not all sunshine and rainbows - namely, I’m having a hard time giving up my “defer” based system, but I really wish Omni would spend more of their time on these types of QoL improvements. I haven’t decided what I’ll do yet, but I’m very worried about a platform I once loved.

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In Todoist, it is possible to simulate a defer system using tags and filters to create a Dashboard. This is how I set mine up.

Tags
Set up a series of tags for the number of days ahead that you want actions to appear. It’s not perfect as you have to set up a limited number of tags (set up as many as you like, but it becomes bloated with too many…). I used: 2Days, 3Days, 5Days, 7Days, 15Days, 28Days, 30Days, 6Months and 9Months.

Dashboard filter
Set up a filter that uses the above labels with the show tasks due in the next x days option: (the ‘|’ symbol is an ‘OR’ logical operator in the filter)

(today | overdue | (@2Days & 2 days) | (@3Days & 3 days) | … | (@6Months & 180 days) | (@9Months & 275 days))

This filter will show anything that is due today OR is overdue OR is due within 2 days and has the @2Days label…

Once the labels and the filter are set up, tasks should be set with the date in Todoist as the due date and add the label for the number of days that you want to see the task in advance.

I also set my Dashboard filter as my default view.

It is not a perfect workaround, but it worked for me.

Hope this helps.

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I’ve been toying with the OF4 experiment for the past week and I have to say that the improvements I’ve seen make me feel pretty good for it’s future.

  1. I do want to stress that this isn’t a beta. It’s an experiment; in the open. Ken has tried to continue to reinforce that point, but I feel like it’s an important reminder.
  2. They just added (yesterday) the ability for automation actions to be inserted into the “Long Press” action menu. This is a big step forward for me. Theoretically this way you can long press on a task and be presented with actions that you want to see not what Omni thinks is highest priority.
  3. There are currently a large list of automations that I find helpful that work across both iOS and macOS. This is hard to find in many of the other apps. Could they improve how it’s accessible? Yes, but the fact that it’s there is a big boon to their ecosystem and future. Also (based on #2) I think they are trying to iterate on making it more accessible to users.

When I first saw they were working on OF4 I too hoped that it would be a massive improvement on design. I was envisioning this future where OF had all the power of OF, but with the UI of Things 3 or Todoist. While this sounds great, this just isn’t feasible in the short term. This has to be looked at like a long running project that I think they’re trying to chip away at piece by piece, and they aren’t a company that has the resources to devote to just working on OF (like companies like Cultured Code, and Doist). They have to juggle multiple apps, multiple platforms, all native. It’s a lot. It’s a large ship and it will take time to turn it.

That said, I do think it’s a fool’s errand to dream of days where OF’s design is as good as Things 3. Custom design will always be secondary in Omni apps. But I think they are moving more away from utilitarian only and trying to advance that area, and I see signs of good fruit from that in OF4.

As far as being worried for OF’s future? Nah. Omni is a long running company, with a good development team, and they have lots of user support. I don’t think they’re going anywhere anytime soon.

All that said, if Todoist works for you, then by all means use it. :grin:

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Super fair - and I love the automation and hope it is easier to use for people who don’t have scripting skills like me.

I risked sounding overly dramatic, I’m sure they will be just fine. I wish they took the ground-up rebuild opportunity to do something totally different. It just makes me sad I’m falling out of love due to small friction points each day. If only Omni was developing for my personal tastes (geez Ken :laughing:)

Agreed. That’s what I was hoping for as well. However all that said, for every person who wants something fresh there’s likely 50 other people who will be mad it changed. :joy:

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This is amazing, thank you! Between this and realizing I can put a “!” after “every” in repeating tasks to have them repeat based on the complete date basically resolves my only lingering doubts on Todoist.

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Right. Everybody wants it different, but they don’t all want it different in the same way. Just like politics. The fact that 70% of the people are unhappy doesn’t mean that 70% (or most of the time, even 10%) would agree on a solution.

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I use Things 3, which has both defer dates and due dates. It calls them something else, but it’s the same thing, and I rely on defer dates extensively.

I rarely use due dates, so when I’ve experimented with Todoist and other to-do apps that don’t support both defer dates and due dates, I just treat the due date as a defer date and that’s that.

On the rare occasion I need a due date, I just use a note in the text of the task itself, accompanied by a defer date.

Obvs this may be of limited usefulness if you use both due dates and defer dates extensively.

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Yeah, makes sense. “Defer date”, “due date”, “start date” – whatever it’s called, it’s really just the date you tell whatever app you’re using “this is the date I intend to start doing something, so alert me then”.

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The ship may have already sailed for you on OF 4, so I offer this just for your consideration.

Since being on the beta have you been submitting bug reports and usability concerns? I have been prolific in sending OF4 usability notes, and have been pleased to see both that a number of the issues I’ve raised have been improved and that there have been a number of issues that Omni engineers have worked directly with me on to resolve bugs and UX inefficiencies. Not saying any changes were because of me (I’m just one of a chorus of voices), but I am saying that Omni seems to be working hard to respond to user comments. OF 4 has gotten so good–my opinion, not challenging yours–that I use it on iPad like I would the release version. (I still have OF3 on my machine, but I vastly prefer 4 since getting to understand it better.)

I think the iOS version needs some improvement still because I feel it’s not as quick and intuitive on my iPhone as it should be.

All that said, Omni is working hard to satisfy user desires here. Maybe if you have some comments that you have not shared, you could e-mail them? (Again, assuming the OmniFocus ship has not already sailed for you.)

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Add me to the list of concerned. I am literally in active pursuit of an alternative. The Beta aside from being rough, seems to be making changes for the sake of it and in most cases, what they had worked better than what they are proposing.

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Note @kennonb’s comment above - it’s not a beta. I realize that seems like a distinction without a difference to some people, but it’s an important differentiator. A “beta” generally means they have things dialed in and it’s close to being in the form it’s going to release. This isn’t that.

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Totally agree - I’ve been following the Slack channel pretty closely and the Omni team is amazing at responding to ideas - Ken’s like a machine - I don’t know how he gets work done when he is so detailed in responding to customer feedback.

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We won’t know the full set of planned features until OF 4 for Mac releases and the data model is updated. OF 4 for iOS has a major constraint on it, which is that the database is going to stay compatible with OF 3 for Mac. So we’re really only able to get the visual and UX updates.

It is interesting to see the divisiveness on the in-progress new version and it makes sense that this is a time for people to evaluate whether they want to move on, especially if they want to move to something with more integrations like Todoist.

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Wait wait wait! I’ve missed this and now can’t find it! That’s huge. How do I set this up?

Maybe I misread this, as looking at Slack I don’t see anyone else excited about this. So I must be wrong because I think this would be huge. But when they mentioned Quick Options I assumed it was for the long press menu. :disappointed:

I have also longed for some more streamlined, more simple, and more [insert my desire of the time] UI changes.

But regardless of how sexy the other designs are, I always come back to OF because of perspectives and rich keyboard shortcuts. Like literally, they could change the UI to be Courier 12 point and shades of neon… maybe not that extreme, but you get the point.

My workflow is simple, and I could get by with just tags in Things for example, but it frustrates me that they have not taken keyboard shortcuts as seriously as the OmniGroup does.

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Don’t worry about it. It was lost among all the other updates. I think a lot of people are just waiting patiently for the “public” beta or even a golden master official release to come soon.

Here’s something that was in the automation channel at OmniGroup that will tide you over. This Slack post comes from Sal Soghoian, the father of automation:

There’s an image in this post that shows us what automation actions looks like in the contextual menu…

I’d say silence is golden. If people ain’t bitchin’ 'bout it, that’s a good thing! I’m looking forward to figuring this out myself!

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I want to preface this by saying I am not part of the OF4 testing. Haven’t installed it or played with it first hand.

However, over on their forums there are some very vocal threads showing screenshots of OF4 and many people having a familiar complain as this post. At this point I have to agree, the screenshots I have seen the UI is a complete vomit of icons, buttons, and UI elements. Its busy and cluttered. It may have all the features in the world but I don’t seem myself enjoying or being productive in the UI i have seen.

I am holding out hope but if the final version is like what I have seen I will be switching to Things, which seemingly has managed to near master the minimal interface.

Right, but it does it at the expense of great complexity. I don’t think it’s necessarily “Things got it right”, but rather “Things made a different set of design choices that allows them to use a much simpler interface without issue”.

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