Action Groups and Omnifocus 3 - A few questions

Hi there,

In Omnifocus 2 we can say there were two approaches to Action Groups: iPhone/Mac and iPad. Following the first approach, an action group could be collapsed/expanded (Mac) OR Omnifocus would treat it almost like a project (we had to tap on it in order to view its contents). In both cases there was a great advantage: we could create as much sub-levels as needed and Omnifocus would only shows what we desired according to our situation. I could process simple or complex project, small group of items or larger ones: it doesn´t really matter since the program gave me a neat and very functional structure with unlimited hierarchies.

Second approach, which was adopted in the iPad, shows every item of an action group along with its main task and the rest of the tasks contained in the project. There is no collapsing ou expanding: every content it is shown right along normal tasks of the project. In my perspective, this approach seems to make most of my projects cluttered and disorganized to the point that I cannot handle some of them. It is my main reason for not using Omnifocus on iPad.

I bought Omnifocus 3 Pro for iOS a few hours ago, and even though there are fantastic solutions and many improvements that came with the new app, they chose to adopt the second approach instead of the continuing with the first one. Projects with many action groups - or with an action group that has many items -, are now difficult to deal when action groups and its subtasks tends to obstruct our view of the entire structure, at least for me, of course. I confess that I miss Omnifocus 2 solution to this issue so much that I am thinking in return to it at least in the short-term. I am fine for paying for the app because I think this issue will be dealt in its due time for Omni: mac´s version already shows how we can perfectly handle Action Groups without let them block our view of the project.

What do you think of this issue?


That was a good description of the problem, and I totally agree! I really can’t understand why The Omni Group chose the inferior solution from the Ipad for the Iphone, rather than making a good solution for the Ipad. There might be hope, though, as @kcase from The Omni Group thinks a better solution would be useful, as discussed in another thread:
Disclosure Triangles on Action Groups OF3

Let The Omni Group know that you too would like to see a better solution:


This. Especially if you use OmniOutliner to take notes, this is a huge part of using OF. I love that you can drag and drop branches from OO to make an action group in OF, but if you can’t collapse them on the iPad, those action groups are really unwieldy and not useful.

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Absolutely agree with this. A better option on iPad is a must.

Exactly. I will either wait with upgrading and hope for the best or begin using the less convenient method to create projects where I earlier would have used action groups. Without a way to collapse them, action groups are meaningless to me.



The issue became bigger: iPad´s approach was taken to the iPhone Omnifocus 3 as well. In the iPad at least, we got a bigger screen that would reduce the feeling of clutter that comes when we have projects with multiple Action Groups with many items inside them and we must see them all. In the Iphone, however, it gets much worse since screen size is much more limited: in my situation, it is troublesome to go beyond one sub-level of tasks.

Regarding this specific issue, using Omnifocus 3 on iPhone is almost like using 2Do app: although there is still no limit to how many levels of tasks we can go, this power now becomes something that takes away clarity and control of projects, at least in my situation and workflow. In fact, I migrated from 2Do to Omnifocus 2 due to its limitation regarding hierarchies and subtasks, and I would never go back: it is kind of a deal breaker for me if a task management imposes that kind of restrictions.

Mac´s version, which is Omnifocus 2, is now the only one where you can collapse/expand action groups. This version is not compatible with new perspectives and multiple tags, which makes migration a challenging to those that, like me, need Action Groups and use them a lot in their workflow. For now, I have return to Omnifocus 2.22.4: there are a few annoying bugs that I hope they get fixed soon but, right now, I feel that my productivity and workflow is much better using it.

I wholeheartedly agree with Jan_H: without a way to collapse them, action groups are meaningless to me.

One more thing, Jan_H: “begin using the less convenient method to create projects where I earlier would have used action groups.”

Indeed you could, but then unlimited hierarchy would only function in terms of folders and subfolders since you cannot create subprojects. This would make Omnifocus much more closer to apps such as 2Do and Things 3, with their limited structure, then with Omnifocus 2.

I made a small video comparing a project with action groups and normal tasks in Omnifocus 2 and 3 so the differences should be more clear now. I hope that it helps:


I already write to the support, i will let you know when i get an answer.

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Agree the actions group is meaningless now

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I was late to the beta and this particular change slipped under my radar.

For me too, this is an incredibly puzzling decision. One of OmniFocus’s key strengths is showing the user as much or as little as he or she wants to see. But the new action group setting, default expanded outline view, is showing you everything at once. Whether you want it or not.

It’s a bit strange since I think the previous setting was just perfect and accommodated everyone. The new decision feels forced and does not work well, at all.

Yesterday i got a reply from support but it sound like “OK, we are quite busy now and we will let know someday”

at least they replied, haha:)

As you know, OmniFocus 2 presented action groups differently on iPhone and iPad. It sounds like you prefer the old iPhone behavior—but many customers complained about that approach since it meant it was very hard to see all of the tasks in a project: you’d have to tap to go into each action group, then tap to jump back out and tap again to go into the next one, rather than being able to scroll through the whole thing and see them all in context.

Ultimately, we want it to be easy to skip the contents of action groups as well as being easy to view them. Disclosure triangles are perfect for giving that choice, which is how we’ve solved this on Mac and expect to solve this on iOS.


Hi Ken,

We appreciate that you took your time to address our concerns regarding Omnifocus 3. Making navigation easier is a very understandable reason to do the modifications that you mentioned. However, we think that those modifications came at the expense of the power of Omnifocus related to the ways that it handled hierarchies and dependencies.

In fact, for many of us, action groups are now meaningless, making Omnifocus 3 a task management app whose power is now matched by other apps that always had restricted approaches to hierarchies and sublevels. For us, then, Omnifocus lost some of its power and flexibility when this idea of “scroll through the whole thing and see them all in context” was implemented in its iOS app, which is more serious on the iPhone.

I have three small and simple suggestions on this question:

First, disclosure triangles´ behavior should be fast and responsive: it should collapse/expand quickly with a tap, making the navigation easier, functional and pleasurable. If we must wait a little after tapping on the triangle to display its contents and dependencies. At least for me, this function is so essential to the way that I work on Omnifocus that this small wait would be enough to disturb the way that I handle action groups and subtasks.
Summing up: make disclosure triangles behavior as responsive and fast as possible.

Second suggestion (and this would be a harder to implement): introduce a way to only see the contents of a specific action group or even two, three selected ones.

Why? Yes, you mentioned that disclosure triangles solved the issue on Mac and I agree, sure, but comparing there are significant differences here: screen size aside, we have a very powerful Focus feature on Mac that is lacking on the Ios of both Omnifocus 2 and 3.

For example: Suppose that we have a project with five action groups but we only wanted to work and view the contents of Action Group 1. On Omnifocus 2 we could do this simple by tap on it. If this is the only way to handle Action Groups, then, yes, it makes navigation harder due to multiple taps to go back and forward. But if it becomes just one more option available for those that want to focus on one specific action group? Why they need to see project´s overall content if his focus is in one specific part of it? Omnifocus 2 perfectly handles this, all the criticism about its navigation aside.
This is not an extravagant request that would go against the core ideas of the app: the name of the app is Omni ´FOCUS´, it should help us to maintain our focus on things that relevant in our present circumstance.

Last suggestion: collapse all/expand all.
Even on Mac Collapse all/Expand All is not so easy to access (we must resort to shortcuts or using its options windows) but the feature is still there, no doubt. It could be implemented on the Ios version as well. In fact, due to the screen size, it would be even more relevant.
For example: I may have a project with four action groups and each of them can have five to six tasks (a total of fifteen to twenty-four tasks). Now, it would be fantastic that we could collapse/expand all of them with a single tap.
Even OmniOutliner, an app much more related to this issue, does still not have an explicitly accessible feature of Collapse All/Expand All through the main outline view.

Omnifocus 3 is an app with fantastic new features and improvements: Omnigroup should be proud of all the work. But there is also significant room for more improvements and we think that Action Group is one of them. I am satisfied that you, Ken and the Omnigroup staff, is considering our concerns. Omnifocus is a fundamental part of our workflow and we expect that it continues to be so, but right now, at least for me, I cannot use efficiently your app because of the mentioned restrictions. I am expecting this to solved so I can embrace Omnifocus 3.


This is seriously exasperating. Why would default be expanded?



I agree with you: it makes more sense that default should be collapsed so we can expand only those action groups that we are working on.


Ken, thanks for your answer. Even though my guess is that more users are dissatisfied with the new behaviour than the old, it’s good to hear an explanation for your design choice and to see that you plan for disclosure triangles instead. I was afraid that even the Mac version would go in the new direction. Could you hint anything about how long we will have to wait for a disclosure triangles solution for IOS?


I feel exactly the same: this approach does not work for me! :-( (I don’t have (& don’t want) an iPad, so on the iPhone it’s a pity!!!)
Omni Group, pleeease let us choose!!!

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Yes I agree. The code is presumably already written for either option, why not let the user decide?


OF Team - keep up the good work. We need to be able to collapse Action Groups

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If it were written, the option would be there. The outline you see is extremely complicated and was written largely, if not entirely, from scratch.

At this point, you need to email support and make it clear you want this so that support is added sooner rather than later.

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