How can the data density be improved? [OmniFocus 2.3 added custom columns layout]

Apologies for my critical nature here – I’m an ardent fan of OmniGroup and their products (OmniOutliner 4 is top notch) but there’s quite a lot that they could improve on this front.

I’ve just downloaded and tried the new semi-private beta of OmniFocus 2.

It’s great. Love the three/four pane design. Love the integrated inspector (similar to Pages 5). Love the minimalist design. The responsiveness as well – it’s a far cry from the old beta. It’s all great.

What I hate though (I think I’ve read a topic on the official OmniGroup forums talking about this issue) is the data density.

Data density here is terrible. Yes, there’s the ‘change text size’ slider, but that doesn’t affect the density of the data (the width between each task).

The new design’s very pleasing on the eye, but in terms of usability, it’s hit rock bottom.

I tend to use quite a lot of nesting (3-4-5 ‘layers’ of indentation) due to the complexity and nature of my work. It just doesn’t really work well for me in OmniFocus 2. I’d have to scroll down to see content that would normally fit on a single screen in OmniFocus 1.

I propose (think it was suggested on the forum thread) the option (the default setting would be as it is right now) to increase the data density.

We can look towards Gmail for inspiration –


I agree totally about the wasted space in the main outline… It’s the first thing that struck me when I loaded the latest build…

My OF1 styles are set up to allow maximum info on screen at once. Now, even on my 23" screen I can barely see a half the projects I could before.

I would at least like an option to display ‘full’ or ‘compact’ entries which hide the second line of text until the item is clicked on.

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I definitely do understand the motivation behind having a certain amount of space between each task. Mainly for aesthetics and minimalist design purposes.

However, I think having the option to increase data density would be good.

I’m strongly considering sticking with OmniFocus 1 at the moment. I love the new interface and the various advancements that the team at OmniGroup have done for OmniFocus 2, but data density is an aspect of the app that is non-negotiable for me.

I’m very keen on having other OmniFocus users chipping on this conversation. How important is data density to you as a user? How has the new interface (purely in terms of data density) affected your workflow?


I agree with this critique. I think the reborn OF2 is largely a success, but it would be nice to have the option of compressing the data view.

This is really quite important to me, I’ve got the two apps side by side and whilst I like the overall design of OF2 the extraneous space is really grating badly with me at the moment.

Having that unused ‘add note’ and context info on ever item is wasting at least 50% of the space in the main outline. Comparing side by side, in the same vertical space in OF1 I can see 32 projects, vs just 12 in the OF2. That’s going to make my quick morning review a pain of scrolling whereas previously I could get a good overview in one screen.

That’s a bit of a deal-breaker for me at the mo…


I completely agree. It is just too much space between tasks. The height of the rows should either be reduced generically or at least as an option. Even though the design is pleasing, having a large amount of space between tasks is contra productive.


Thanks for this feedback! I have some good news, which is that the row layout you see in the test release isn’t done yet, and it should get quite a bit denser by default by the time we reach the final release. :D


It’s fantastic to see so many people who are as passionate as I am regarding data density in the UX of a productivity app.

Replying to @James – it should be reduced as the default option, as I understand the justification behind the current version (aesthetics, mainly). However, for those (basically us) who desire a higher data density, there definitely should be an option to do so (just like the text size option in the Preferences).

@wvh: Thanks for the update. I suppose uninstalling OmniFocus 2 immediately after my discovery was quite a dramatic move, but productivity and workflows is something I’m very, very passionate about. I’m quite thankful to those at OmniGroup (and DEVONtechnologies, and more) for delivering tools of such high calibre.

Looking forward to seeing more on this in the near future.

Nevertheless – more discussion on this front should continue and is welcomed.

@savantier - I completely agree. With OF2, I feel as if I can’t get decent picture of my projects. It’s very off-putting and there doesn’t seem to be any way to improve it. I’m going to keep at OF2, though, in the hopes that it will change before the final release.

Wow… I don’t know if I necessarily want all of my projects to fit on one screen. When I do a review, I usually like to select projects one at a time to bring up the tasks in the middle pane. It helps to break up my entire projects list into bite-sized chunks. I wouldn’t want to continuously scroll. I’d go dizzy if I had to look at an endless list of tasks.

Ditto, can’t see enough tasks in a given window.

i’m with @wilsonng on this - i like to focus in on items as i’m dealing with them, rather than having overwhelmingly long lists of things on the screen at the same time. i love the white space in the new OF, but i have no objection to high density data views being available to those who want them. i definitely think options will be the way to go on this.

there have been several references to the white space being a matter of aesthetics, but it’s not simply about ‘eye candy’, the white space helps me see things separately , helps me focus. i would hate to lose that, which is why i’m in favour of options

Continuing the discussion from How can the data density be improved?:

Thing is, some people like to have a ‘grand’ overview of the entire event (not necessarily in the review section, but in the main Project/Context section), and the purpose of OmniFocus is to facilitate this sort of purpose.

I’ve got a similar problem with the iPhone app as well – nested apps don’t work well at well (the iPad app is an example of how it can function on mobile), as I have to endlessly tap through to go through the various nests, hence destroying the whole ‘grand overview’ experience that a productivity app is supposed to provide.

Continuing the discussion from How can the data density be improved?:

I think for those who seek higher data density, the current white space seems somewhat arbitrary and unnecessary (taking aesthetics considerations aside).

I definitely do agree with it being the default option though, with higher data density (again, looking to Gmail for inspiration) in the Preferences.

that’s true. It is nice to see a grand overview. I think I do like the ability to collapse and expand the outline so that I can see as much or as little as I want to see. Long lists just drain me like an energy vampire.

I also don’t think anything looks good on an iPhone screen. I never do any grand vision planning on an iPhone. Grand vision planning usually on an iPad or a Mac.

Personally I only use the iPhone version for quick capture and very occasionally checking items in a location based context. I use the iPad for my weekly coffee-shop review, but 90% of the ‘real’ work is on the Mac.

Add my vote for a compact list. There is way too much white space.

I also miss the option to include project, context and dates on the same line as the title.



I’m loving the OF lifestyle, but respectfully, layout of v2 is unuseable for me as is.

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I agreed, at first the data density seems to be an issue. I did try ‘todoist’ last week and the same issue kept me with my beloved Omnifocus. However, do remember Omnifocus is about ‘focus’ and the use of perspectives is very important to give focus. We really should be working with pages and pages of tasks at a time, if so, a relook at perspectives and available actions is needed. That said, I’m still not 100% sold on losing the columns layout for project / contexts. Will keep giving it a go though.

I like in the new layout that you can get a narrower window without having to fiddle with switching off different columns.


With all the discussion here of the need for more ‘density’, I thought it might be useful for users to share examples of how they are currently using OF1. I wanted to illustrate how much info I need in my OF window for it to be useful to me. Omni Group folks - Please don’t take away my ability to do this!!!

Upload yours too!