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

Yep, I didn’t like the first beta either, but I did feel very attracted to the first iteration of the new beta. That said I’m sure I’ll get used to whatever the final design tinkering leads to - for me OF is about ease of capture, automated prompting and quick reviews.

I’ll shut up and wait.


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

I myself do subscribe to the GTD theory, but I am aware that other people don’t.

I’m also drawn to highly productive, workflow enhancing utilities such as OmniGroup’s – DEVONthink, Tinderbox, … But at the same time, we should be appreciative of other people who do see the utility of OmniFocus as a list-making manager.

The great thing about utilities is that it is extensible and flexible – you can use it in a simple way, or in a very advanced and highly efficient way.

In regards to being able to see ‘next actions clearly’, surely that’s an argument for an increase in data density.

decreasing the line height between the project, task and metadata has made my tasks merge together ina way that I find harder to read and less clear.

Perhaps the increase in data density should have been accompanied with greater contrast between project task and metadata.


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

Fair point. Perhaps it ties in with the ongoing debate about checkbox location. Previously the checkboxes on the left provided immediate visual structure in terms of the hierarchy.

Now it’s just arrows, and for some indents, there is the absence of the arrow which makes it confusing.

To quote Lizard regarding data density – it will be looked at after the full release.

I’ve written a small response to it in the same thread.

Continuing the discussion from Move to a different solution if interface concerns aren’t addressed?:

Returning back to the topic of data density:

Two comparison pictures.

The benefits of having checkboxes on the left is that it provides visual hierarchy. The triangular arrows only appear when there is a child task, and the checkbox appears where there is a finish-able/checkable task.

This sort of iconography is useful as it allows you to quickly scan the structure of your tasks as you scroll down.

In OmniFocus 1, hence the duality of this combination – 1) Downwards-facing triangular arrow signifying its status as a parent task and 2) Checkbox signifying a task.

This gives coherence to a visual structure.

Whereas in OmniFocus 2, there’s a slight confusion here. There’s half of the visual structure, accorded by the downwards-facing triangular arrow. But as highlighted with the red box – it’s abruptly cut off there. It’s hard to quickly scan through a significant amount of task and get a general impression of the overall structure when the checkbox is omitted.

Picture 1 (OmniFocus 1):

Picture 2 (OmniFocus 2, as of April 16th, 2014):

This image is also quite telling as well, in regards to the seriousness of the (lack of) data density.


Couldn’t agree more. The little checkboxes on the left provided a visual continuity that I truly miss in OF2. It’s not a deal-breaker, but it does make scanning the page and finding what you’re looking for just a wee bit less easy.

And your illustration of data density perfectly captures it. If the goal is to be able to find what you’re looking for quickly and easily, the decreased data density of OF2 fights that, in my opinion. I have to scroll a lot more to find what I used to find easily.

@savantier, You are expertly focusing in on the point that’s bugging many people here!
Nevertheless I would like to add my perspective to this- and Your pictures are putting out the reasons nicely as well.

  • To have the checkboxes in a non- indented row and having the status coded in this element greatly facilitates quickly checking what is important.
  • the “empty indenting rectangles” in Your pictures greatly support getting an idea of the underlying project structure / tasks and subtasks hierarchies
  • data density: the first picture so very much captures why I eventually got overwhelmed by OF, making me search for easier alternatives- only to find that complicated project structures are only to be simplified to a certain level, before losing oversight again… I am more than happy that Omni is trying to find a middle ground for 2.0, while keeping adaptability in the back hand.

So basically for processing a long list of projects I first look right for task status, then mark the row of choice and look for the hierarchy involving this specific task. Adapting to this method was instant for me.

With the density update a couple of days ago Omni for me have hit the sweet spot between oversight and loss of screen estate. It will be nice to have the option to actually adapt this varying requirements, but as of now I am really happy with what I am working here.

Happy easter holidays to all!

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

Thanks. I originally created this thread a few weeks ago because the lack of data density was something that frustrated me immensely (even during the 2013 version of OmniFocus 2). After all, what’s the point of a productivity application if you’re wholly unable to see all your tasks in perspective, and have to scroll down twice as much?

I understand that many people are satisfied with the status quo, or even the original data density (for those who have less tasks, …) but for the passionate minority, it is something next to nonnegotiable.

I’ve started off the thread and suggested that (I’ll post the image here again) that a set of options modelled after Gmail’s own data density settings would be most ideal.

  • Comfortable: The data density before.
  • Cozy: The data density now.
  • Compact: Even reduced data density, on the level of OmniFocus 1.
  • One Row: Same data density as ‘compact’, but with the much-wanted ‘one row’ option.


I must admit I’m somewhat happier with the tweaks in the latest builds, though I still really hope we’ll see a single line option in a future release as the data density is still considerably less than OF1 and far less than I’d like personally.

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For the latest on this topic, please see this post about trying an alternate layout.


The data density issue is a big deal that received a lot of early attention here. Ken Case kindly joined a thread and said it was something OmniGroup was absolutely planning to address in a few different ways. So far, I’m not seeing that this has been addressed and now the official version is being released in a few days. I find that very disappointing.

Are there still plans to improve data density, and if so, how far down the road?

It’s been done. See this thread:

To be perfectly clear: OmniFocus 2.0 has an experimental, in-development, nowhere-near-complete beginning of an implementation of a more compact layout.

If the experimental layout works for you, great! But it’s quite likely that certain functionality critical to your workflow doesn’t work with the compact layout.

In other words, the bridge is under construction. You may be required to jump.


Ok, so I’m confused, which I’m sure is largely my fault. Is the “experimental, in-development, nowhere-near-complete beginning of an implementation of a more compact layout” done in the version being released on Thursday but not currently in the latest beta version? Because I just installed that this morning and I’m seeing no improvement at all in data density.

And is that experimental layout an option one can turn on and off, so that worst case we can use it the way it looks now until data density reaches a mature resolution?

Yes. As in my previous post, I recommend you read Ken Case’s post called “Alternate layout which displays everything on one line with status circles on the left.”

It shows you how to turn it on and off.

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ah, got it, thanks. I thought that was referring to a prior post where Ken discussed the topic but hadn’t implemented anything. My bad.

I like it, but switched back to the current view until they get a functional check box and flag. But they are definitely on the right track here.

FWIW, you can set the flag with Shift-Command-L, and you can check completed with spacebar.

Not as good as just clicking with a mouse, but until they give us that, these work okay for me.

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yep, just not a great fit for how I interact with the app. And it’s really hard just to see the flag once set.

I’m confident they’ll get it cleaned up, and once they do I’ll switch over to that view. I like everything else about it.

Another moderator brought this thread to my attention. After some discussion, we feel like “when are you going to do thing_x” isn’t generally a different enough topic to warrant a new topic if one about that thing already exists.

In other words, I’m going to merge this thread with the existing Data Density one. (If you’re reading this post now, it’s in the thread I moved it to.)