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

I’ve been trying to use OF2 for everything, but I’m more likely to plan on paper now for any large lists. I only see 13 items on the screen now! Even the iPad shows 4 more tasks in portrait view than on the desktop, which doesn’t seem right.

OF2 (v86 r206958): 906 pixels high for tasks

OF1: 353 pixels high for the same tasks


2 more data density opinions:

  1. Facilitating quick scans - I like, for example, seeing Estimated Time in my lists, a field which is now buried in the Inspector. In OF1 I could quickly scan a list of actions either to glean my Estimated Time information or to at least look for empty fields to fill, but now I have to click on every action to achieve this via the Inspector. This design seems to impede efficiency relative to OF1 in this case.

Maybe one option would be to let users select what fields show in the list window, so that people who, say, don’t care about Estimated Time don’t have to see it while people who do care about it can see it.

  1. Check box target - The circle seems to be larger than it needs to be. I understand wanting to achieve greater design uniformity between iOS and Mac versions. This cuts down the learning curve from platform to platform, and, as fast as our phones are catching up to desktop-like benchmarks, in 5 years time our phones probably will be our main desktop computer (AirPlayed to a monitor and physical keyboard), so in anticipation of this rapidly approaching future this is another reason for design “merging.” Yet, when design uniformity becomes an impediment (as with a click target that is the size of a touch target and thereby by its size needlessly hampers optimal data density) I think it should be reconsidered.

I wholeheartedly agree. I personally would prefer to have project, context, estimated time, etc. all hidden from the main view (for most perspectives), but I absolutely need to be able to see Defer/Due date. Some people have mentioned having an option to “hide” the second line, but that would get rid off all information except for the action title.

I hope that whatever solution Omni comes up with allows for a dense view that still gives users flexibility to decide what information is hidden/shown. In OF1, you could show/hide columns and then save the state of visible columns on a per-perspective basis. I would love it if the new one-row-per-task layout that Ken mentioned worked something like that.


The very first thing I noticed after installing version 2 is how there is too much unused space … especially in the task list main pane.

Each task has at minimum two rows – one for title, and another for note/deferred/due. And there is quite a bit unused space around them.

What’s the trouble you ask? This makes even a 3-item project list take up too much space (see below). It is not so much the consumption of space but the lack of compactness that is the issue here. When things are arranged compactly, it makes it easier and nice to scan them real quick.

Here’s a screenshot. Compare how little of text there is when compared to the unused space.

In today’s most recent build (r207056), we’ve significantly reduced the amount of vertical whitespace in the main outline for actions and projects. OmniFocus 2 can now displays 65 rows in the same amount of space as it would previously use to display 48 rows—an increase of over 35%.


Thanks, Ken, this is better. Nevertheless, the two-line display for each task, replicating a layout which was necessary on the iPhone but isn’t justified on a much wider screen, still seems a waste of vertical space.

The more I think about it, the more the layout seems to proceed from the check-circles. In order for them to be a decent size, each task needs to take up more vertical space than in OF1. How to justify that extra space? Why not split the info that previously fit onto one line across two lines? Which works until you hide the Inspector or widen the window and the check-circles migrate to the far side of the window, forming a separate column from the task text.

Omni seems to have very clear ideas as to how they want OF2 to look, and usability seems to be taking second place to appearance.

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Not at all! We’re planning a one-line layout, and it will (of course) have smaller status circles.

But before we start in on a whole separate layout, we wanted to make sure the default layout actually matched its intended design (which has always called for less whitespace than what we’ve had in the last few weeks of builds).

(What I’ve said I don’t know is whether the one-line layout will be ready in time to ship with 2.0 or not, but that doesn’t mean we consider it unimportant. It’s just not as important as finishing the first layout.)


That’s great to hear. I’m still not comfortable with the two-line layout, but it now feels like something I could use.

I’m loving the data density update! :D

I disagree- also on considerably big screens with me it often got really crowded with all the details next to each other! To my impression the advantage with two lines are neglected here:

  • dedicated space for each of the elements- no more fiddling around with column widths and such
  • less density ;-)… for some (and me) this means more overview
  • A column is always there or not there- now you You are seeing the noisy part only for tasks that deserve to be noisy

As I am getting used to the looks I am more and more likely to prefer it for the above reasons- all the more since this wonderful density update!

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Hmmm. I rather like the more compressed view, although I’d been getting comfortable with the original one. I think the 2-line layout is necessary, unless you go back to a columnar view to display the attributes.

As has been suggested, a user option to define the degree of compression would be nice, although I imagine it’s quite some work


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

Fantastic. Syncing in new data from a week ago (haven’t touched the app since my first launch due to usability issues in terms of data density). Should be fantastic.

Had a play with it, it’s a lot better than before.

I was looking at the interface just now and I was wondering why there was such a large vertical gap as well between each line. I was slightly puzzled and thought about it for a moment before moving my mouse towards the action and seeing the ‘due date’ pop in.

I previously didn’t really understand the request for a ‘one line’ approach (but I agreed with the idea of having it as an option), but now I do.

There’s further increases in data density if there is a switch to a one-line approach.

Improved! as of 2014-04-07 21:41:26 -0700 less white space between vertical elements in the outline pane.
Still twice as much vertical space for the same info as in 1 but now just because context is beneath task and not adjacent. Overall look is much cleaner than columns though.

What about using the 1 line layout on the drop down icon on the toolbar? In OF1 I didn’t find that useful just being able to see that x context had 2 available tasks - however, a mini drop down a la fantastical showing available items for today would be truly awesome - available at all times - realise this might not make 1st release, but sometime?

I moved 7 posts to a new topic: Reduce visual chatter by moving the note icon?

Not sure which build it came through, but agree that the “New Density” is a big improvement. Customisable would obviously make everyone happy, but not sure how easy that is to implement. I would have survived with the “Old Density” but this is great.

Much better. I’d still like to see it narrower though, reducing the size of the circle would help that.

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I love the second row with notes/project/context/defer/due. I’m finding it very useful when I’m organizing a project, but I do believe there should be an option to hide the second row, so you can focus on going through your list and completing actions.

It’s nice how the row is hidden to some degree until you mouse over it, but hiding the entire row permanently will be the last step to fix the data density.

I don’t see anything wrong with making the circles smaller for this final step. The circles can increase in size as the row expands because I like how the circles are the same size as the row (especially if they are all the way to the right).

I’m not a developer, but I’m guessing a challenge will be to move defer/due up to the first row if the second row is hidden because that information is crucial.

I often print out certain Pespectives, but due to OF2’s problem with data density - and due to our inability to change the default styles - my printout is now twice as long as it used to be for the same amount of text.

I’m really hoping these problems get dealt with, as it’s pretty awful right now.

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I’m actually kind of disappointed with the Data Density update. The denser layout makes everything more intimidating for me and more difficult to parse. The breathing room supplied by previous versions made all my tasks easier to scan. It’s kind of a psychological thing, but important to me.