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

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

It’s not that it no longer supports it – it’s just that its scope and its mission has expanded beyond just GTD to a more general-purpose application.

It’s like the Mac – used to be just for graphic designers, print editors and video production. It still does this kind of stuff, but it’s scope has expanded.

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

Hi Kened, there’s an existing thread over here talking about the issues of checkbox location and colour.

thanks savantier - you’re right - my remarks about the checkboxes and flags are not really connected with data-density directly, but my main point is about text styling and a response to boldfish’s on ‘tinkering with the design’.

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I agree with that, but i’d like to be able to do GTD with Omnifocus 2 which for me at least means seeing my next actions clearly.

I’ve no doubt I’ll get accustomed to it - As i said, I loved the original layout of the new beta. But I guess I’m not good with change!

i love change! i like to see things shaken up, but as people use OF in so many different ways, i’m completely with you with regard to being able to set things up to our liking.

my first impression when i opened up the new beta was ‘wow. how clean. how beautiful’. it was only through use that i found some shortcomings. overall tho. i love OF2 - i used to get pretty overwhelmed at times with OF 1.

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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