Is OmniFocus right for me? (iPhone in a Windows environment)

Hi all,

I am currently considering purchasing OmniFocus for my new iPhone 6 since I’ve read repeatedly that it is the best productivity app available. From what I’ve seen (videos, reviews, reading the manual now) I absolutely love it. Before I spend $20 on it I want to make sure it will be a good fit for me. Therefore I’m turning to the experts here for advice. :)

Here’s my situation: I have no Mac products other than my personal iPhone and an iPad 2 that was assigned from work. If I purchase this I will use it exclusively on my phone, and possibly on my iPad later if I choose to purchase that version as well. In all honesty I expect to purchase the iPad version at some point if it turns out I do go all-in on OmniFocus on my phone, just to have a larger canvas to work with. Work is a mandated Windows environment that is severely locked down, but we also currently have a BYOD policy with wifi that is completely segregated from our work network, so the iPad is an option for this use.

I am also currently “all-in” on Evernote as my info management platform of choice, and have been a premium member since August. The two seem to be a killer combination to me – OmniFocus for task and project management, and Evernote for “everything else” as the bottomless filing cabinet.

If I go with OmniFocus I plan to make heavy use of the email-to-inbox feature since my primary management tool at work is Outlook – I could simply send e-mails immediately to OmniFocus and then quickly file them from my phone – I already do this with filing information into Evernote (since I can’t install it on my work system) and it works very well. I am familiar with GTD and its various offshoots and expect to do something similar if I purchase the software, with OmniFocus handling tasks and projects (i.e. task bundles) and Evernote storing any reference material (or for work material, remaining in my work network), “someday/maybe” type lists, plans, etc.


  • How will the lack of the Mac desktop interface for OmniFocus affect my ability to use it on the phone (and possibly later on the iPad)? Will I be severely hampered? Or will it really be no big deal?

  • Will I be hurting for custom perspectives which I understand can’t be created on the app interfaces, or will it not be a problem?

  • Are there other things I’m not thinking of that could affect my use of OmniFocus in such an environment?

(I’ve seen Spootnik but if I can e-mail info to OmniFocus I don’t see much benefit to it, unless my iPhone will be less capable than Spootnik somehow)

Any advice appreciated, many thanks in advance!

I would get at least the iPad version along with the iPhone version. There are 2 main things you gain - one is the Review perspective and the other is…

You can create custom perspectives on the iPad version - and that is the main reason I recommend getting it. Without Custom Perspectives, Omnifocus loses a lot of what makes it stand out, in my opinion. If you were to go with only the iPhone version, you are not gaining all that much versus a lot of other, cheaper apps. Again, all in my humble opinion.

I am limited to windows at work and am mainly using email for capturing. Works well enough for me. It comes down to weighing not having your productivity app on your main computer screen against using a lesser application. I chose to go with Omnifocus.

Thank you for your response. I was not aware the iPad version offered custom perspectives, that is a big plus. I’m assuming perspectives created on the iPad sync to the phone the same as if they were created on the Mac? Or is it restricted to the iPad?

And I forgot about reviews, meant to ask about that originally, thanks for including it.

For my iPad 2, currently it has IOS 7, and reports are that IOS 8 causes significant slowdowns. Is it possible to purchase a previous IOS 7 version of the app through the app store? It doesn’t look like it but I’m not sure.


No restrictions as far as I am aware.

You can look at this thread dealing with this question: IOS8 a requirement? - apparently you can install some earlier versions but not the latest updates. I haven’t tried that myself though.
I have iOS8 on my iPad2 and I experienced some slowdown, but not significant to me. The advantages make that up for me, but these are mainly related to the interaction with Macs, so not relevant for you. I’d still update.

Awesome, reading up on that now, thanks. And I just read on MacSparky that the iPad-created perspectives sync to the iPhone so that is cleared up.

Watching a video on review mode right now. How does it benefit you specifically in your workflow?

I am strongly considering purchasing an external keyboard case for the iPad. Though at this point, $20 for iPhone version + $30 for iPad version + $20 for iPad pro upgrade + $40-50 for decent keyboard… that’s breaking $100 for productivity, especially when most of that investment is in a device I don’t even own. So that’s why I’m a bit gunshy. I’m all for spending money to improve productivity (dropped $25 on Anki without blinking, one of the best purchases I’ve made) but I want to make sure the cost/benefit is worth it.

I use it to do my weekly review of all my projects (on the Mac though). I find the implementation very smooth and I have become more diligent in my reviews thanks to it Some people use the possibility to assign different review periods for projects. I don’t do that, but if you have such a need, it is very useful.

Being limited to my iPhone (and maybe iPad) would not work for me. I’d look for alternatives first and see if they work for you, they’ll probably be cheaper anyway.

Yes, you can review, as in “view”, your OF projects on an iPad. But what if you want to quickly change a few action titles to be more actionable, or turn a single task into a new project, or reorder tasks in a serial project, or sort 20 inbox items into their respective projects? I can do all this in a matter of seconds on my Mac using keyboard shortcuts and drag & drop. On an iPad, I would probably say “meh” and just mark the project as reviewed - too much friction.

I’ve returned OmniFocus for iPad because I didn’t see the point if I have an iPhone next to it. Both are good enough to collect inbox items and check off tasks, nothing more.

Note: This was OmniFocus 1 for iPad because I didn’t want to upgrade to iOS 8 either. Maybe the new version 2 is completely drag-and-drop-friendly, in which case someone please correct me.

(post withdrawn by author, will be automatically deleted in 24 hours unless flagged)

My previous reply was blocked because I linked to a YouTube playlist on OF2 for the iPad… strange.

Regardless it looks like I found answers to your concerns. Specifically, the iPhone manual for OF2 mentions that tasks can be edited and converted into projects. The manual also mentions creating “action groups” which are sub-projects within a project. Also, I’ve seen numerous videos of OF2 on the iPad and iPhone where tasks are reordered, and reordering is discussed in the manual as well.

The big plus I see with the iPad version is its ability to create custom contexts. I read elsewhere (on Omni’s website I believe) that you can function very well now with just the iPad and iPhone versions of OF2.

I’m not sure what you mean by “sort 20 inbox items into their respective projects” though. Is there some kind of magic keyboard command in the Mac version that auto-files tasks based on keywords?

Edit: Forgot to add, I just upgraded to IOS 8.1.2 on my iPad 2 tonight, did a clean wipe and then upgrade through iTunes with no restore from backup – it was only used for occasional browsing, no important photos/etc. Then I configured it from scratch and noticed a significant performance drop. Frustrating!

Then after reading a bit I turned off all motion animation and transparency and turned off everything in spotlight except apps. It was still choppy, but another article mentioned turning off background updates. That was the magic bullet. Performance increased so much that I turned animations back on. Even though I have a gray bar at the bottom (transparency is still off) it is almost as responsive as IOS 7, so for now I’m quite happy. Might be something to help you if you upgrade.

A future version of OmniFocus 2 for iPhone is rumoured to have the review perspective, custom perspectives editor, and the ability to show project-based perspectives. I suspect these new features will be an in-app feature that will be available for those of us who want these features. This is similar to the Pro upgrade in-app purchase in OmniFocus 2 for iPad.

I mostly work from the iPad version because of the pro features and the larger screen real estate. But this future version of OmniFocus 2 for iPhone will probably bring the iPhone version up to par with the iPad version.

@davecan - Sorry, my post was not clear and I don’t want to spread misinformation about OmniFocus. As far as I know, you can theoretically do everything on the iPad, and everything except for the weekly review on the iPhone.

But theoretically, you can also write a novel in Word on an iPhone :) I just think that I’d go insane if I tried to. To me, OmniFocus is like doing research on the web. I feel 10x faster than on my iPad if I have a proper computer in front of me with a big screen, a real keyboard and good shortcuts. And with regards to OmniFocus, I think that this friction would make me a worse user. I would not take as good care of my database as I do now if I had to do it through a touch interface. (My plans change very fast and so far OmniFocus can keep up…)

No :) But I don’t feel like I need magic on my Mac because I can jump back and forth and move inbox items exactly into the right spot very quickly.

Thanks about the iOS 8 performance tips on the iPad, I guess I will update sooner or later.

@wilsonng That would be great, thanks for the tip! I was just skimming over the editing perspectives section of the iPad manual and it specifically mentions that project-based perspectives do not sync to the iPhone, only context-based perspectives, but it also says “watch this space” so I expect more is coming as you said.

@Tomatenklempner I definitely understand – using Evernote is a completely different experience on the PC vs the phone vs the iPad. The PC (and Mac) version allow mass edits which I’ve definitely done from time to time.

I have already been considering buying a used MacBook to replace my laptop in the next year or so (assuming I can find a good one for about the same price as a good laptop, say $800) so I may be joining the ranks in the near future. :)

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You will likely want OS X Yosemite (OS X version 10.10…) on your Macbook, so be aware how old of a used one you get cause if too old, Yosemite won’t be supported. See below:

[How to install OS X Yosemite on your Mac ][1]

Before you install Yosemite, make sure you have one of these Macs:
MacBook (Late 2008 Aluminum, or Early 2009 or newer)
MacBook Pro (Mid/Late 2007 or newer)
MacBook Air (Late 2008 or newer)

2 GB or more of memory

@Hawkwind Thanks for the tip! I know very little about Mac specs other than the $800-1k price range I was looking would only get me a 2009-ish Macbook Pro, and not sure if that is necessary or if a Macbook or Macbook Air would suffice. Looks like I have a lot of research to do first.

Regarding older Macs, if this is your first and you’re not a “power user”, I’d say you can definitely consider a MacBook Air. (My definition of “power user” = you use Photoshop, 3D software, something like that. Something that really pushes the memory usage, that you’re going to want to have 8GB or 16GB of RAM installed for.)

I’m still running my mid-2011 Air as my main machine, and I’m an IT nerd and I often have a ton of stuff open, and it’s running like a dream. A colleague was talking about buying a machine for his daughter for school and he was considering a Pro and I told him it was total overkill. I really believe 80% of people will be happier with the Air. The portability is just amazing, it’s such a lovely machine to use.

Welcome to the Mac world, I think you’ll be happy here. :-)

I second the MacBook Air recommendation. I’m still using the late-2010 MBA and love it. The only thing I would change is that I would have upgraded storage as much as possible. Constantly bumping up against the limits of the now puny 64GB flash drive.

Well. if you didn’t see the newest blog post, look here:

It looks like you can buy OmniFocus 2 for iPad and use the in-app purchase to buy the Pro upgrade to get the full features. A future version of OmniFocus 2 for iPad will become a Universal app that runs on both iPhone and iPad.

OmniFocus 2 for iPhone will be updated for the meantime but will not include pro features. It makes better sense to get the iPad version which will become a Universal app.


No I did not see that! I saw Ken Case’s response earlier stating that it would likely be several months and be at least version 2.6 before parity came to the iPhone instead of the previously mentioned 2.5, so a couple of days ago I knuckled under and bought the iPad version and the pro upgrade. So I’ve now spent $70 and today find out I could have waited just a bit to get all of it for $39. I knew parity was planned but not such a dramatic shift in price…

I like the app don’t get me wrong, but ouch.

@davecan We do have a 30 day return policy. Please email if you wish to make use of it. However, by my understanding it should work out the same to simply ask for the $10 rebate mentioned in the blog post— will also have the best information on that.
($30 iPad + $20 Pro + $20 iPhone - $10 Rebate = $60)
($40 Universal + $20 Pro = $60)

And now I’m embarrassed because I read over the article very quickly while tired and completely missed the $10 rebate. I should have known a company with the reputation of Omni would have taken care of its customers, and that is what happened here. Thanks @lizard for pointing that out.

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