OF2 iPhone Interface lacks…clarity?

I started this as an email to omnigroup, and I’ll probably send it separate but since it’s a bit…general…it might be better to have a discussion. I’m thinking out loud a bit here, but I’ll bold my main points.

When I’m looking at my projects hierarchy in OF2 for iPhone, I often just don’t know where I am or what I’m looking at.

Example: I worked on an live event over the past few weeks, it started as multiple single action lists, which turned into projects and then those projects sometimes turned into folders of projects. (this is typical use for me in OF over the past many years) but when looking at a list of….“things” in OF, I couldn’t tell if I was looking at folders, projects, action groups, or actions. Basically, I find the visual hierarchy in OF2 to be…lacking clarity

Sometimes I noticed the •••• underneath a list item which clued me in if it was a project (assuming I had filled out enough actions to have those dots), and sometimes I would glance over at the > or [Folder Icon] to notice that, but it wasn’t obvious until I did any of those, and everything looked the same.

When I did get “lost” one of the things that I would do is look at the top nav bar…which now doesn’t have a current location, which most iOS apps do have. We can’t get better without trying something new, but this change is SO disorienting, it clutters my list of contents with a “title” bar (although this does give me project options. I like that) and removes my “title” from where I’m looking for it.

Not to sound like John Siracusa, but I found that the typical hierarchical list views that iOS used (Old view scrolls off left, new view scrolls in from right) gave me a very good sense of “place”. I knew where I was. OF2 has a project “open” to list the tasks. This is a neat idea and I think there’s a lot of merit to it…but I don’t think it happens quite right. The opening animation is extremely quick and there’s no depth to the new background layer that’s exposed. Meaning, it kind of just looks like something animates over the rest of the list but it doesn’t look like anything’s changed. If there was some secondary animation, like the gap opens to an empty space and then the sub-items faded in, I think it could be very, very helpful. Another idea would be for it to happen slightly slower for more clarity of movement, but I could see this being worse in lots of other ways.

Those are all the specific requests I can make. Overall, I’d love more color, more solid shapes, some heaviness (I went to bold text on my phone just for OF2), and maybe some Letterpress app/Material Design esque shadows? I know we’re all flat now, but I’d love just a hint of skeuomorphism.

Sorry for the rant, it’s just been something I’ve been thinking about for a while now.


100% agree, and I only use the Inbox & Forecast on my phone because of this.

Speaking of Bold Text, OmniFocus is the app for which I have enabled the Darken Colours option in Accessibility. I really love the resulting colour scheme! :)

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I also agree. Personally, I find it very difficult to orient in that flat view. Tasks, projects and folders look all the same. More visual customisability would be great. Don’t get me wrong, I love the sleek look of the app, but the usability lacks in my opinion very much. Maybe it’s possible to improve the clarity without harming the sleek design.

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Ive done a few mockups and the one thing that just INSTANTLY adds the clarity I miss is having the icons on the left. Ken Case contacted me on Twitter and asked if that would help so it seems OmniFolks are aware that this might be the thing.

Not to get too far up my own theory about this, but I feel like something that goes under noticed in UI design is that like 90% of our vision is, literally, low res and that we have a much higher density of vision only in the center…so basically we’re shining a high res flashlight over a low res image. So those right aligned icons may as well be on another page for all we can see them when we look at a text list.

Which means that if OmniGroup can find another way to communicate folder vs project to us (color? boldness?) the problem might be solved very easy.

(Damn I’d love to work on the UI for OmniFocus)

(I’m sure its not an easy task and I’d probably regret that)

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I also found this to be an issue. Looks fine on the iPad, but the iPhone version is not so clear.

I actually started using the Emoji keyboard in my iPad to name my perspectives.

🏠 Home projects
🏢 Work projects
🚢 Go on European vacation


@wilsonng, good idea! thanks.

To add a note of positivity, I was noticing today that I DO really enjoy being able to get at project options easily when the project is the first item in the list…I just wish it was set off more from the tasks, visually.

The icons moved to left of text might be all that’s needed for that.

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Could you post your mockups here?

I agree, it should be easier to see that first thing on the list is PROJECT and not one of tasks from the lists.

I absolutely agree with the discussion going on wrt to UI clarity. An app like 2Do has implemented the UI very well, you will notice a clear visual distinction between projects, folders & tasks. I wish same is taken up in OF

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Sat Jan 10, 2015
Having just read the OmniGroup Blog post of Thu Jan 8, 2015, it would appear my comments below posted on Friday evening were completely MOOT, since the decision apparently has already been made with regards to whether Custom Perspectives will be included in the iPhone app. Now iPhone Users must pay an additional $20 to upgrade to a Universal iOS app to have access to Custom Perspectives in the OmniFocus app for their iPhone. Reading between the lines of this blog post, YES the iPhone Only version will continue to be developed, but NO it will never include Custom Perspectives, essentially saying that some of the important concerns in this thread with the iPhone app’s overall visual appearance most likely will not be effectively addressed. After all it is the Custom Perspectives that are actually a CORE principle to efficient GTD. I must reiterate that it is remarkably disappointing the Custom Perspectives are NOT a core feature of all versions of OMNIFOCUS, rather withheld for more money.

Fri Jan 9, 2015
Ditto. The iPhone app really is flat in appearance. There is nothing to work with in terms of creating a visually distinguishable appearance that represents a hierarchy or priority, especially with appearances between Projects and Folders. Other GTD apps typically provide these visual features, such as 2Do. But as such the current stark white flat visual appearance doesn’t make the iPhone app efficient.

I do find it truly disappointing that OmniGroup does not include the custom filters/sorts of Perspectives as a normal part of the “OmniFocus” app, an app that is all about customizing one’s “Focus” on the things they are to do.

I imagine if something like the custom Perspectives (as was mentioned in another thread) is added to the iPhone app, that it will only be available through an in app purchase, for something that really should be standard. But maybe not, I sincerely hope this will not be the case.

Continuing the discussion from OF2 iPhone Interface lacks…clarity?:

It’s possible to have Bold Text and Darken Colours for just one app?

No, I was trying to say that it is the one app which made me turn on the option. I barely notice the difference in other apps.

(I should really take a course in expressing myself clearly :) )

So, after feeling so distant from my data in OF2 that I had gone back to OF1 on my phone for a long time, I kind of got almost…angry and did the unthinkable: I made all my folders names ALL CAPS.

…and it works. The hierarchy is glance-able now. And since I feel like I’m looking at info, I’m working at it again. And since I feel like I’m working at it, I’m flagging, and contexting and doing and FOCUSING. Just a thought if you’re feeling distant like I was.

Also, Ken Case said in an announcement that they’re working on making OmniFocus “to be easier to scan visually” so there is a light at the end of the tunnel!!

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