OmniFocus 4 pre-beta TestFlight; why I deleted it

I was glad to have the chance to be on the OF 4 beta, and really was hoping for some really nice improvements. After some weeks of testing and sending in beta feedback I’ve decided to remove the beta and go back to v3.

There’s one reason for this: the new interface is an absolute mess, in the desire to be different it is cluttered, incomplete, not intuitive, weird, badly created, breaks workflows and shows way to much on small surfaces obscuring what is useful information. And of course, the ever missing keyboard shortcuts make navigating the bad interface even worse.

would be interested in what others think of the beta version

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It is a beta after all. There’s always gonna be rough edges. Keyboard shortcuts was noted in the release notes as something they’ll get to eventually.

A lot of friction from trying new versions is muscle memory. We know our way around the old version of an app. It took some time for me to figure out where things are and what the new interactions are. Where are the buttons or commands located at now? What does that little glyph do? Where did feature X from version 3 go? Is it still there?

You can run both OF3 and OF4 on the same device as long as you sync to the same Omni account. If I’m in a hurry and need to do some with OmniFocus, I return back to OF3 and do some work there. Then I can figure out how to do something in OF4 when I’m not under pressure in the real world.

I was able to gradually go OF4 only for a couple of weeks before getting comfortable enough to remove OF3 from my iPhone and iPad.

Now I can’t imagine going back to OF3

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I have exactly the opposite. I can’t get used to the cluttered, and frankly badly designed interface.
It just gets too much in my way.

So I’m going back to the “normal version” and will try it again later if/when they’ve improved the beta a bit further.

I know it’s a beta, but the main outline is there, and will be gradually perfected. My view currently is I really don’t appreciate the noisy graphics/icon heavy interface, hope that will change, but not holding my breath.

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After using the beta for a while now, I can’t imagine I’ll stick with OmniFocus if they don’t make some significant changes to the UI before they ship. Which is sad, because I’ve been an OmniFocus user for a long time. I suppose I could see how long I can stick with v3, but it probably won’t be long.

I really miss the main dashboard screen, and how large the touch targets are in v3. In v4 I find the outline to be a big step back in usability and just how pleasant the application is to use.

The checkboxes are too small, they are on the wrong side, the Forecast view doesn’t have the week calendar at the top, and I can’t swipe to go back to the dashboard. Instead I’ve got to find that little outline button on the bottom left.

Some folks might really love how this works, but it’s not for me.

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I don’t have the beta so I am unable to give my own perspective. However, I don’t anticipate most companies performing an UI overhaul in a beta. Some enhancements, sure, some complete rework, I don’t see it.

With shortcuts coming to the Mac, I may switch from my iPad Pro to my MacBook Air. I have never been a huge fan of the UI on the iPad but the shortcuts were too good to pass up.

The UI “overhaul” was mostly to bring many of the Mac-only features to the iPad and iPhone. That included “Focus”, the sidebar panel showing projects or tags in any perspective.

The only UI interface overhaul would be to try to bring inline editing of tasks without going into the inspector. Muscle memory from OF3 sends me to the inspector to change metadata. Now, I’m trying to relearn to set metadata in the outline only. It takes some getting used to.

I can’t carry my Mac Mini around everywhere so I’m grateful that my iPad and iPhone have the Mac-only capabilities. Otherwise, I’d have to wait until I return to the office to do some intense OmniFocus work.

I don´t understand you :(
Today, I’ve received a test Omnifocus 4 for iPad. Obviously it is a beta and it crashes, but I honestly liked it, I see a clean, comfortable and easy to understand interface.
I like it better than Omnifocus 3 and it is still a beta !!
So I’m sorry but I don’t understand you, because in the graphical interface I like it better :)

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There are so many improvements in Omnifocus 4 that I could never go back! Among my favourites on the Iphone are one-tap access to the perspectives list from anywhere, full hierarchy – including foldable single-action lists – shown in outline, notes shown in outline, one-tap access to list of all projects (depending on chosen perspective, though), and button for going to last perspective.

I have to admit that I don’t know what you are talking about. Desire to be different? Absolute mess? Cluttered? Not intuitive? Weird? Badly created? It seems like you are talking about the Ipad version, as you mention missing keyboard shortcuts, and I have mostly used the Iphone version, but to me, the layout in OF 4 looks familiar from OF 3, with the improvement that I can have the perspectives list always shown. In my opinion, The Omni Group have made a great job in giving more convenient access to different features than before, not by making things different but by making more features accessible when you need them. If I should guess, you might dislike the dedicated row of metadata icons added in one of the latest updates. So do I. I can understand the idea to create larger tap targets, but if I see a flag on a task, it is certainly not intuitive to tap on the task to show a row of icons, and there tap on another flag than the one that is coloured to unflag the task… I hope we will get a better solution for such things. I was satisfied with the earlier solution – tapping on the icons that actually showed the information I intended to change.

You could also tap on name of the shown perspective to go back to the dashboard. That might be more convenient. The swipe gestures have not yet been fully implemented in OF 4, and The Omni Group are interested to hear if there are specific gestures we would like to see re-implemented. Just like you, I miss the possibility to go back to the dashboard and have suggested that. That would be even more convenient than in OF 3, as you only could go back step by step there (I had to swipe three times when I just tried it from the project I was working in).

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Indeed it is, thanks!

I think it’s possibly heading in the right direction, personally I think the mass (mess) of icons in the outline view on a smaller device needs work and certainly the ability to turn them off in favour of the inspector if you prefer. There are a lot of improvements over OF3 but at present the “inline inspector” concept on PhoneOS needs a lot of work and revisions.

What the beta has done is push me to investigate alternatives in case OmniGroup do not end up with a phone app I feel happy using. The problem is most other personal task managers do not come close except for 2Do which if it was more actively developed would for me be a serious contender and probable first choice.

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I don’t miss the main dashboard screen. I only pop in there when I want to switch perspectives. Most of the time, I’ll just hide it. Having Quick Open and the Focus panel has made OF4 a worthwhile jump.

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OP, please make it clear whether you are writing about OF on Mac, on iPad, on iPhone, or on all.

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I have been trying to get used to the OmniFocus 4 beta and I had to reframe in my mind that it is more like an alpha. I hope I am right that there are a lot of improvements that need to be made and that it is a long way away from release. It really feels that Omni’s desire to create a general outliner library that can be shared across applications is getting in the way of creating the next generation todo app. Dragging items around in the outline view doesn’t even work like I thought it would. Have really been trying to force myself to use it but tend to go back to OF3 a lot. Really have been trying to find alternatives as I am pretty scared in the direction I see.

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Visit the Help screen inside the Settings to become familiar with the new UI changes. The Help screen is still changing because the Testflight is still in progress. It is helpful enough to get you comfortable.

I did offer a suggestion to the feedback email to start introducing Help screens that would pop up the first time you tap on a button.

I redownloaded OF3 back on to my phone just to check back on it and forgot that first time users would get those help screens when I tapped on a button or a perspective for the first time.

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No need to worry. The Omni Group have deliberately made the test versions accessible earlier than usual to get feedback confirming that they are going in the right direction. I was also concerned about how dragging (not) worked until I read a post by Ken Case in Slack from 18th July starting ”Yes, sorry, we don’t consider our current level of drag and drop support to be anywhere near feature complete.” He further explained why it hasn’t been better implemented yet: ”The reason we have support in the app at all right now is because we wanted to make sure that it would be possible to implement on top of our new tech stack: we didn’t want to spend all our time rebuilding on SwiftUI just to discover at the last second that there was some critical bug blocking us from being able to complete the intended experience.”

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Thanks yeah I would like to be more active in Shaping the product but don’t have the time right now.

Janov, I’m with you, big time. Haven’t deleted it yet but am about to. Notes from other users about the ‘improvements’ are well articulated but to me, my reason for deletion is the exact same as you: the interface is a giant step backwards. I live in the Forecast module and the old one is light years better; not even debatable to me. OF 4 is so bad in my eyes, if they keep the interface the same as the Beta, I’m going back to Things; it’s that bad to me. The bane of developers everywhere is touching an interface that has stood the test of time.

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I’ve been using OF 4 beta on my iPad. The experience was stressing me out too much so I deleted it, dropped out of the beta program, and went back to OF 3. Much better. I found the new interface overwhelming and not to my liking. The colors are jarring. I was confused between dates and the number of tasks due on the forecast calendar. I found the forecast listing overwhelming.

I understand this is a beta and things are still being nailed down and finalized. I’m good with that. But I’ll wait to see what the finished product looks like and may make a change to something else if this is what they decide to stick with this approach. I’ve been using OF since 2010 and OF 4 on the iPad is probably the first time I’ve seriously looked into other Task Management tools. I love OF 3 on iOS, iPadOS, and MacOS and as it is right now it works great for me. I understand that everyone has their own use case, but OF 4 in its current state is just too jarring and visually unappealing for my tastes.

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The bane of developers everywhere is touching an interface that has stood the test of time.

It very much comes down to subjectives. Because I feel the opposite very strongly.
Years ago when I started using OF, I loved the powerful features but the UX and UI on iOS is not good at all in my experience. It has been so full of friction that I’ve always considered switching to this day, because it is so bad on mobile. I for my part hope Omni will be bold enough to bring fresh UX researchers on board and evolve OF in new ways.

It does come down to subjectives, certainly personal taste, use and workflow. I live in the Mac version and specifically the Forecast perspective so that drives a whole lot of my commentary. For me, the single most valuable thing of OF period is the combining of your calendar and your tasks in a comprehensively factual display. My biggest push would, if I lived in the iOS versions, certainly be pushing the UX along; it does look mid 90’s. My parallel push that garners my biggest push wish is reporting development. I’d love to see good reporting and not a ‘you can develop it yourself in AppleScript’ or others. But still a fan, I’ll have to say that.