Redesign UI/UX for OmniFocus [Things 3]


#1

I have just tried the Things 3, with new redesigned UI and UX, which was very good. But I still not satisfied few functions like ‘derfor’ or ‘maildrop’ there. But I would say the UI and UX, especially the animations are so smooth in Things 3.
I love OmniFocus, but I would really love OmniFocus have a new UI and rich animations.


OmniFocus for iOS, stuck on iOS 7?
OmniFocus for iOS, stuck on iOS 7?
#2

I would love to use OmniFocus start to break out of the “list” mode and incorporate new user elements. Heck, even a trello card view would be awesome. Or maybe an enhanced Forecast perspective?

I had more thoughts here:

https://productivityguild.com/t/so-things-3-looks-sort-of-nice-help/819


#3

Spent an evening with Things 3 on iPad (I was curious).

It looks lovely, it’s a fantastic redesign and I do especially like their Today view and calendar integration. If you liked V2 you’ll love V3.

But…

It’s still got all almost all the idiosyncrasies and omissions of Things 2 that turned me off before or gave me no compelling reason to switch.

Transferring some of my routine tasks across as an experiment I appreciated the refinement of the UI but soon found myself frustrated or confused by their underlying model.

  • Tag filters can’t be saved like perspectives.
  • Tag filters are only additive, can’t exclude.
  • No geofencing.
  • Confusing project structure. Easy to lose things by giving it a future date.
  • Deadlines appear to have no purpose, no clear warning as they pass.
  • Interaction of Start and Deadlines is a little unclear.
  • No control over grouping or sort order.
  • No nested tasks, checklists nice but not as flexible.
  • UI not very dense, lots of whitespace.
  • Repeating tasks can’t exist in projects.
  • iOS/MacOS only.
  • Expensive. Not excessively, it’s a quality app but I can see having to pay for iPhone and iPad separately causing raised eyebrows.

With tags or multiple contexts on the horizon for Omnifocus I’m more than happy to stay. Things 3 is new and very shiny but doesn’t seem to support the way I think.


#4

Things has always been about elegant simplicity. OmniFocus has always been about power and customization. The newest iteration of Things gives it a little more organizational power, and doubles down on elegant simplicity. But ultimately the two apps appeal to different user types.


#5

I wonder how to classify the different types of users…

Things 3: for users looking for a simpler solution that features more of a checklist type of app. Especially popular if you don’t rely heavily on the GTD methodology.

OmniFocus 2: For users who have a projects with different defe/start dates and work in complex contexts.

Todoist, Asana: For users who work in a collaborative environment and need to share lists/projects with each other.

I can see myself starting off in Things 3 because it is easier to assimilate. Then when I hear the seams starts creaking under a heavier workload, I might switch to OmniFocus 2.

Does anyone else have an idea of what the different types of users that will be attracted to others?

I’m guessing that OmniFocus 2 Standard edition hasn’t been able to gain traction yet despite having a slimmer feature set that is geared to OmniFocus newcomers.

I do hope that OmniFocus 2 starts incorporating other UI features. Perhaps a kanban style board to represent projects? Maybe it’s something different beyond the typical list view we have. But then again, we’ll have to see how it impacts the rest of the user workflow.


#6

I was also intrigued engough by the UI and playing around with the Mac demo of Things 3 to spring for the iOS versions.

Big plusses:

  • the interface is very pretty
  • efficient information display with the pop-up cards
  • efficient date selecting
  • flexible/powerful repeating items (once you understand them)
  • intuitive drag and drop re-ordering
  • slide to defer
  • EXCELLENT bulk-edit
  • the forecast view, which presents a single, long scrollable list, is much betteer than the tap-instensive version OF includes

Minuses:

  • can’t have the equivalent of subfolders; just one level of “Areas” that contain Projects
  • no iPad keyboard shortcuts (yet)
  • no saved searches (i.e. custom perspectives)
  • no equivalent to “review”
  • ugly app icon (with really weird, inconsistent square shapes) - they should replace it with their more iconic “Inbox” icon. (YES, this is petty, but I find that the aesthetics of my home screen are important, particularly for an app wher ethe beauty of the rest of the interface is a selling point)

Bottom Line:

I am a long-term user of OmniFocus and intersted in all the scripting and other things that it does. But when it comes right down to it, I find that OmniFocus serves me best with just a handful of custom perspectives. The built-in views in Things 3 mimic what I’ve set up for myself in OF pretty closely. So in that respect it’s pretty close to ideal for me.

I’m going to spend a week or so with it to see it it works better for me. Ideally, OF would learn a few things from Things 3 (bulk-edit, pop-up cards, long-scrolling forecast view, etc.) but keep OF’s power.


#7

I’ve never found the OF forecast view to be helpful. Things 3 nails that view.

I nearly gave in and tried switching over.

But I know that it couldn’t handle the amount of stuff I throw at OF.

And the reason why I switched from Things to OF so many years ago was the dev cycle.

Like an invisible glacier. No developer is slower, less transparent, or less responsive.

I don’t want to subject myself to that abuse again.

Though I AM becoming frustrated that OF on IOS still lacks any kind of bulk edit functionality.

It’ll come. Someday. Hopefully before swipe related RSI.


#8

I’ve played around with it a bit, but just out of sheer curiosity. In general, I’m surprised at how everyone is falling into the Shiny New Toy trap. I would say that the design of Things 3 is pretty, but that its beauty is only skin deep.

  • For starters, Things 3 uses far too much white space. Since you can put a note under a Project, it provides ample space there. But that space cannot be hidden. As a result, a project heading takes up a huge amount of screen real estate. Or take the Areas in the sidebar. As soon as you add a couple, it becomes a bloated, stretched-out scrolling experience. If you organise your tasks by Areas, you’ll also find that the Anytime view has far too much spacing. Everything needs to be more dense.

  • The structural model behind the application is once again a clever illusion to make up for the fact that Things still has no strict hierarchy between tasks. For starters, the “subtasks” or “checklists” are really just notes with a binary toggle in front. If you search for a subtask, it just lists it as text, not as a functional item to check off a list. In that way, subtasks are really just dumb grocery lists. Secondly, headings are merely a visual separator, not a structural one. As a result: you cannot collapse headings, for example. You also cannot “complete” them: they just sit there.

  • Things also always wants to show you everything. I remember reading a post years back on OmniFocus and perspectives that really made it click for me: great Perspectives show you what’s relevant without the noise. Some things you don’t need or want to see. On the most basic level, Things lacks sequential tasks so you’ll see the whole laundry list. And even if you change the “View Next Actions” and limit these to 1, it doesn’t carry over to iOS. And yet again, this is a workaround that’s purely cosmetic, not functional. The same goes for Areas and Active Projects: they clutter up the left column very quickly. Yes, you can simply filter by tag to show you what’s relevant, but that’s far more slow than having a predefined perspective that parses for you rather than ask you to parse each time.

  • I won’t even comment on the erratic Undo behaviour that’s still an issue.

  • As soon as the complexity mounts, Things cannot keep up. From animation stutter to visual cruft everywhere: the application was not built for larger projects. It gets unwieldy very quickly.

  • Furthermore, I find its minimalism not all that minimal. My daily OmniFocus setup is a simple neat list, bereft of a multitude of colours, indents, symbols, etc. It’s just the tasks, and I love it. And any perspective is a keystroke away. Do I think that the Forecast could and should be more elegant: absolutely. But it works just fine.

  • Have you noted that Things does not encrypt at rest?

But finally for me, it all boils down to the developers and the philosophy. Omni’s support has been—in the very rare cases I reached out—absolutely stellar. Their openness to communicate, their candour about the roadmap, their quick adoption of new features, etc. provide me with a level of trust and confidence. That OmniFocus is being worked on, that Omni cares, and that more great stuff is to come.

That I value, far more than a shiny new interface, no matter how nice it may be.


#9

ouch… Undo doesn’t work?

I guess the ones that are switching are folks who find OmniFocus just too complicated.

I think Things Users needs that starting point with some pre-defined perspectives. Having the pre-defined lists (Today, Upcoming, Anytime, Someday) provides a sense of structure that is based on time. It will take some effort to learn how to create your own OmniFocus custom perspectives that will match these pre-defined views. But it can be done.

Maybe OmniFocus standard edition needs some pre-built time-based perspectives to attract Things users who don’t want to mess with custom perspectives.

Most of these time-based perspectives can already be built in OmniFocus Pro edition with custom perspectives.

Today - tasks that are Due or Flagged. Maybe what OmniFocus is missing is the ability to drag and drop tasks into today. But then again, I’ll just flag a task to make it show up in Today.

Upcoming - Show remaining tasks that are grouped and sorted by Defer date

Anytime - Show all available tasks

Someday - Show all projects that have status set to “on hold.”

I’ve already had most of the views already created as perspectives in my current OmniFocus 2 structure. So I’m not really hungering for anything in Things 3 at the moment.

If you are happy with Things’ data structure, you might like it. But if you were disgruntled enough to try other task management apps, you might try Things 3 for a few weeks and feel happy. But over time, you might drift back to your previous app because your workload is starting to overload Things 3.

I know my workflow will definitely make Things 3 groan under my heavy load. I tried out the 15-day demo just to see what the magic was all about. Pretty but there wasn’t many features that will make me switch.


#10

The UI changes in Things are nice. I agree that OF could learn some things. The history of the UI change from OF 1 to OF 2 might hint that any changes will take a while.


JJW


#11

ouch… Undo doesn’t work?

It does work, but only on the very last action. It’s nowhere near as robust as a true Undo. Previous versions of Things also had a wonky Undo.


#12

I have testet a lot of applications through the years. Also Things 3. I play with them for a while. Use them in my ordinary work, but then it always ends up with me going back to OmniFocus. Maybe my use is too heavy for the other applications, maybe I work with too many projects, maybe I have too many repeating to-do’s, maybe I am a too hardcore GTD’er. It just seems OmniFocus has become my head and veins. Even though it’s feel and look could be better. You know it’s like when you find a girl to marry - you never marry the blond sex-bomb with all the looks - you marry the one that will stay with you forever!


#13

+1 for no animation!


#14

I agree about the animations as well.

If you use applications with a lot of visual effects for extended periods, you’ll find that it becomes tiresome. To be honest, when I look at Things 3, there are a lot of colours and animations that take away from the tasks themselves.

I find there’s a certain beauty in the simple and utilitarian interface of OmniFocus. I have it configured to show just the taks list without toolbars or sidebars. Combine that with a custom theme and you pretty much have full control over the layout.


#15

I agree: Things 3 looks beautiful and is more intuitive than OmniFocus for basic functionality. Of course, it doesn’t have anywhere near the power, but I have found that power (and resulting complexity) is very intimidating for many users. Just as the Omni Group has released a slimmed-down version of OmniOutliner, a less expensive and less powerful version OmniFocus might find new converts. I have to believe that the OmniPresence server has synchronization advantages over what Things uses (although I haven’t had any problems there.)

It is worth reading the reviews, which demonstrate the challenges all software developers experience when they change the UI or change the features: some users of the previous version hate any and all changes…


#16

i should say i was tempted to flee to a shiny new toy.)

the thing is that i’m most definitely underutilizing omnifous.

yes, custom perspectives are cool but i’m mostly using other people’s ideas – not trying to improve my own workflow but rather applying tweaks that were proven to be useful for other people.
most of the detailed steps for the projects i have, e.g. in school, live in some kind of outlining program, often in taskpaper. and omnifocus is basically an inbox and a higher altitude overview system.
so yeah…things looked (and still looks, to be sincere) quite appealing. maybe because of its forced(?) organization structure.

in any case, i think i got side-tracked…)

i’ve had a similar conversation with people on twitter about things vs. omnifocus and one interesing observation on their part was that it seems that things deals much better with updating information between e.g. widget and main app, or watch and main app.
as in, when you complete an item from the widget, it takes quite a while for the badge (yes, i’m that awful badge person :neutral_face:) to be updated in omnifocus, often even requires the app to be opened again.
and it seems that things deals much better with these kinds updates, similar in speed to reminders.app

in any case, i’ll most probably stick with omnifocus for this one, but i should say i’m really looking forward to some possible refreshes to their ios app to make it faster and easier to navigate.
also, this idea of an improved forecast perspective sounds amazing!)


#17

Same here. I like the look of mostly standard UI elements.

As everybody else in this thread has stated: a continuous-scroll forecast mode in Omnifocus iOS would be great.


#18

I can’t understand why we don’t already have one. It seems so natural. We have it in the Mac version, and we have clickable dates there to show the tasks that are due on a specific date. If we want to see tasks that are due on a specific date in the IOS versions, that feature is already in place in with the tappable dates. Just let us have the complete list to start with, like on the Mac. The red word Forecast simply begs to be a tappable area where you can return to the complete list after having seen tasks due on a specific date. Let The Omni Group know by e-mail (omnifocus-ios@omnigroup.com) that there are more users than me hoping for this feature.

It turned out to be easy to create a custom perspective showing a list of all due tasks, which I did, but an improved forecast view would be much more elegant.


#19

useful Things 3 takeaways

So after playing with Things for the last week, I have all but decided to stick with OmniFocus. I’ve found that much of the allure of Things was in the opportunity to refine and reimagine my own OmniFocus set-up.

But there are, nevertheless, several improvements to be made for OmniFocus that Things got right:

(PS- my comments are focused on iOS as that’s where I spend most of my time)

  1. A scrolling, logarithmic forecast. (This seems to be widely agreed).

  2. Multi-select on iOS is critical, especially for deferring tasks, which otherwise takes a ridiculously huge number of steps. Things made this easy.

  3. Swipe gestures should be much more useful and fast. A single swipe, without a second tap should be sufficient to flag a task. A swipe and a second tap should be sufficient to defer the task and select the date. (I think flagging and deferring are the two most common actions people do with already-created tasks, other than completing the task, which is already a single tap.) Spark shows how swipes could provide up to four different actions without the need for follow-up taps.

  4. Notes and other task details do not need to be buried so deep in the interface; a card/pop-up can display all info, including a note, without hiding other tasks or the rest of the interface

  5. OmniFocus doesn’t make enough use of the long-press on iPads. Long pressing is a much more intuitive way to move things around, rather than having to hit and edit button and then drag handles, then tap done.

  6. Tasks loose within folders could be useful (currently, I end up having a single-action “misc.” list within each folder. )

  7. Stronger repeating (e.g. First Thursday of each month) is possible and is needed in OF

  8. Allowing a perspective to have an arbitrary and user-changeable sorting order would be helpful (especially for Today)


Finally, one thing that neither OmniFocus, nor Things 3 make easy is maintaining a “waiting for” or “delegated” list. There are ways to cobble something together using tags or perspectives and contexts. But “waiting for” is so central to GTD that I would hope that OmniGroup would make it easier to implement in OmniFocus.


#20

Good thoughts, @cpac. Number 5 is so natural that they already have it in the app Omnioutliner. It’s hard to find any reason why moving by long-pressing shouldn’t be possible in Omnifocus too.