Redesign UI/UX for OmniFocus [Things 3]


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I was a Things2 user, moved to Omnifocus about two years ago for the calendar integration and perspectives. At first, I missed having tags, but soon realized that contexts were a million times more powerful.

To all those tempted by Things3: the biggest drawback to Things was always that when there were more than just a few projects or areas, the interface became cluttered and began getting in your way. That still seems to be the case, despite the new scheduling/calendar features. The beauty of Omnifocus is how it is able to hide tasks you don’t need to worry about. The less structured paradigm of Things, while attractive at first, eventually ends up being a negative force on your workflow.

You can put your life in Omnifocus and stop worrying about it. I was never able to achieve that in Things, and don’t see that Things3 changes that.


I completely agree with this. Try entering a good number of tasks and projects in Things and watch it become a kaleidoscopic behemoth. Colours, icons, lists, tags, bold fonts, etc. And it shows you everything (and the kitchen sink), whether you need to see it or not.

The way I’ve set up OmniFocus, the application allows me to get tasks out of my view and into focus when I need to see it.


Things 3 is a pretty toy. You play with it all day and tomorrow do something else. I tried my OF2 database in it, and it became a horrendous mess. Being unable to hide the mass of data I have is useless to me. Other apps handle it better but nothing comes near OF2.
Not able to handle emails, files, PDF’s, images, sequential lists leaves me wondering who would actually use it?


Things is a nice checklist type app for users who don’t need to hide tasks until needed, or need other features such as parallel/sequential projects.

My weekly review would probably take a little longer in Things 3. But I guess I guess if one’s workload was not as complex, the weekly review would be much easier.

Like you, I wouldn’t be able to function in Things 3.


The Omnigroup could learn a lot from Cultured Code and Things 3.

Attention to detail. Every pixel matters. Every color, shade, icon.

Smooth animations.

Notes are not second class citizens. In Things, tasks notes are important. And look beautiful.

The upcoming list is great. Clear and clever design.

Easy multi-select and batch edits. (I know, they’re coming)

Easy drag and drop. Long press, drag and drop. Drag to reorder.

Tasks information fields are not visible, until you need them. Not every field is in display, it overwhelms you. (If you don’t ever use time estimate, why see it?)

Delightful interactions. It feels good to use the app.

Progress pies. It is useful and motivating to see how close you are to the completion of a project. OmniFocus shows you a lot of dots… not so useful.

Also, in Omnifocus the disparity in interface design between the iOS and the Mac versions is staggering. Take a look a the note icon, it is different on both platforms. Look at the reordering tasks UI: on the Mac, the task gets a surrounding color stroke, on iOS, the task turns transparent. Why?

There are a lot of little graphic details to be refined. Time will tell.


Interesting to hear everyone’s take.

Progress pies are on my list of dislikes. They are noise and meaningless to me. My projects usually have only 1-2 next actions. Not a list of the remaining 20 actions of the project. It would drive me crazy to see different meaningless completion circles for each project. I prefer dots because I can see remaining actions without a percent.

To me, the iOS app looks like an iOS app, and the Mac app looks like a Mac app. Each operating system has a different set of UI elements. I personally like this.

From my observations, it appears Omni spends their effort on features (scripting, automation, perspectives, location-based contexts, etc) an app that looks good, while Cultured Code puts their effort into design and makes an app that looks outstanding.

But I know what you mean. Things 2 gave me great pleasure to use on iOS. I don’t know why. I never get that same feeling from OF2, despite it being more useful to me. Difficult to quantify. Maybe the combination of colors and animations.


Exactly. I was surprised they kept their feature-set basically the same (I’m not talking about design or buttons, I’m talking about things I can do with my tasks and projects). Structure and hiding (next actions, deffer dates, in-order projects, etc) is the thing that always triggered my moves back to OF2.


There are too many in Things: I prefer fewer distractions and a focus on the content itself, not the bells and whistles.

Too much movement is (again) distracting. Animations don’t add anything to help you clarify or complete tasks.

How about attachments? In Things, attachments are non-existent. And outcasts.[quote=“awd, post:46, topic:31859”]
The upcoming list is great. Clear and clever design

You can easily do the same in OmniFocus through Perspectives or Forecast.

You do know you can set custom columns in OmniFocus to show you as much or as little information as you want, right?

While I agree that it’s pretty, how does this help you complete tasks more efficiently? It’s just an indicator. Though I could see it work as a motivational aid.

In general, your post is more concerned with aesthetics and less with actual functionality. Let’s not forget: “Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.”

And I’ll give you a few examples.

  • Shake to Undo on iOS: impossible with Things (if I’m correct);
  • Undo on macOS: try to go back one or two steps on the macOS version;
  • Notice how the taks circles on OmniFocus iOS are large: they’re easy to touch. Now look at how tiny they are on Things iOS;
  • The task circles are on the right-hand side for OmniFocus on iOS because your right thumb is much closer. On Things iOS, on larger screens, you need to reach much further.

I guess it’s a matter of preference but I prefer the Spartan functionality and user interface of OmniFocus over the eye candy that is Things. To each his own, I suppose.


Having tried Things 3 since its launch, I’m disinclined towards the view that it can’t handle complexity. The rethought Areas concept allows for elegant grouping of lists. Checklists are an effective way of making subtasks available but kept out of sight until needed. And the new headers allows for the visual organization of tasks lists that I now find indispensable.

The ergonomics of task entry are brilliantly designed. Things is smart enough to let you enter a new task in a Today view, or under a project, and automatically assign it to the right place. I’ve found OF agonizingly clunky in this respect.

Things doesn’t support the depth of complexity of OF, and has a limited ability to focus on a subset of one’s task set. (OF-like Perspectives would be welcome.) But anyone dismissing Things as only suitable for light use either hasn’t used it or has an agenda.


Or has a different view of “light use” from yours. I’ve tried Things (again) and I cannot make it work for me. I’m not a GTD superhero, just trying to manage my taskload.

Example: no repeating tasks in projects? Not a massive demand - organising my work into projects seems pretty light. Wanting to repeats some things in them seems pretty light.

Do I have an agenda? Yes - low-friction task management


You don’t have to have projects with different defer/start dates or complex contexts to find Things too limited. I simply have a lot of tasks. I started with Things 2 some years ago (haven’t tried Things 3, it might be different), but very soon grew out of it and felt I wasn’t any longer in control of my tasks.

Omnifocus is the only application I have found that lets me have the control I need over my tasks. I don’t think there is any upper limit for how many tasks Omnifocus lets me handle efficiently. I only adjust my perspectives and my review settings if needed. Omnifocus is also the only application I have found that works better than the home-built Filemaker solution I used before to manage my tasks.


I have been using Omnifocus for a few years and I am evaluating Things 3 at the moment. In summary I find Omnifocus is built around planning while Things is built around the time aspect.

From my perception the workflow of Things is much more straight forward compared to the workflow of Omnifocus. Things motivates me to get my stuff done as I know exactly what I want to do today and in what order. Also to put new tasks into Things is easy and fast. In Omnifocus I can plan forever and it is definitely kind of fun, but not necessarily efficient.

Contrary to some here I claim that one cannot recreate all Things-views in Omnifocus.

Things: Today view
I did not manage to create a view in Omnifocus that matches the “Today” view in Things. My perspective “Available” shows me all deferred tasks as well as tasks that have no defer date and I cannot order the list. Unfortunately, I do not want to see tasks that have no defer date, but consider them as some sort of deposit that I want to put on my “Available” list later. I also do not want to put them away as far as into the “Someday” section. Especially often I do not want to see tasks that reside inside my projects, but instead I would prefer to put the whole project into my “Available” list. All this can be done very easily with Things.

Things: Upcoming view
Same with the “Upcoming” view in Things where I see my future laid out and I can rearrange it by drag & drop. In Omnifocus I have the forecast view, but I cannot reassign a start date by simply dragging & dropping. As far as I know on IOS I cannot even change the settings to enable deferred tasks in the forecast view and also I cannot see a list showing all days. That is only possible with the OS X version, not consistent.

In total I see a lot of strong points for Things 3 going and believe that the workflow is very practical and efficient.

Then again I value the advantages and zen style of Omnifocus as well. To come back to the original topic, I would encourage Omnifocus to incorporate some of the UI and UX that is already present in Things 3.


I was so disappointed with things 3. No agenda. I tested with high hopes that it would be a huge improvement on clunky v2.

That there was no calendar view seemed like a shocking omission, but to have missed on sequential tasks or repeating tasks within projects was really bad. The biggest failure by far was not being able to add files/pdf/images & email integration to tasks. How anyone can manage without these features is beyond me? It’s like taking a massive step back in time. All that dreadful white space hurts the eyes.

My OF2 database looked like a cluttered mess in Things 3. The same database in OF2 is fine.

Things 3 is fine if you can manage by on a few dozen tasks without the massive advantages of OF2. I had to delete it because it was useless to me. No agenda.


A very thoughtful reply.

For the Today View, I simply use Flags to distill my list of available tasks to to-do’s I prefer to work on today/tomorrow. Would this solve your issues?

As for the Upcoming View: you can in fact drag and drop tasks (on macOS). Just drag and drop a to-do over a different date’s Due or Defer header. But I agree that it’s not as fluid.

I completely agree with your conclusion as well. There is certainly room for more visual refinement, even UI/UX enhancements.


For those wanting to recreate Things’ Upcoming view in OF:


It seems iOS 11 will be adopting the design language of iOS 10 Maps/Music/News. Part of what felt fresh about Things 3 is the degree to which it adopted some of that design language.

I’d love to see OmniFocus adopt some of the same elements:

  • A big more font size/boldness differential between headings and sub-items;
  • more subtle lines, rather than shading of blocks for groups (like projects)
  • possibly having cards come up from the bottom for tasks, rather than the top-heavy navigation we currently have

Exciting times for iOS and especially iPad enthusiasts!


Thanks! That is great info!:) I did not know that…


I’m working from home today on my iMac rather than on my iPad Pro at work and it occurs to me that on macOS, OmniFocus has a better, cleaner aesthetic feel than it does on iOS.

I’m not sure why that is exactly. Perhaps there’s a bit more white space available on the Mac. But regardless of the reason, I’m curious:

  • How many of the people above who were praising Things 3’s look and feel were doing so based on comparison to OmniFocus on iOS?

  • How many of the people defending OmniFocus’s look and feel were using it primarily on the Mac?

My own takes seem to have been most influenced by the iOS comparison.


Yes sure, I do the Flag thing too at times :-) I would love to be able to order the Flagged-list though.

Concerning the Today list I think the best solution for both programs, Omnifocus and Things, is the old wisdom to not plan on that many tasks and projects. It is simply unrealistic and only wishful thinking to believe that one can achieve more by filling up one’s task manager until one loses overview.

How could I have missed out on the drag & drop ability of the Forecast view in Omnifocus… thank you very much for letting me know about this feature.