Thanks to OF4 beta I have a new task management app

Firstly thank you to @Ken Case and everyone at Omnigroup for the chance to test OF4 and the years of good service Omnifocus has given me. That said I have decided that the direction of the new app is taking is not for me, I do not know whether the following will help, it is not criticism merely my own personal experience.

I have before stated that I was not happy with the inline inspector concept, for me it creates friction and introduces a number of extra taps to achieve anything, tap once, tap twice for this, tap again for that… etc. Yes I know I can use the standard OF3 type inspector but at the very least the new inline stuff creates a visual mess every time you select a task, I do not need to see if its recurring, tagged or basically anything. If I do I just want to use the old style inspector. I understand that Omnigroup has invested a lot of time into this concept however I am not sure it is the correct (again at least for me) the correct path.

Due to my unhappiness I decided a few weeks ago to test V4 not only against V3 but also the other main task managers with at least some comparability, namely 2Do, ToDoist and Things3 and in some ways after years with OF it was a revelation. Yes OF is more “powerful” in many ways, sequential projects, defer/due dates, infinite nesting, location reminders, the list is long, however…

My first comparison was with 2Do, an app I had used before, and in many ways comparable with OF in terms of features, if it was actively developed it would be a real competitor and possibly my personal choice, but it isn’t, it’s the province of a single developer and I just can not risk my business with it.

Next ToDoist. Good points, a lot of integration with other apps as basically it’s just a web wrapper. This is also it’s downfall, minimal keyboard shortcuts, and not a good Mac citizen. It also suffers from in my opinion a lack of information density, what was half a screen of tasks in OF was a full screen + in ToDoist which creates a sense of overwhelm and wasted space. What I also liked were the checklists within tasks, although I would have expected them to repeat with the parent which they did not. Also a plus, were headings, this allowed me to do away with a lot of small SAL’s and tags I had in in OF combining them into one for example personal list with headings for different categories. Lastly while ToDoist does not have folders it does allow projects to be nested under each other, and where in OF I had a folder of one SAL per client, when I wanted to create another temporary project for that client say for a site redesign I either needed to have a dedicated in progress section divorcing the two related projects or create a folder with the folder of SAl’s for the client, then move both projects into it. On completion of the site redesign I needed to reverse the process. ToDoist simply allowed me to nest the temporary project under the SAL, simpler and easier. Oh, ToDoists natural language support really helped when entering a lot (over 500) tasks initially.

Lastly Things3. OK here I hold my hands up and say I have tried Things3 before and I could not make it stick past a couple of hours, probable reason I tried to duplicate my OF folder/perspective setup without looking at the actual system Things3 uses so this time I decided to take everything apart and start from scratch. In all these tests I wanted to give each a fair shot so transferred manually all my data, ToDoist I used a pro plan (one month), in Things3 case it took including changing the organisation best part of 10 hours to get info in, the result, complete surprise. I realised this is an OF channel but honestly the “calmness” the app invoked was a shock, initially I thought I must have left things out, but it seemed I had less to do, which I don’t. Again the availability of in task checklists which in Things3 case do repeat with the task, and headings allowed me to create a much less busy and often fractured system. It’s a native Mac app, has extensive keyboard shortcuts and of course as many have stated has a pretty good UI. Downsides, no real nesting, although areas of focus (which can contain tasks in their own right) allow for enough organisation of projects for my needs. My OF perspectives I used most were covered by the app, when I needed to surface things like pending items or tasks to consider, not someday/maybe but soon, a few shortcuts added to the phone and iPad solved this quickly.

My take on this? OF while incredibly powerful in many ways has lacked behind in things like headings and checklists within tasks which I would argue are perhaps of more use to users than automation which I appreciate is very powerful but in some ways feels like a solution looking for a problem. Plus of course the inline inspector which I could not get to like despite weeks of trying. Things3 seems to hit my personal sweet spot for task management, apparently simple but with a lot of hidden power when needed and its this ability to appear swan like, calm on the surface but a lot going on beneath is what makes Things3 so appealing.

Organisation wise I am still pretty much using @Kourosh Dini’s excellent system outlined in his book with changes to the folder structure, it ported surprisingly well to every app I tried which is a testament to his logic and clear thinking and I thank him both for the book and his input at times. So, I am out of the OF fold. I will stick with Things3 I think, it’s not that OF3 or 4 is bad, it’s far from that, it’s just not for me anymore, perhaps again in the future. I have met some great people both in Slack and the Discourse forums but as they say onwards and hopefully upwards.

7 Likes

Thanks for sharing all these thoughts – very interesting reading!

One thing you mention is that you don’t need to see if a task is recurring, tagged etcetera every time you select a task. But you have to see that in Things for IOS too, don’t you? A selected task quickly covers more than half of my small Iphone SE screen. You even have to see that in OF3 for IOS, as selecting a task automatically opens the inspector. My guess is that it rather is the row of icons for tapping that bother you. And yes, those are much better handled in Things than they are right now in the OF4 IOS beta. Buttons for tapping at the bottom of the task, below the notes, dimmed in grey, hidden while already used and then directly tappable in place, and some additional functions available in the clean and clever bottom popup toolbar – how about that, Omni Group?!

Yes you do see the info in things but it’s presented much better, in OF4 click a task you see not only the in-line inspector to edit things but also a row of information icons, recurring, tags etc.

Yes you’re correct a single row of editable informational icons configurable by the user would make the interface far less fussy which at the moment is a major gripe. Also as a left handed user the tap targets using the thumb are still problematic

Thank you for all your great feedback during these (still pre-beta) design iterations, @TheOldDesigner! I’ve reached out directly to send my thanks as well (since I don’t know how long you’ll continuing to read forums for an app you’re leaving), but wanted to publicly say that we’ve really appreciated your feedback through the design process and we’ve been working on another iteration of our inline editing process based on that feedback. (We would, of course, love any additional feedback if you decide to check things out after our next iteration. But if that ship has sailed, I understand.)

In any case, we’ve really appreciated your feedback up to this point and we look forward to the final design of OmniFocus 4 being stronger as a result! So, again, thank you.

10 Likes

Sorry to hear this. I’ve enjoyed reading your posts on here and you’ve certainly helped me out.
I know task managers are a personal choice and every one of them has pros and cons. I’m on the TestFlight of OF4 and at first I thought it was messy. Now I’m getting my head round it and the updates are definitely clearing issues but it’s a work in progress. but I’m curious, how would you implement reviews in T3 with there being no inbuilt review system which I’ve never got my head around? Is it also still the case that you cannot complete a recurring task early? For me, two gaping holes in the system.

1 Like

I can understand your choice for Things 3. When you can live with and stick to the T3 workflow it is a wonderful app. Especially if you are iOS first, but the Mac app also works very well.
Sometimes I switch to T3 for a short period, most of the time this is when I’m on vacation and only have my iPad and iPhone with me. When trying to use a Things for a longer period there are some things I definitely mis from OF:

  • Review feature
  • Better support for tags
  • Perspectives

Especially the review feature is a great way to be on top of your projects. In Thing you will have to go through multiple views to be sure you do not mis anything.

1 Like

Though I am definitely not a regular on this forum, I share the same sentiment.

Have been using the testflight for a few weeks now and I can honestly say I still have zero idea what all the little icons everywhere do. It really does just feel busy and confusing.

Totally understand that this is a testflight so I will reserve judgement. I love the omni group software but I do hope that this isnt the future.

3 Likes

This is where muscle memory comes in. It takes a while to get used to the “design language” and understand what each icon represents. It gets easier over time.

In the Slack channels, it has been mentioned that labels will be added a bit later in the process. The interface is still being experimented on and it will not be the final design. The developers are incrementally change different parts and letting users try new workflows that are being presented. Based on the user feedback, some design choices will be further explored and some may get cut.

It’s still early in the process so there is still time to give needed feedback to tell the developers what the users like or don’t like.

2 Likes

I get that, and I am sure more will be done to try and reduce the confusion and busyness around all the icons etc.

Though I cant help but feeling it will take something drastic to improve this. In any case, I shall remain hopeful and see what happens because I really do want to stick with omnifocus.

1 Like

Life comes and goes. If you feel that another tool works better, go for it!

I think I’ve seen that OmniFocus (or any other task app) won’t cover 100% of my needs. That’s why I have a Bullet Journal to complement my digital app. If I were using Todoist or Things, I think my workflow will still include my Bullet Journal.

I’m thinking that it’s more about my workflow than the app/tool that gets me to work. An app/tool can help you. In recent years, I’ve focused more on setting up a workflow that I can carry to most apps if I ever have to switch. Some things like OmniFocus review will be missing in Todoist or Things. But that’s where we have to develop a workflow that can do the review. In other task apps, I created a calendar in Fantastical called “Review Calendar”. Then I set up all day items to review Project X, Project Y, or Project Z. I’ll toggle this calendar on when I want to see what I need to review. Not quite the same or as elegant as OmniFocus Review, but it’ll do.

I’ve seen my former boss use Ugmonk, Things, and Obsidian to complete his toolbox. He needed different tools to fulfill his needs.

Some people can use just Trello to get their work done because they enjoy the Kanban board process more.

My daughters are happy with a Google list and don’t need much more than that to keep on top of their school homework assignments.

I think it depends on your current needs. If your project needs a small hammer, grab the small hammer. If your project needs a sledgehammer, grab that. Switch to another hammer based on what you need.

I’ve set my default outline view to show only the notes and the due date. If I tap on a task, I can see all the other information such as defer, repeat, flagged, etc. Otherwise, my OF4 outline looks cleaner showing just the information I need (note, due). I do have a few custom perspectives that will show more but it depends. I have my Completed perspective’s layout show only the notes icon and the completed date. I don’t need to see any of the other information yet. If I need to see more, I’ll tap on a task to surface that info.

Yes, the outline can be busy if we show too much information.

But, yes, OF4’s design is still in flux. If you’re not ready to try out and provide input, that’s perfectly understandable. The current workload of life will keep us so busy some of us won’t have time to fiddle. You can always come back later in the TestFlight process or wait for the final product to come out before making any decisions. Feel free to jump back on to OmniFocus if the situation needs it.

3 Likes

Great to read so many comments and thanks for your insightful post, @TheOldDesigner.

(Small tip: you can actually simulate perspective by creating URLs in Things with their Link Builder. Then put it as a keyboard shortcut on macOS and open it with your favorite launcher. On iOS you can add it to Shortcuts.)

As I said in a different topic, I am having a really difficult experience with the new OF, too. I appreciate Ken chiming in there, and here, with information on the development process. And I understand that we’re not even in the beta phase, apparently, although the testing is now public.

But for OF4 to be successful, for me, the UX cannot shift as fundamentally as it has. The inline editor does not work for me, at all. Editing and tapping around tasks and perspectives is so confusing. As outlined in the other topic: it’s a jumble of icons. And I think @TheOldDesigner hit the nail on the head. What we’re looking for in our task management applications is a sense of calm and control. To be honest, in OF4 I feel completely adrift and lost at sea.

So even though I have both apps on my phone right now, I hardly ever open the test flight build. I simply cannot commit to using it.

I still have reservations about Things and other systems. I’ve outlined these in the past. And I certainly won’t jump ship quickly but as it stands, I cannot use OF4 on iOS.

One final note: huge credits to the development team. I see new test flight builds almost daily and their pace is incredible.

1 Like

@kcase You are why OF is so great. Not a current user, but a follower.

This topic was automatically closed 30 days after the last reply. New replies are no longer allowed.