Why I'm switching to Things, again

It makes me sad to leave Omnifocus. I’m posting my thoughts because as a fellow software developer I enjoy insight into how people are using my application, what they like, and what they dislike. I also think if Omnifocus added a few more features, it could capture what makes Things great.

What Things has

Today view:

  • It’s re-orderable! This is huge. It sounds silly, and no it isn’t “needed”. However, it provides a tremendous sense of calm to arrange and view today’s tasks in the order in which you plan to do them (which is why many of us use GTD in the first place). I’ve read every argument against this: What order should they appear in when a new task is added? (ask Cultured Code), it isn’t part of GTD, it isn’t needed, etc. Whatever. It’s the most basic way possible to prioritize a list. My daily priorities don’t always match up with the order of my projects in project hierarchy. The fact this is available provides relief and calm. It’s a huge feature I’ve seen other people after across the Internet.
  • Start and due items collect there if I fall off the gtd wagon for 2 days because life happens. They don’t disappear! I am calm because I know I will see them whenever I do get back to Things. Omnifocus’s actions with start dates will be out of view in Forecast perspective if they’re 2 days past start. They are things I’m planning on starting that day but not due that day. I need to create a separate, custom perspective to see these. Do-able, but just another thing to check every day. Little friction areas like this add up, especially in something that is supposed to streamline your life.
  • I can put entire projects there, and I see the project, not the individual tasks. To me, that’s a feature. I can work at a higher level. I can see the project name and just start working. If I’m lost I’ll drill down into the individual actions. Some will no doubt cringe at this, but it also means my next-actions don’t have to be 100% in order and up-to-date (which does happen for fluid projects. The answer to this would be more daily review and always keeping that next action list up-to-date. My counter would be that Things lets me simply write “Project X” on my today list like I would a sticky note on my desk, work on that, then consult the next actions and re prioritize on an as-needed basis).
  • I can add little actions like “pick up milk” or “read son a book today” to it directly without picking a context or project. Omnifocus solutions? Add a “Misc” category, don’t use a context, but then I have to remember the misc project name and filter through other project search results. Again, stress, overwhelm, and friction. Leave the item in the Inbox and flag it? Ok, but then weekly reviews suffer. Sure, both work-arounds are technically possible, but little things add up…

Tags/multiple contexts/lists:

I use them to box off time frames: “week | month | quarter”. I won’t even get into this because the topic has been discussed to death in other threads and I haven’t found a single work-around that feels right. Sure, they all work, but they’re all rough around the edges and sacrifice something else, and little things add up…

I know Ken has stated tagging/lists/multi-contexts are being considered, and I’m excited for that.

What Omnifocus has (aka: What makes me sad to leave, in order):

  • Project hierarchy for seeing the big picture in weekly / monthly review. I can see EVERYTHING at once. It eliminates stress in weekly review. I KNOW I’m not missing anything.
  • Action status (remaining/available/etc) and styled action titles. A huge way to cut down on overwhelm when looking at a list or filtering down projects. I love being able to set in-order/parallel for projects and subtasks, then getting a visual indication of what’s available, while still seeing “the big picture” with other tasks greyed out.
  • Custom perspectives (eliminates stress and overwhelm)
  • These forums, Omnigroup’s excellent support, public betas, and honest, public comments from Ken about the roadmap for the year (in stark contrast to Cultured Code and The Hit List).
  • “Copy as link” to link back to projects from my markdown monthly roadmaps.
  • Mail drop (great for adding stuff from work)
  • Review perspective (eliminates stress)

What would it take for me to switch back?

Short: 1) Reorderable list for today’s items, 2) Tagging or a priority field for setting 4 levels of priority.

Long: I think re-orderable lists (think playlists) where I could drag tasks would be a huge starter. I could use them for priority horizons (“This week”, “This Month”, etc). I could use them as my re-orderable today. Bonus points for being able to drag projects here. More bonus points for being able to use them in perspective filters. I think this was one implementation of “tagging” that Ken mentioned Omnigroup is evaluating. I much prefer this to straight-up tagging because the lists would be re-orderable.

What it comes down to:

The way I see it, Omnifocus is great for planning weeks and months, but lacks the flexibility needed to deal with the changing day. Things is great at being flexible and simple enough to deal with a changing day, but lacks the bigger-picture, structured features of Omnifocus.

I know I’m just one user and everybody has a different workflow they want to make work, but this is mine.

ps. My task manager history is Omnifocus -> Things -> Omnifocus 2 (dabbling in Hit List, 2Do, and a half-dozen others).


@flight16, I am actually with you all the way. Except that I am torn between 4 task managers, each having their ups and downs. I ended up recently using OF again.
Your wishlist is well-considered and puts some fingers on wounds that are gaping for years in the system. This means (I guess) either

  • they violate one of the conceptual foundations OF was built upon (I would take tagging under this one)
  • they are technically hard to implement with the current database solution (such as the today reordering thing)

I totally agree with you that OmniFocus creates a lot of friction or inflexibility in the process of organizing tasks on a higher level of complexity and since other apps prove that it is totally doable to have both complexity and features, the real reason for this must be somewhere else.

To me it sums up in an impression, that I am trusting OF more. It simply must be something in that range because reason is constantly yelling in the backside of my head. BTW, Things to my impression is the most deprecated of the contenders, being limited both in planning depth, choice of different perspectives / smart lists and missing feature to have timed alarms.

I am currently still struggling between 2Do and OmniFocus (again)…


I’ve switched between OF and Things more times that I care to admit. I agree with @flight’s comments.

I would also add that the search feature in Things is far superior to OmniFocus. Over the years I have spent considerable time and frustration trying to find something I know I put in OF. Talk about friction!

I own a copy of 2Do, but that has never been a serious contender for me since I can’t find a methodology to import my current data into 2Do. I don’t have time to enter each action one by one into 2Do. If anyone is aware of a script or import method to overcome that barrier, I would be interested to hear about it.

Inflexibility, limitations and consistency across various perspectives is the exact reason I am not using the Omnifocus.

I am currently using 2do which is excellent but not all the Omnifocus features are there , also updates support for 2do is pretty slow comparatively.

Hey, importing is dead simple: just export your OF db into a txt, mark all and then paste it into 2dos inbox. Of course, there will be no structure and all but that saves you a LOT of typing and you can be sure not to have lost anything on the way…

If you don’t like that, try the following: copy/paste directly from OF to 2do- it works both ways…

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I totally agree, there is a lot of focus missing- namely, reviews, Forecast and unlimited planning depth.

Apart from that, it has everything the crowd here has licked its fingers after for ages: manual sorting, dedicated lists, native Reminders integration (all your tasks in the calendar, great for reviews), dragging and dropping into projects, the most useful widget on desktop and mobile, colors, priorities, actions, complex planning (every 2nd monday of the month), global search… did I mention tags?-)

not to make a commercial in the wrong spot, but that’s what I call delivering on requests… I honestly don’t need that many updates with that feature set.

Alas, but too much options and possibilities might not be for everyone… it solely depends on what you find harder to work around: losing focus (then stay with OF) or friction in entry and execution (then consider the options). OFs unique Review system is also solid gold.


Thanks for sharing, it all resonates very much with how I feel about OmniFocus these days.

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I think that life changes from time to time and our project/task management needs will change with us.

When my life was simpler many years ago, I could use Things. But when my life changed (new job with bigger demands, brand new daddy with the arrival of two new kids, a mortgage, etc.), Things could no longer handle my life. Thus, the decision to go to OmniFocus. I’ve dabbled in other task management apps. I have dealt with Asana when I needed team-based collaboration. I have played with nameless other apps such as iGTD, Hit List, KinklessGTD, Wunderlust, and numerous others.

I’ve experimented as recently as a few months ago but I find too much friction in switching and importing my projects/tasks into yet another task management app.

We are fortunate to have a wide variety of apps that will find our needs better. If you need something simpler, there are a wide variety of personal task management apps such as Things and the Hit List. We can ramp up to OmniFocus when we find that our task management demands go up. We can switch to other apps such as 2Do, ToDoist, Evernote, or Wunderlist based on our needs. There will also be other collaborative apps such as Asana and IQTell that will fit our needs when we need team-based features.

I can’t go back to Things unless I quit my job and take on a simpler lifestyle. But if that event ever happens, I know that OmniFocus can handle that.

I don’t live in the Forecast perspective. I peek at it the first thing in the morning to see if any projects are deferred to today or due within the next few days. Then I go to a a custom perspective that shows due/overdue tasks. I also have an “Available” context perspective that shows all of my available tasks sorted by start date.

Create the custom perspective once (takes 5 minutes or less) and it becomes a click away (1 second) every time I need it.

I create a project perspective that is focused on one project and showing all remaining items. I put it into my sidebar tab or my toolbar at the tap. Now, I am one click away from viewing it.

I also have a “Big Rocks” perspective that shows all remaining tasks sorted by project. I add 3 Big Rock projects in this perspective. Now I can see the 3 Big Rock projects I want to focus on this week.

Of course not. I think most people using Omnifocus have heard of Things by now. I wanted to raise the issue to Omnigroup and see if others felt the same way.

That sums it up. My wish is that Omnifocus would address the friction points in entry and execution and then it would have the best of both worlds and be clearly the best application of the bunch.

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This is exactly my point. It shouldn’t be this way. There’s no reason why software can’t be simple AND powerful. In this case, namely: 1) manual reordering in perspectives or forthcoming “lists”, 2) multiple contexts/tagging/“lists”, 3) task entry.

I did exactly that when I was using Omnifocus. My point was that it was just one more thing when the competitor does it more intuitively.

“Just create another perspective…”

…when it’s built into the competitor’s app.

“Just re-organize your folder hierarchy like this…”

…when the competitor’s app works more intuitively

“Just use hash tags in task titles…”

…when the competitors’ apps all offer built-in tagging that works across devices, with more search functionality.

“Just create a single action list and import projects to that…”

…when the competitor’s app doesn’t ask that of me.

“Just resign and use project hierarchy order as your priority (making it useless for breaking down areas)…”

…when I can use both priority and areas as organizing constructs in the competitor’s app

“Just write Applescript to filter all your tasks…”

…when I can do it natively on any device in the competitor’s app

It all adds up!

You might be thinking “Then just switch and stop complaining! / Omnifocus isn’t for you.” I bring this up because there are so many fantastic features in Omnifocus already. If Omnigroup could incorporate a few more workflows, their product could capture the best points of Things/etc while remaining far more powerful.

Well, I am sure we are heaading towards the same goal: better productivity. What works for you may not work for me.

Finding that fine line between power and simplicity is an objective exercise.

I won’t go into the frustration I’ve had with Things. It’s enough to know that I can’t go back to Things. But I can see how people will find Things’ drag-and-drop interface and different workflow will work in many workflows…

However, I appreciate the great OmniFocus user forums that allows us to discuss and analyze our workflows. I didn’t see that same kind of enthusiasm or interaction in the Things forum. I also didn’t see much interaction in the 2Do world.


on spot. This community is no small part in the decision- making, it is thriving and absolutely unique- until now, at least. Asian Efficiency pulled up their new “Dojo” and are aiming at exactly that sweet spot. But until they mature out of having interaction limited to a mere Facebook user group I will happily wait outside ;-)…

and @wilsonng is right, the Things forum is next to dead- supposedly because it is also not managed by the cultured coders themselves (at least not visibly). With 2do, the Twitter feed is really an instantaneous means of unidirectionally connecting with the developers, but then again, this is not comparable to the Omni forums.

I think @flight16 has made a good point- posting features of other apps in this forum is wasted time unless you want to raise awareness to the fact that it might a wonderful thing if Omni would implement a version of it into OF. In the end all these new things only make sense built upon the good foundation that is OF2.

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Personally I like that OmniFocus doesn’t come with loads of built-in views - I’ve been able to use the really powerful (slightly less powerful in OF2, but still enough) Perspectives feature to build pretty much exactly what I want, and then layering things like Focus on top of that to really tweak my workflow and only ever see what’s relevant right now.

I’ll admit there’s probably some learning curves around defer dates etc. but I appreciate the power and flexibility of OmniFocus.

That said, while I wouldn’t use it, I can see why people want multiple contexts/tags (really tags, because contexts are a GTD thing).


Totally resonate with this! The deal-breaker for me with 2Do (as far as using it for EVERYTHING) is that there is no email-to-task support. Yes, I know about Dispatch and AirMail, but I want an email address I can email tasks to. 2Do only allows that via ToodleDo, and then that prevents you from using Dropbox to sync everything else.

Yeah, I understand that. To be honest, I do not use the email integration stuff that much. Popclip and the native more… field when marking some text in an email are convenient enough workarounds for me - especially since the amount of text marked decides whether it will be written in the notes or task title. But it’s not the same as real email integration, agreed.

To me, the biggest benefits come from Reminders sync: I can see my tasks directly in Fantastical or Desktop informant, the timed ones and all day due tasks as well as completed ones. It’s a nice alternative to Forecast, because that is not offering you the past in a collected way.

This is my first post and I haven’t lurked long enough to get a sense of the community yet, so please forgive me if I step on any toes.

I liked Things very much, but I decided to move to OmniFocus for security reasons. Things Cloud (sync) is not secure. Cultured Code’s security claims are disingenuous and deliberately misleading; only the communications to/from the Things Cloud servers are secure. Your stored data on their Things Cloud servers in Germany is not encrypted. It can be read by Cultured Code employees and anyone else with access.

Things support for legacy sync over the local network stopped working on iPhone when iOS 8 was released. Besides, I was stuck at Things version 1.5.x on the Mac.

Omnifocus will allow me to sync on my own server at home using WebDAV. I admit, I am struggling to get WebDAV on my OS X Server up and running. Furthermore, I am just starting to learn OmniFocus.

Hopefully it will work out. Thanks for reading this.

Getting WebDAV setup on OS X is a pain which is why I bought the Apple Server app ($20). It provides proper WebDAV support which I use for OF and other things. Something to consider.

It looks as if the Things forums are gone - none of the old links work and they don’t show up in a Google search. That’s extremely bad news, IMO. The forums here are a huge part of the value of Omni.

I had been considering taking a look at Things 3, if it ever happens; but if there’s no user community, there’s no point

Cultured Code gradually deprecated the user forums after they turned into morass of angry complaints from a vocal minority. Many companies are going the no-forum route these days. (I’m grateful that Omni retains theirs.)


Thanks for that info. I must say that their forums seems long on complaints (mainly about the length of the development cycle) and short on ideas and assistance. But it’s a shame they’re gone and, as you say, the Omni forums are a real asset

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