Why is adding a new item so cumbersome in the iOS version?


Is there a good reason why one cannot simply tap-and-hold on any item of a project-based view or perspective—i.e. long-tap on a project, a task list, a task group, or an individual task—in order to simply add a new item within that item’s scope? It’s called object-oriented design, I believe—and I think it would make perfect sense in this instance. I must confess, I abhor adding tasks on the iOS version. They usually end up in the Inbox, or at the root level of the project, and then need to be manually placed in their intended scope within the task hierarchy via a combination of tedious taps. So much “mental noise”! Why? Conceptually, any project view or project perspective in OmniFocus is a hierarchical outline. It would make perfect sense, and it would be compliant with design conventions, for long taps on any node to create a new item one level below that node.

It would also make sense to enable entire subtrees (groups, projects, folders) to be dragged-and-dropped around by tapping and holding. What’s the point of having a multitouch screen if you need to so much typing and button tapping?

Likewise for indenting in and out: why not use gestures?

Thanks for your thoughts.


TBH - I almost always just add things to the inbox, I sweep that every morning and that’s enough for me.

I did recently need to add something straight in a project - and used the + icon top right of the project view? That adds something in straight away.

I assume however that you have more complicated projects than, me - I’m only ever flat sequential / parallel - is it adding items in the deep structure you’re having problems with?

As for “Is there a good reason why one cannot simply tap-and-hold on any item of a project-based view or perspective” - technically no - although until I looked just now I didn’t know there was a long hold option that shows Review & Paste options. The main drawback is usability, it’s not discoverable to a user that you can do a long press, that’s why it’s hardly ever used in interface design (I’m a UX designer).

You can easily hit the edit button and drag items around a project - how does that work out for you?

Thanks for your expert take on this. It is true that my OmniFocus hierarchy is deep. If my projects were simpler, I would be using likewise more lightweight software, to be honest—there is no shortage of task managers out there. As for the (+) icon that you mention, I see three problems with it:

  1. It is only available in project views, not in project-based perspectives. A puzzling omission that makes no sense from the user’s perspective.
  2. It only adds a task to the root level of the project. If the user intends the new task to be placed at a deeper level, this needs to be done manually—and in fact without any drag-and-drop facilities available.
  3. It is located too far away from the objects that are directly involved—namely the item (task, group, project) under which the new item will be eventually placed. It would indeed seem to me much more intuitive to tap and hold on the parent entity to create a child entity. For similar reasons, I would expect to be able to “flick” an entity right or left, in one way or another, in order to indent it or “outdent” it, respectively.

I don’t want to be unfair: this is an extraordinarily powerful app. But something seems to me fundamentally flawed with how data is added and moved around. As I said, it prevents me from enjoying the time I spend within the app. And from a design perspective, that tells a lot, I guess.


My opinion for why this is so …

The iOS apps started after the Mac OS. They were created as helper apps to the Mac OS app, not as stand-alone apps. The focus was on simplicity-in-design over feature-rich design. Since their inception as such, the iOS apps have consistently not kept pace with new iOS input methods because OG has been busy with other (i.e. more important) work. Or, if you prefer to say it this way … Since the inception of the iOS apps as helper apps, the observation that they have not kept pace with new iOS input methods probably indicates that OG considers such UI changes to be of lower priority than other work on their ToDo list. In either case, the standard reply from OG is … post your feature request to their support email.

I hesitate to frame my opinion as an excuse, since we are trying not to inflame a debate, only to explain observations.

FWIW, I otherwise agree with you … The UI to the OF iOS apps can be cumbersome, sometimes to the point where I decidedly have to limit myself to doing just the simplest of administrative tasks to avoid frustration. I certainly enjoy the iOS 2 version far more now than when it was first released (and I avoided it dogmatically back then in favor of iOS 1). But something (still) seems to me (to be) fundamentally flawed with … Oh wait! … I think you said that already!



Absolutely support for easier adding and operations for a specific item. Even in projects with no hierarchy, adding a new item in the middle of project (which happens 99.9% of all adds) take too much taps–which could be easily eliminated with a wiser UI. Not to mention sub-task rich projects, which are those that take 80% of my work time.


I fully agree. The rest of the app seems slick, but adding actions on the iOS versions seems so cumbersome and intuitive. Sure, if you read docs or get answers on the forum then use it for a week it’s usable, but it isn’t pick-up-and-use easy.

Please email omnifocus support with this feature request so it gets counted.


While that may be true to an extent, iOS is getting more complex with each release and many “hidden” features are now taken for granted as standard gestures. And with iOS9 running on an iPhone 6S (or 6S+) there are now even more hidden gestures available to the user.


IOS 9 (or any other IOS) will hardly add any app-specific shortcuts. There is an existing way, though, to add tasks directly where you want them. If you tap and hold on a task, and then choose Paste from the pop-over menu, you will get a new task below the tapped one. You could then select the pasted text and type the text for the new task. It’s certainly not ideal, but it might be a work-around while we’re waiting and hoping for The Omni Group to provide us with a better way (don’t forget to let The Omni Group know that you would like to have such a feature. Send an e-mail to omnifocus@omnigroup.com so that they could add your vote). An additional item “New” in the pop-over menu would probably be the simplest solution.

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There are indeed - but user testing shows that they are generally not used by the majority of the user base. Being a power user who designs for none power users I constantly have to put myself in their shoes, they just aren’t as involved in these things as you or I.

I am sure that most non-“power users” probably use the stock Reminders app, or some other simple task manager, one of those that actually tend to be more gesture-aware than OF (no names named). In this sense, there is something deeply contradictory and regressive in how OF is designed from a UI perspective. The OS X version has more drag and drop capabilities than mobile version, really–isn’t this truly backwards?

Anyway, unlike TheTallDesigner I’m not a designer (but neither too short :)) I don’t see why this is an either/or proposition. The buttons and keystrokes that the Omni folks apparently prefer to gestures wouldn’t need to be replaced by gestures; the two could conceivably coexist.

There is one gesture in OF that I discovered and find very handy: the left swipe to flag an item.

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I do love Omnifocus, but the iOS apps have actually fallen far behind in workflow and functionality. This is one instance and another is bulk edit.

If you’d like to see a good example of stellar UI design in a todo app, look at 2do for iPad or iPhone. Drag and drop, bulk edit, and a lot more. I don’t work for them, and am in no way associated with them, but the devs are incredible and responsive, and they are truly on top of their game (and a modest investment compared to OF)

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Replying with a real use case where I wanted this again today:

I created a “stalled projects” perspective. It lists projects with no next actions. I want to long-press on a project and see “Add action” to add an action to that project. Instead I have to use the global add action button, use the keyboard to search for a project and then select it. The entire process is error-prone and slower than just long-pressing the project’s header.

I just noticed this: Long-pressing a folder will open a popular with “new folder” and “new project” buttons. If only long-pressing a project would display “new action.”

Long-pressing the project name displays “new action” in project view and context view (but with the context name, not project name). “New action” does NOT display when long-tapping a project or context in a custom perspective. Surely this is a bug?

Similar headache about a project perspective which is literally a set of projects: I can’t just long-tap and paste an item there (my workaround for inserting a new item in-place). Instead, you need to focus on a project in question, Paste the item there–and then multiple Backs to the original perspective. Really awful experience every time.

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I couldn’t agree with you more! Rather than use a MacBook Pro, I bought an iPad, and had hoped the UI/UX for iOS on the iPad would be so much more.

It is incredibly “un-Apple”, and non-intuitive to the Apple user. Frankly, I think they need to start over from the ground up.

I use OF to plan in the morning, but while I’m “doing” through out my day, I have a need to quickly and efficiently add projects, tasks, and items to task lists. In iOS this is impossible to do, and unworkable to the point that I am seriously considering if I need to either go to a MacBook Pro, or continue my search for something that is UI/UX usable.

Honestly, this app has the worst UI/UX I have yet experience on professional software. If it didn’t have so many other things right, I would have already dumped it.

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I have OF on my iPad, iPhone and iMac, and I use OF on the iPad for 80% of the time. Maybe it is my workflow but I don’t have much trouble entering new actions. I most often use the global add action and I never add actions via the inbox: that means when adding an action I always enter the project also. For me this works quite well.

I have the same problem as the OP. I want to go through all my stalled projects, adding actions as I go. It is weird that this is not possible without first going BACK to the Projects perspective and adding actions there. I might as well just start there and review them all in one go, otherwise what’s the point of the stalled perspective if I can’t edit the projects there? I guess I can flag them and then work through them from flagged but that strikes me as overly manual and a bit stupid given how slick the rest of the app is.

p.s. I only use the iOS version. I’m saving up for a Mac, but until then…

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