OmniFocus: Simply the Best

A long time ago (nearly two years, to be precise), when iPad.AppStorm wasn’t even born, we looked at OmniFocus for the iPad over at iPhone.AppStorm and we liked it very much – giving it a prestigious 8 out of 10 rating. Since then, however, lots has changed with OmniFocus (including, unfortunately, the price) so let’s take a look at the latest version and see how it stacks up.


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First Thoughts

OmniFocus is developed by The Omni Group, who are well-known for making some pretty top-notch productivity applications such as OmniGraffle, OmniOutliner and my personal favourite, OmniGraphSketcher (which has made my Economics degree a whole lot easier). OmniFocus is their GTD (Getting Things Done) program and helps you organise all your goals in life, whether they are big or small.

If you’re working on a project, school report, or just stuff around the house, then OmniFocus can help you keep track of all these quickly and easily.

Features

Seeing as OmniFocus costs $39.99 off the App Store (and yes, that’s not a joke), you’ll be expecting some pretty hardcore features lurking under that interface. Let’s take a look.

Sync Services

If you use OmniFocus on any other devices (such as your Mac or iPhone) then you can sync all of your data directly to the iPad version with hardly any effort at all.

OmniFocus Sync

The sync services on OmniFocus.

You can sync with Omni Sync Server, MobileMe (no word on iCloud support as of yet) and directly over Wi-Fi with your Mac (as long as they are connected to the same wireless network). If you’ve got your own server setup (and it’s WebDAV-compatible), then this works as well. Of course if you’ve just got the iPad version then you can use it just fine as well – it won’t diminish your experience with the app in any way.

Your Inbox

The inbox in OmniFocus is the central place for all your ideas. When you start adding projects and individual tasks (we’ll have a look at these in a bit), they are all collected together in your inbox, giving you an easy overview on what exactly needs doing and which deadlines you need to adhere to. From the inbox, you can manage tasks directly, such as deleting them, marking them as complete or marking them for review – this is known as processing in OmniFocus.

OmniFocus Inbox

The inbox view in OmniFocus with the list of tasks at hand.

Tapping on a item in the inbox brings up a more detailed view of the task in hand and here you can customise various aspects of it, such as the start and end date, whether or not the task should be repeated, and so on. The note feature is extremely useful (and one of my favourites) – especially in the full-screen view – avoiding the need for having bits of paper with notes scribbled on them floating around all over the place.

You can also attach pictures and short voice memos to individual tasks.

Due Date

Setting a due date on a task.

Working With Projects

A project is just as the name suggests – a multitude of ideas grouped together for easy reference. However, in OmniFocus they’ve been given some added sparkle and finesse to make them really easy to work with. When you add a new project, you can choose its name, start date, and end date. OmniFocus has three types of project:

  • Sequential: where the steps of the project have to be performed in the order set out.
  • Parallel: where the steps of the project can be completed in any order.
  • Single Actions: usually a project with one step to complete or an assortment of tasks related to each other.

You can also set the status for each project in OmniFocus depending on where you are with it:

  • Active: the project is in progress.
  • On Hold: the project has been put on hold temporarily.
  • Completed: the project and all its related tasks have been finished.
  • Dropped: the project is not being worked on for the foreseeable future.

If you’ve got multiple projects on the go at any one time, then the status symbols really are useful to help you keep track of where you are on each one and the project type ensures that every single task in the project is completed (or even in the correct order).

Project View

Viewing a project.

An individual step in a project in OmniFocus is called an action. You can add a new action to a particular project (giving it a corresponding due date) or you can add a quick entry to the inbox which isn’t assigned to any project (this is good for individual ideas). You can of course assign quick notes to projects after you’ve created them and individual actions can be organised into groups within projects.

Contexts

Contexts are like tags for either projects or individual tasks within a project and help you find a particular task quickly and easily without having to search through all your projects. You can add a context to any particular task and project and OmniFocus groups tasks and projects by their context, giving you a much better overview. When you install the app, it will suggest to you some default contexts, however you can always edit (or delete) these as you feel is necessary.

Context

Assigning a context to a particular task in OmniFocus.

Like projects, contexts can also be assigned individual statuses: Active, On Hold and Dropped and you can also add location information (mentioned in the next section) to them so you can see them when you are nearby.

This feature is obviously extremely useful if you travel a lot with your iPad!

Map View

As mentioned above, you can provide location information for each context item and, if you’ve got Location Services enabled on your iPad, OmniFocus will alert you when you’re in that particular location (for example a business meeting). You can provide exact addresses, Google business searches (as long as this feature is supported) or you can drop a pin manually.

Map View

If you've added location information to your contexts, then you can view them all on a map.

Once you’ve assigned location information to your contexts then you can view your actions based on their location. Bear in mind, though, that the location services are not 100% accurate due to limitations with iOS and you’ll need either a second or third-generation iPad to use them as well.

Forecasting With OmniFocus

The forecast view in OmniFocus gives you an overview of all upcoming and overdue tasks and project deadlines in an easy-to-use timeline view. You can mark tasks and projects as completed straight from the Forecast view and it also syncs your iCal events as well, giving you a complete overview and helping you to manage your time better.

Forecast Mode

The forecast mode in OmniFocus, where you can see any upcoming or overdue tasks and projects.

Reviewing Your Tasks

OmniFocus gives you the ability to review each and every task that you’ve created to ensure that you don’t miss out on a particular one or to guarantee that you complete a project in its entirety. When you enter the Review mode on the sidebar, a list of tasks which need reviewing pops up, with the oldest ones appearing towards the top. You can bulk mark tasks as completed, on hold, active or dropped straight from the Review menu.

Review

OmniFocus displays any tasks that need reviewing on a regular basis (which can be customised).

Once you’ve reviewed a particular project, then you simply tap on Mark Reviewed and the next project for review appears. This is incredibly useful if you are a project leader and you need to review several projects after one another. You can also set the review interval (the default period is weekly) by tapping on the Review interval section and changing it to your preference.

Final Thoughts

OmniFocus is just how iPad productivity apps should be, it blows all others clean out of the water. I have worked with several ones, including Firetask, and I find the sheer range of features in OmniFocus pushes it way ahead of all the other GTD apps out there on the App Store.

The app is optimised for retina-display iPads and although the price does bring tears to your eyes (especially for an iPad app), it’s a small price to pay for having such a useful organisational tool in your life – I really don’t know where I would be without it!


Summary

Simply the best all-round GTD and productivity app for your iPad.

10
  • xbeta

    Best GTD App on iOS! But it is too expensive to me as a app. :(

  • http://andriyg.com Andriy

    great app. Solid performance, clean functional interface. I would easily call it best GTD software…. However, on top of a very high price, there is no web app to access your to-do lists. There is no windows version of the software. No export function. All tasks are trapped in software.
    I personally had to leave it for something that i can use across all platforms.

  • Michael

    The price is too damn high! Seriously, how do these guys justify charging 40 for their iPad app, 20 for their iPhone app and 70 for their mac app. Its ridiculous!!!!

    Lets get real, at the end of the day its an app. Its a better built app yes, but an app just the same. And people are actually spending their hard earned money on this!

    Plus, the only way you can get your moneys worth is if you have a 3G iPad. It doesn’t make sense to have this if you have a wifi only iPad.

    I don’t know, Omnifocus has always bothered me. I hate their pricing structure, to charge that much for a GTD app where there are so many others out there, it just seems a little out of touch with reality is all.

  • dave t

    No point to Omni focus at all. If you can’t export so you can use in school or hard copy for in the field etc. Omnifocus need to get to egt a grip. Too pricy and too complicated with less functions than many other apps out there.

    I use getITdone (about to go to Verison 4). $39 a year for pro and I get web, iOS, PC and Androad as well as iPhone versions all syncing with each other. Export to Print/Excell/many other iPad apps etc. Easy to add stuff and action things, dates, recurrence, notes etc etc OH! And evernote inegrated right inside the app for the extra notes etc you might need. I use it all the time in and out of school.

  • Nathan

    I’ve bought into the whole OmniFocus ecosystem (iPad, iPhone, Mac) and I quite like the software, but I find myself getting too bogged down by them. I’m pretty busy, at university, but I never feel as if I have enough ‘things’ to do to necessitate using these. I do agree with the 10/10 rating, but for now I’ve gone back to a pocket-sized Moleskine for my to-dos.

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  • CM

    I agree with Nathan and others — OF is getting too complicated (and pricey, too). I prefer a task platform that simple and quick to use. Not bloated with hundreds of buttons and screen areas. To me, it is just too complicated, and I ended up spending more time working the app, rather than getting the actual work done.

    Counterproductive.

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  • J

    One thing that is missing from this article is perspectives. It’s an amazing feature and one that I use a lot. I have a wifi iPad (what’s wrong with that Michael?), iPhone and a Mac with OmniFocus on all of them. It really is the best GTD app you can find, I’ve saved so much time/work and thus made even more money than before. It’s quite funny actually, Omnifocus is the one app that make me refuse to look at any other device without iOS unless I see any proof of something as good as Omnifocus. The review function (no GTD system unless you constantly review things) on the iPad is far better than on the Mac/iPhone but managing tasks on the bigger level is much easier on the computer. For smaller stuff and ticking things off, I use the iPhone. The price is very high but for me, it’s worth it since it’s just so much better than any other option at the moment (for me at least). Improvements for myself would be an updated GUI on the Mac client and perhaps collaboration abilities.

    I’ve tried so many different GTD apps it’s stilly, even Nozbe which cost me a lot more than OmniFocus and it’s subscription based! I liked Nozbe a lot because it integrates well with Evernote and Dropbox, both of which I use a lot for different reasons. But in the end, Omnifocus is still unrivaled for me. Sometimes I prefer to have tasks written down so I can physically strike them, I use “Reprint calendar” for that instead of exporting anything and printing it from Omnifocus. For collaboration I currently use Asana. In one way I prefer to have my things and the team’s things separate.

  • Josh

    The App Store says it’s $79.99, not $39.99…

    • Joel Bankhead

      It’s $79.99 for the Mac, but $39.99 for the iPad version.

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  • Dennis

    OmniFocus is way overhyped and overpriced. Yes it’s a fine piece of software on the Mac and the iPad but there are others out there that are as good and in some areas better and most importantly cheaper. It’s not that OmniFocus has more features than the others or does things magically better. This article lacks any objectivity and the author should be ashamed of himself. Why is OmniFocus ‘simply’ the best compared to say Firetask or Things? Because it has the best looking icon? Or because the OmniGroup gives you that impression by pricing OmniFocus above the others? I find the OmniFocus UI very plain looking on the Mac and on the iPad and I haven’t seen any big updates in a long time. For this price I expect regular updates, a big update once or twice a year and real innovation.

  • Moila

    I switch and now use Beesy. http://www.beesapps.com/beesy-ipad-to-do/ Pretty good productivity app for my business for the moment

    M.

  • http://mkasu.org Marc A. Kastner

    Currently it has it’s price reduced to 20$ / 16€ for iPad and 40$ / 32€ on Mac.

  • Phoodit

    After already used most of the GTD app on iPhone and iPad, no matter what you all say. The omnifocus is really ‘simply’ the best.

  • Gauroch

    It’s my unavoidable organizer (I use Nozbe too)
    Expensive? This is a top app, with top support (long live OMNI)…
    How much do you spend in a greasy hamburger and a couple of lousy beers with lads in some afternoon…?

  • Gauroch

    As an addendum, my Nozbe is doubling or making tasks disappear…
    I do need consistency and reliability in my work…so I’m trashing 2 dozens of apps (GetitDone, Nozbe, Orchestra, ToDo, MLO, PocketLists, xLists, SlickTasks, OrganizePro, Toodledo, Things was dropped the same week I stupidly bought it, an UbikFocus was erased for moral problems: is it just an impression the similarities with OmniFocus?)!!! I’ll keep ToDoMatrix (that never failed)
    What’s left? OMNIFOCUS!!! Never failed, never let me down…no sync troubles. everything is in the right place… Too complicated? I have never noticed…
    Critics? The iPad GUI is perfect for me, but the iPhone gui could perhaps have smaller fonts to give space to more info, and a more “teutonic” aspect (less greys…more blacks). So, let the toys for the boys and really good, solid apps for people who really need to work.

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