Some Thoughts on OmniFocus 2

Omni focusI bought OmniFocus 1 shortly after it was released in 2008. At the time, some of my work involved managing fairly complex software documentation projects, and it was very helpful in organizing tasks by several people. Since I no longer manage that type of project, I eventually stopped using OmniFocus.

But with the release of OmniFocus 2, I decided to download a demo of the new version and check it out, to see if it would help organize the work I do a bit better. I’m not a GTD fundamentalist, and my tasks are relatively simple. But I do like having a useful tool to organize what I have to do.

While I find the design of OmniFocus 2 attractive, it fails, for me, in many ways. Comparing my current library in OmniFocus 1 and OmniFocus 2, the latter takes up about twice the height and about 1/3 more width on my window. (In OmniFocus 2, I’ve set the window to display my entire current list of tasks, and the font size in both is about the same.) There is so much wasted space, that it’s off-putting. It’s hard to see what’s going on at a glance, because so much of the window is white. And, I can’t make the sidebar as narrow as its content – this seems to be a bug – and the buttons in the sidebar just seem like wasted space as well. Here are two screenshots, to scale. First, OmniFocus 2, then OmniFocus 1. They both contain the exact same information.



Note: I could have hidden the rightmost column in the first screenshot; that’s the equivalent of the Inspector in OmniFocus 1, which is a floating window. What’s more important here is the vertical space wasted by OmniFocus 2.

Several other things irk me. There are too many things that either don’t work as they should, or don’t work at all: there’s no indication of how many – if any – items are in the inbox; I can’t change any of the fonts, sizes or colors, with the exception of a very limited font size slider; the Mail service doesn’t work, and the Send to Inbox service isn’t reliable from anywhere else; you can’t drag items from the inbox to anywhere else; I could go on, but I’m only focusing on the main issues that affect the way I work. (I’ve never understood perspectives, or some of the other advanced features of the app…)

While I found that OmniFocus 1 had too many options, and was very hard to get a handle on, I find that the lack of options in OmniFocus 2 is limiting.

I’m surprised that after the amount of time it took to bring out a version 2, that it seems so unfinished. I’ve been seeing posts on the OmniFocus forums about hidden preferences (a very, very bad idea for users), about potential tweaks to the interface, and options that might be added in the future. It just seems surprising that after all the beta testing (which I was not a part of), and eight years, that OmniFocus 2 shipped as it did.

Perhaps I’m not the right person for OmniFocus; or it’s not the right app for me. I do want a good task manager; ideally, it will be a Mac app that can sync to an iOS app. I have no problem paying the price Omni asks (though I get upgrade pricing), but for what feels like a half-baked app, it’s simply not worth it.