If you’re looking into Omnifocus 2 this is the in-depth review of both desktop and mobile version. I will assume that you are already neck deep in task management, productivity & GTD, and you are looking for the “ultimate solution” for all your growing and evolving task management needs. In this Omnifocus 2 Review article I want you to dive deep into the features and options that came with the updated version of Omnifocus 2 and ways they can improve your productivity. Enjoy!
A Place Where Task Management Begins
If you want to get your tasks done, you need to get them a home, where you can organize, review and eliminate. Choosing a right task manager might be a complicated task for someone that is not into productivity as hardcore as yourself.
There is a reason why Omnifocus is controversial, and why it is turning heads. Part of this reason is because of its crude power and other part due to its steep price.
However this is the only task manager that managed to sway me to use it for past full 5 years (starting with its previous version). All of this happened without me even considering an another application as a substitute. Not that I didn’t try, but I never found anything that would leave me remotely satisfied and craving for it the way Omnifocus does.
It is the most comprehensive task managers I’ve used so far, and God knows I’ve tried many, and I still occasionally do. Calling it a To-Do list feels like a big understatement. This time around we are reviewing the second universal iteration and it comes with a complete UI paradigm shift towards the flat design. Bloggers around the block stated that this is the: “Landmark redesign” and they are right. The shift came from an app that previously looked pretty generic, towards an application that exceeds the expectations of the new OS paradigm.
Full Omnifocus 2 Review For Those That Never Tried It Before
Explaining Omnifocus to someone who has never used it might be a challenging task, but I am willing to give you my best shot. When observing this giant of a task manager, comparing it to To-do apps and checklists is not a way to give it justice. If you want to see how deep the rabbit whole goes you need to dive deeper into the plethora of options in task management world, and find something flexible that will mold and grow with your needs.
When you open the app, you are welcomed with its home-screen that prompts you to the “Forecast” view at the top. Forecast view is neatly integrated in the new version, unlike being the tab in the past, that you needed to click on. This is giving you the neat overview of what is waiting for you in the day.
Underneath the forecast view you will see the inbox. If you’ve never used the GTD-style app, inbox is a default “folder” or a default project, where you save all the tasks that go through your mind for the day. And in the evening (or morning) you purge the inbox and put them into the designated projects, contexts and assign them with “due dates” and/or flag them for extra focus.
Inbox is followed by grid view (on mobile) of the:
This grid view is convenient, and allows for expansion on Perspectives. Dashboard of sorts, that lets you access the most frequently used sections of the application. On the desktop, it is organized in the sidebar, but also allows you for custom perspectives right on the toolbar.
What the hell are perspectives?
They are a valuable feature that makes Omnifocus unique. For those that are familiar with Omnifocus from before, perspectives have been improved, and you can arrange them in any way you want. Perhaps my desire would be to maintain the grid view like the one above. However as I find myself using only 2–3 “working perspectives” on my iPhone, I never found it lacking so far. And that concludes the view of the home-screen.
For those of you who are new to the app, perspectives are a powerful view templates that allow you to fully customize your Omnifocus focus experience. They are designed to remove everything that is not related to the approach of the projects/contexts you want to see. This is helping you clean your mind, giving you zen-like focus narrowing on the things that are highly relevant for you at the given time and situation.
The best way to imagine perspectives would be the “sunglasses of different colors” for all your tasks, projects and situations. Using perspectives means that you are deliberate about the approaches you have to your problem solving and completing your work.
You can group your tasks by Due dates, Start dates, wether they belong to a context and have a flag, or don’t. There are endless combinations that are worthy of a whole blog post itself, if not even a whole book, and my friend David Sparks wrote one: Omnifocus 2 Field Guide. If you decide to move forward with Omnifocus, you should definitively check it out. But as a power user feature, they deserve an entire segment on why they matter, and what is the best way to utilize them.
Setup Reminders Capture With Siri Integration
OmniGroup is highly focused on maximizing entire potential of their apps by integrating them with Apple’s existing solutions as much as humanly possible. This makes their apps act and feel like they were made in conjunction with Apple’s ideals, and the whole experience feels like the application is native to the iOS/OS X. This seamlessness is what makes the case for OF.
Siri integration is one of the features that proves this point. The end result of this integration is ability to dictate your tasks with Siri, and she will capture it in the “reminders app”. From there Omnifocus pulls the information and saves it into the Inbox. This way I was able to save numerous tasks during my commute as ideas were popping into my head. The best part was, I was doing all of this on my Apple Watch. Dumping ideas has never been easier, and I had no excuse but to include all of the thoughts into my trusted system.
Often times you will encounter actionable emails that need to move away from your mailbox towards your “commitment software” and in this case, your task manager. Years before this proved to be a difficult challenge as there was no way for the users to feed their task management databases from their iPhones. Mail drop solved that issue, and now saving email items, became a matter of a simple forward.
When mail drop arrived last year it transformed the way we view and see the task management database. It left a lot of space for automation with IFTTT, Dropbox, Hazel and other amazingly geeky stuff, but that is a whole different topic.
Location Aware Contexts
This is the bread and butter of Omnifocus and a feature that I haven’t seen any other app implement as successfully so far. When you arrive certain location, or once you leave it, your notifications will populate with designated list of tasks that you’ve set for yourself to be reminded of. Unlike time based “due tasks” these reminders are fully embracing geo-fencing and reminding you to accomplish those location specific tasks, that you are supposed to remember only when you are near a certain location. This means that you don’t have to fidget with the due date reminders, but you can rely on your pure location to remind you on what’s going on.
For starts you could create two location aware contexts: home and work. But you can expand from there and move towards your favorite stores, or locations that you don’t visit as often, but do require certain location specific actions. Let’s say you infrequently visit Office Depot for office supplies. When you pass by it, on your usual route, it triggers a task reminder “Buy Office supplies”, as you are in its vicinity, nudging you to get what’s necessery.
New Features that arrived with the version 2
From the features perspective, little towards nothing changed, but after I’ve been using Omnifocus for 3–4 months now, I can only tell you that reverting back to any other task management software would require me to unlearn a lot of muscle memory I’ve developed within the application. The best that came with new Omnifocus 2 are improvements of already existing features.
The most noticeable improvements are those that we don’t notice anymore. Omnifocus sync used to be painfully slow and today that is completely gone. The trust in the tool has increased to that level, that I started forgetting the sync and that type of improvement is something that you are looking for in a task manager. The kind of upgrade that gets the technology out of the way, and puts front and center your own content.
Hold Back For Home-screen
Apart from the slight feature improvements, there is the full blown revamp of the user interface, that results in massive shift in user experience. One of the features that went straight under the skin is moving backwards from deeply nested structures within your projects or contexts: Holding down the back button, moves you back to app home-screen. This is something that completely caught me off guard, as I felt it intuitively. I was deep in my tasks and I wanted a way to get back to the “root” and I had negative anticipation of the feature not being implemented. The only reasonable and simplified solution would be to press and hold the back button and once I’ve tried it, to my surprise, it worked flawlessly.
Hiding The Non-Essential?
There are no more buttons for search, settings and sync on the home-screen. You need to pull down, the same way you would for spotlight on springboard. This is removing clutter and putting your content in the focus. This is the sword with two edges, as I would like to have search functionality available in a single tap, at least on the home-screen. But as I’ve kept using it, I didn’t feel like it was adding friction to my work, so it might just be old hanged up me.
Is Omnifocus 2 worth the investment of $80-120?
Often have I wondered is Omnifocus 2, worth dishing out extra cash, even in previous iterations. This time around I am writing this review assuming that you either already have Omnifocus, know what it is, or you are considering buying it. I am writing this review after solid 2 years of using the app, so I can say with accuracy how it affected me personally, your use case might be different.
Answer to the before mentioned question is a strong yes if you want to commit getting the value out of it. During these two past years, there were moments when Omnifocus saved my life in the time of the overwhelm. In the other times, when I had a more casual approach, I didn’t mind the additional firepower, as I would scale the system down to the “classic” to-do list app, just by using Inbox and flagging. It’s so ingrained in the back of my head, that I don’t doubt its usefulness.
The biggest pro is that the latest redesign works flawlessly with the new iOS paradigm, yet still preserving the unique flavor of the app. Remembering Omnifocus 1, is a far off memory at this point. But when it comes to Omnifocus, I feel that whatever they did, they couldn’t go worse than the iteration 1. From all Omnifocus apps, iPhone version was the most challenged graphically and I had hard time using it. In this version, I feel like I own very current and vivid product.
But it’s not only about graphics, the overall experience and feel of the app are giving you a complete paradigm change over your tasks. If you are like me, you are one of those people that are heavily influenced by graphic interface of the application. The more appealing the app is, the higher likeliness is that I will be using it. This is exactly what is happening with Omnifocus 2, it changed the perspective of how I see the app and the way I want to use it in the future. I’ve found myself coming back to it more frequently.
This is a professional grade software that has most, if not all bells and whistles that you may require in an application, and as such, it is well suited for the power users and their delicate needs.
The biggest issue with the app is its complexity. You really need to put in the effort to learn its ins and outs, and to live by the system so that you can maximize the value out of it. The other big drawback, is that this is a Apple Only application. It won’t work on Android phones or tablets, PC computers or Windows mobile devices. It’s exclusive. The developers from Omnigroup did this as a strategic move behind their company, and in doing so, they’ve created a product that is custom tailed
Rating 4.9/5 Stars
Omnifocus 2 is a very polished app that has developed over the years. However it is not for everybody. When I first got Omnifocus I had one big reason in mind for it, and I was committed investing myself into it. I wanted a task manager that would scale with me. When I bought into Omnifocus I got in for the long run. I knew that there was a steep learning curve to this software, and I was willing to explore it over the time, knowing that as my needs grow, this app could easily grow with me. It was a conscious decision made up front with a significant energy and time investment that paid of dividends after 3 months of fidgeting with it, and it continued to grow as I fully explored the software.