Thursday, June 12, 2014

The Redesigned OmniFocus 2 for Mac

Getting Things Done, Better: The Redesigned OmniFocus 2 for Mac

Getting Things Done, Better: The Redesigned OmniFocus 2 for Maca

by Bakari Chavanu
The much anticipated OmniFocus 2 ($39.99) has made its grand entrance with a revised, cleaner design and streamlined sections for managing and reviewing projects, tasks, and flagged items.
A few years back, I gave up on the original OmniFocus because it felt too complicated for what I needed. I currently use the recently reviewed Guided Ways’ 2Do for Mac and iOS, but the elegant redesign of OmniFocus 2 has me wondering if I should make the switch to the redesigned version.
OmniFocus 2 is sold as both a standard ($39.99) and pro ($79.99) version, with a 14-day trial download that allows for switching (in the menubar: OmniFocus > Free Trial Mode) between both versions to compare the differences. You can also purchase the standard version from the Mac App Store and upgrade to the pro version later.

A Completely Redesigned UI

I always felt a little confused when using the previous version of OmniFocus (screenshot, below), with its numerous drop-down menus and options for viewing and managing input. Plus, the application was less attractive and more cluttered than other solutions like Things and 2Do.
OmniFocus old version1   Getting Things Done, Better: The Redesigned OmniFocus 2 for Mac

If you favor the new flat design of iOS 7, you’re going to in awe of OmniFocus 2. All the icons and buttons compliment one another, and the five default visible sections, or what are called perspectives (Inbox, Projects, Contexts, Forecast, Flagged, Review) make it easier to locate and manage tasks and other items.
OmniFocus 21   Getting Things Done, Better: The Redesigned OmniFocus 2 for Mac

Adding Projects and Tasks

In general, managing tasks in OmniFocus consists of projects and what are called “context” labels, based on the Getting Things Done (GTD) task management system. I’m not a user of the GTD method, but the main difference between projects and contexts is that projects consist of multiple actions or tasks that might take several weeks or months to complete, whereas one or more contexts can be assigned to actions, projects, and groups to indicate where or with whom to carry out an action, like a grocery store, office, client, email or computer.
In the new OmniFocus, projects are based three types of actions:
  1. Parallel actions: can be completed in no particular order, such as a list of books to read.
  2. Sequential projects: multiple actions need to be completed in a particular order, such as painting your garage.
  3. Single actions: a list of loosely related actions, such as routine house chores, or a shopping list.
When you create a new project, OmniFocus makes it easy to hit the Return key twice to create a new action, and a project can even be put into focused mode, which hides all other projects, and even be opened in a separate window.
I particularly like the way projects can be labeled active, on hold, completed, or dropped. You can of course delete a project altogether, but it’s great that a project (such as a workshop you do two or three times a year) with all its actions can be marked completed, hidden, then marked as incomplete when you need to use it again. Clicking on the View button in the toolbar, you can set OmniFocus to show all completed and dropped items and projects, or just the active ones.
OmniFocus view   Getting Things Done, Better: The Redesigned OmniFocus 2 for Mac

When it comes to adding actions, it’s pretty straight forward. Click the new action button and add a title, assign a “deferred” or due date, and assign the item to a project and/or context. OmniFocus, like 2Do and Things, also includes a Quick Entry feature in which items and selected clippings from Mail and other applications can be created outside of OmniFocus.
Unfortunately, unlike with 2Do, OmniFocus needs to be launched in order to use its Quick Entry feature. On the other hand, 2Do doesn’t include a clipping feature like OmniFocus, which will put the selected clipping in the title field of the entry box.
OmniFocus Quick Entry1   Getting Things Done, Better: The Redesigned OmniFocus 2 for Mac

As with 2Do, you can use the tab key to move between each field in the Quick Entry box, which means that it is possible to create an entry without having to use your mouse.
As you might expect, you can also add notes and assign recurring estimated dates to action items. You can also attach and link files to actions, and preview them in an Attachment List window (Window > Attachment List). But for some reason attachment files don’t show in the window when I open it. With 2Do, image and audio files can be embedded within items, instead of just being attachments.

Understanding Contexts

Contexts can consists of project related tasks or actions, and stand alone items, or they can be for anything you like. So for example, you can create a context for all of your email-related items, though they may belong to different projects. When writing email, you might decide to knock out several email related tasks around the same time. Another context might be for all the errands you need to make.
OmniFocus contexts   Getting Things Done, Better: The Redesigned OmniFocus 2 for Mac

Contexts particularly come in handy with the iOS version of OmniFocus, which includes the location alarm feature, similar to the in-built Reminders app.

Even More Features

OmniFocus includes other “perspective” areas for filtering flagged items and items assigned for review. The Forecast perspective provides a listing of upcoming deferred and due dates, as well as events assigned to your default Mac calendar.
As with the previous version of OmniFocus, custom perspectives can be created, based on assigned filters and focuses. This is where the pro version comes in, which also includes AppleScript support.
OmniFocus perspectives1   Getting Things Done, Better: The Redesigned OmniFocus 2 for Mac

Thankfully, OmniFocus 2 also allows for assigning a default defer date and time for new items. OmniFocus preferences include other settings for default Mavericks notifications support, new project settings, and synchronization settings with your other Mac and iOS devices running OmniFocus.
There’s much more to learn about OmniFocus 2, and OmniGroup actually produced and posted a free manual in the iTunes Book store.

Worth a Trial Download

The pro version of OmniFocus 2 includes the feature to create custom perspectives and configure the sidebar to display the perspectives you want. It also includes a single project focus feature, which hides all the other projects and actions, and AppleScript support to automate common tasks, and other functions of OmniFocus.
OmniFocus is definitely worth the free trial download, though many new potential users like myself might be hesitant to fork over the costs of switching from their current task management solution. The pro version of OmniFocus 2 ($79.99) is quite expensive, and iOS versions are sold separately for iPad ($39.99) and iPhone($19.99).
Let us know what you think of OmniFocus 2 and what you like and dislike about is total redesign.

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