How I’ve been using Omnifocus lately, and Why?

Since Omnifocus added OF for the web, I’ve been considering switching (back) from Things 3. I absolutely love Things 3, but it really helps to be able to access and update my tasks from my work PC.

I kind of have a Things 3 -esque workflow:

OF perspectives

I basically start my day with what is available. Then, I flag items that I want or need to work on today. This essentially creates my “Today” list. Similar to Things 3.

At first I was just deferring items out further that I didn’t get done from my “available” items, but then I realized that when I did that, I was changing the original due/defer relationship that I had created.

This is one thing in Things 3 that I like better. When a repeating task is created, that instance that is next due is seperate from the master, in that you can change the “when” date in Things 3 without changing the original repeating task set up.

Hope this all makes sense. The struggle is real!

Lots of exciting news coming from @omnigroup.

The ball is in your court @culturedcode. Let’s see what you’ve got planned next.

Attachments? Web app (yeah right)! Some type of saved search or filtering?

ok just look at this animation from Things 3 😍

It also has a really cool haptic feedback when done on the iPhone.

This is harsh, as I still use OmniFocus too… but OmniFocus is beginning to feel like Windows, and Things 3 is Mac OS.

Thoughts?!

Moving tasks around in Todoist

There seems to be no way on iOS to make a group of tasks become sub tasks. I was trying to move the selected tasks all under electronics, but no dice.

Needed to find a task with an important attachment

My wife had a particular correspondence that she needed to follow up on. For whatever reason I didn’t scan it to evernote, I instead took a picture and put it in the task manager I was using at the time.

Of course Things 3 doesn’t support attachments, but I thought maybe I did include a link to an Evernote note of the pic. Nope!

I also didn’t add it to Todoist. Which I also use sometimes off and on.

Of course I found it in Omnifocus.

The Omnifocus experience on iOS is not as good as it should be. And Omnigroup has some plans to fix it >We’ll be reviewing the ways customers navigate our apps—making them easier to navigate on small touch devices, more efficient to use from a keyboard, and more accessible to the sight-impaired.

Task Manager Status

So…

After some more thought, using a PC at work is causing me to change some things up.

This is not a new development. I have pretty much always used a PC at work. Sometimes I am able to use my iPhone or iPad. But only sometimes. This causes real friction tracking tasks. I really want to be able to use Things 3, but alas, they willl likely never have a web app.

Omnifocus currently has a web app in beta. But to be honest, although I still want to love Omnifocus 3, it really leaves something to be desired in 2019. It may be the most technically powerful, but it’s design feels so so dated. This extends to their web app which is trying to emulate basic features of their desktop app. But at least in my humble opinion, it truly feels like an web app from the 1.0 era.

This brings me to the two web based solutions I am currently trying to decide between.

Todoist

The current undisputed leader in this space. I have used this app in the past.

The beta currently allows sorting varies lists by date. But they just added this. Their handling of sub tasks is well, sub par (😂). Their CEO has tweeted that a big revamp is coming sometime this year. It feels to me like their pace of development is very slow. They are a very well established company with more integrations than probably anybody. I’m not afraid they will be going anywhere anytime soon. It seems they don’t want to sell and make a cash grab.

Ticktick

This is the new to me task manager. It feels like a more modern version of Todoist. It does have some issues thought. The biggest for me thus far is their natural language processing. In Todoist, it almost always seems to know what I was trying to say when entering a task date or recurrence. Ticktick does not work nearly as well in this regard. On the other hand, it has sorting of lists and smart lists right now. Their handling of sub tasks is also superior to the way Todoist currently does it. One feature that is not currently quite as good as Todoist is the way it displays email that I forward to create tasks. Most of these are from my work exchange account. In Todoist, they are displayed exactly as they appear in my work email app (Outlook). In Ticktick, it is mostly correct, but not exactly. Filters are technically more powerfull in Todoist, but I do like how Ticktick gives you a visual way to create them. It would not take much for Ticktick to catch up here. I think all they really need is to add “NOT” logic.

As always, take this with a grain of salt. I change task managers like most people change bed sheets. I do think I may have accepted that although I love native apps, as long as my work involves being on a PC, I will need a service that offers a web app.

Izq.fm Podcast Ep 2 “Task Managers”

I discuss Things, Omnifocus, and Todoist

Filter Out a specific Tag in Things 3

This tip (if you could call it that) only works well if you don’t have that many Areas and if you aren’t changing Areas around that often…

my Areas

So basically, I tag the Work Area as “Work”, and all other Areas in addition to whatever else I want to tag them, also get the tag “Not Work”. This allows me to easily filter by Work and Not Work .

Remember, if you tag an Area, then all items under that Area inherit the tag.

Until or unless Things 3 gets a more robust search and/or tag filtering system, this is what I have been doing.

Let me know if this helps anyone.

More on Task Managers

I’ve been using both OmniFocus and Things for quite a while sort of floating back and forth between them. They are both amazing apps. I think I can unequivocally say that if your primary use of a task manager is from iPhone and iPad, then Things is the better app. If your primary use is from Mac with some iPad and maybe primarily just checking tasks off from iPhone, then it’s a toss up on your specific needs and habits. You will definitely run into more cases where Things may not do a specific thing (no pun intended) that you need. Say showing only tasks tagged “work” but not tagged “office” and grouped by project and “unavailable “. Which is very complex and you really may need this. But speaking for myself, if I simply go to a specific area and project, and simply filter by a tag, I can usually achieve the same thing, and I spend WAYYYYYYY less time coming up with the very best perspective ever.

YMMV, and I could change my mind after the next wizbang feature. It’s a real struggle with me finding the most awesomest task manager. Am I alone? Let me know what you guys think…

The fact that Things has no saved searches or filters or perspectives might be its biggest downfall. I believe you could add this feature without adding complexity. Simply don’t use it if you don’t need to.

Observation of Things and OmniFocus

I’m finding it’s possible to have that overwhelming feeling with @culturedcode that people associate with @OmniFocus.

When tons of items show up in the today view because the “when” date is today, it’s somewhat annoying to not be able to filter OUT items by tags. This is where OF can feel calmer. You can build perspectives to only see what you need to.

Since I’m trialing keep it for a month, I needed a way to get emails (with attachments) into the app. With evernote I would just forward the email. With keep it you can drag an email into the app on iPad only. So if I come across an email when using my iPhone, I will flag/star it. This will make it super easy to find when back on my iPad.

Robby Burns writing on his website about Evernote’s recent announcement:

So I think this is the final straw. I am going to let my Evernote subscription lapse this fall when it comes to a close. The real challenge about this situation for me, and other Evernote users, is that it is the most fully featured note app on the market. Of all the things one might want from a note app, Evernote covers more of them than any of the competition. But unfortunately for Evernote, stock software like Apple Notes is good enough to do most of the things people need. And for those who want more, there is an emerging bunch of independent developers making note apps who show way more hustle, adding major features to their apps, annually (Bear, for example).

I have been thinking a lot about this lately as well. I’ve been very frustrated about Evernote’s direction. It seems like they are too focused on only providing business features. I don’t know about their business, but I do know that Microsoft has a pretty big strong hold on the business world. Time will tell I guess.

Robby goes on to talk a little about Devonthink:

This summer I have been giving DEVONthink a try. It is a Mac and iOS app that is a one time paid purchase on each device. It is a document management app that has all of the “everything bucket” features of Evernote and more. I hope to write more on it soon. For now, I am pretty happy that I have an easy way to clip receipts, websites for later review, and emails, and have them made automatically text searchable. The DEVONthink app on Mac is hideous, and setting up iCloud sync took me a minute, but the utility of the app is worth it so far. I prefer something like this rather than to continue to support companies who string their customers along while they spend time and money on making their elephant mascot look more 2018. 

I have tried Devonthink and I have very mixed feelings. As Robby talks about, the Mac app is just gross looking. Functionally it’s amazing, but it’s hard to look at. The iOS app is better, but it’s still not the best looking iOS app in my opinion. I really like that Evernote is a web app. I love that I can forward an email into Evernote. Getting email into Devonthink, without using my mac, is probably my biggest annoyance. The other big problem with Devonthink is that as a note taker it’s not very good, in fact I find it confusing actually. The fact is, as far as text notes go, there are at least a dozen good apps on iOS to use, so if I decide to finally leave Evernote, I may break up my everything bucket between text notes in something like Bear, and documents in DEVONthink. But what I really want is for Evernote to talk about what they are really doing and not give vague nothing answers and spend a lot of time redesigning their logo..

Omnifocus, Things 3, and Todoist oh my!

Some thoughts about popular task managers

Omnifocus 3

This app has been around a long time and the company is a great iOS citizen. They usually integrate the latest iOS features the day they come out.

Perspectives (smart filters) are one of the best things about omnifocus. Perspectives allow you to only see a specific subset of your tasks. They have gotten more powerful with omnifocus 3 and a little easier to use. That said, they still aren’t as easy as they could be. Trying to come up with the perfect set can be extremely time consuming.

Defer dates are something that few task managers offer. They allow you to not see an task until it is actually available to be done. For instance, you could have a task of “buy Christmas tree” with a defer date of December 1st. This way you don’t see this task every time you look at your list of things to do. You only see it after December 1st. I think I personally have a problem with defer dates though. Rather than remove a cognitive load, I think they might add to it. Let me explain. I end up thinking about the task more than I would otherwise. I typically end up having to go to the view that shows all tasks (including deferred tasks) in order to “make sure” that I have the task scheduled. I suppose doing a weekly review consistently might alleviate this, but I haven’t been successful in doing a weekly review.

Omnifocus also doesn’t currently have an easy way to show tasks due within the next 3 days, or 7 days for instance. This is frustrating to me and quite easy in some other popular task managers.

Omnifocus is the first serious task manager I used, and I often come back to it. But it really seems like it requires a lot of work to maintain. It’s just got so many settings and ways to manage your data it can feel like overkill.

Omnifocus is to offer a web app “soon”. This will be a welcomed addition for those of us stuck at a windows pc all day at work.

Things 3

Things 3 is by far the best looking of the task managers I’ve tried. It is a beautiful app with little animations that show how much care they put into the app. It’s “upcoming” view is not only gorgeous, but the most functional of the apps I’ve tested.

There are some problems that prevent me from using Things 3 full time…

The way it handles recurring tasks is frustrating. It does not allow you to mark a recurring task as complete until the actual due day. This is maddening if you are say for instance paying some bills when you have some free time, even though they aren’t actually “due” yet. In this example, Things 3 doesn’t allow you to check of the task of paying said bill early. IT MAKES NO SENSE.

Some other things aren’t necessarily deal breakers, but they add to frustration and work around. There is no attachment support. And no web app. If I didn’t’ have a joby job that required me to be at a windows pc all day this wouldn’t matter. But I do, so it does.

Todoist

Todoist is not my favorite UI/UX on iOS. I think this is because it is primarily a web first app. The apps on iOS and the Mac are basically wrappers into the web view. This has some advantages as well, but it also results in the UI being just ok. In fact, my favorite platform to use Todoist on is actually the web.

What Todoist lacks in UI polish, it makes up for in functionality. Todoist is the only app of the three mentioned here that has natural language support. This saves SO much time when entering tasks. Once you learn the syntax you can just fly through entering due dates and adding labels and projects, etc. One annoyance with this though. The current UI if you want to manually add due dates is atrocious. I believe they are updating this very soon, but they have not as of writing this post.

Todoist attachment support is superior in my opinion. Especially when forwarding emails from my work account. Todoist will actually save the formatting of the original email. So if someone send you an email with highlights and bold text etc., all that will be preserved when viewing the text of the email in Todoist. Again, if I wasn’t at my pc most of the work day I wouldn’t’ care, but alas, I am.

Todoist being a web based app also has extensive support for using Zapier or IFTTT. This allows for a level of automation that the others just don’t offer. Although, if I’m being honest, I don’t’ really use many of those features right now.

So what am I using now…

For this very instant in time…. I’m giving Todoist another shot. It can’t be good the way I bounce around task mangers. I guess you could say it’s something of a hobby at this point. Now that I’ve use all three apps mentioned in this post, it’s getting easier to bounce around. Most of my recurring tasks are entered in all three apps. To switch, I just need to transfer the one off items that come up.

I don’t’ know why I can’t seem to stick with just one of these. There doesn’t seem to be the “perfect” task manger app for me.

I think I want to be an Omnifocus user because that’s what you use if you are a power user, right? They have a long history on the Mac, and now iOS. They are a great indie Mac/IOS company and I want to continue supporting them. But at some point I may need to admit that for my purposes at least, the app is too fiddly.

Things 3 has been out for a little more than a year now. As I mentioned, it’s just a beautiful app that makes you want to be in your task manager. But I’m still worried about their development going forward. There was a HUGE gap between Things 2 and Things 3 and I don’t know that they have every really explained why.

So the winner….for now… is….. Todoist.

Check back next week for what I’ll be using then 🤪

The problem with repeating tasks in @culturedcode Things 3… even though you get set a start date for say a week early, then the item would be able to be marked complete. This ,however, is an issue because then you have this item in your today view for all that time cluttering things up. Please fix soon…