Thoughts on Omnifocus 2 for iPhone

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Three years ago, my search for the best task manager on both the Mac and iOS led me to Omnifocus. I had tried numerous apps that implemented David Allen’s GTD (Getting Things Done) methodology and in the end, I settled with Omnifocus and never looked back. Since OF’s release for the iPhone in 2008, it’s been considered among the top Todo apps on the platform. So naturally, with the release of iOS 7, the Omnigroup have released a new and completely revamped version of the app to match the latest OS’ flat and more modern design.

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OF 2′s Home Screen is a winner

Redesign

From the moment you open OmniFocus 2 for iPhone, you’ll see the drastic differences compared to its predecessor. Gone are the gradients, shadows, textures, and dull colors, which have been replaced by iOS 7’s bright color scheme and flat design. This fresh new look is very easy on the eyes and it’s among the best redesigns I’ve seen thus far for iOS 7.

Aside from the aesthetic overhaul, the home screen has also been given an all new layout. Instead of simply rows of headings like Inbox, Projects etc., we now have more user-friendly and larger buttons for all the essentials. For starters, Forecast is right at the top and you can quickly glance at the number of items that are past due, or due today (there’s a count next to “Forecast” for this) and beyond. The Flagged and Inbox buttons have count numbers within the app icon as well.

Upon tapping on an item, say Contexts, the top and bottom halves of the screen pull apart and reveal the targeted page. This visual effect gives users a sense of layering (a design philosophy behind iOS 7) and it’s a nice touch to the overall user experience.

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Pull down to reveal Sync, Settings, Search

The bottom toolbar found in OF1 is gone, and in its place is a “floating” Inbox icon on the bottom right corner. Tap at anytime to add items to your inbox. The Settings, Search, Sync and View options are now accessed by pulling down on the screen to reveal a grey menu with these functions.

Colors aren’t just a visual treat in OF2; they now play a more central role and act like visual queues. The old checkboxes for actions have been replaced by a smarter check circle. Tasks that are due soon will have a yellow circle, whereas overdue ones will be red. Likewise in Forecast view, any days that have overdue items will be red and so on. As for repeating tasks, they will have an ellipses appear within their circle.

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Inbox view: OF 2 vs OF 1

The Flag icon to denote a Flagged item has been retired. So flagging a task will instead show an orange circle. What happens if it’s overdue or due soon? The circle then gets two colors: the top half remains orange, while the bottom half changes from red to yellow depending on due date. In other words, an orange/red check circle signifies that the task has been flagged and overdue (meaning you should get on that ASAP). Personally I dig this new Flagging system and think that it’s well integrated into the “smart” check circle.

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Left: Edit page for Action, Right: Thumbnails for image and audio attachments

The individual Task (or Action) edit page has also been given a welcomed facelift. In Omnifocus 1, the interface for editing items dated back to the original iOS and it was definitely more cluttered. For instance, the item (or title if you will) was partly integrated to your Notes, so if you’d added some notes to the task, a big chunk of that will appear on this edit page. In OmniFocus 2, everything is neatly divided by taps (Info, Note and Attachments) and looks much cleaner. Here you can edit the Project and Context, add a Flag, set a due date, add as a repeating task, convert to a project and more. Audio and Image attachments appear as square thumbnails in this particular tab and both formats can be shared via email/messages. OF1 users will notice that “Start” has been changed to “Defer Until”, which is essentially the same thing and a term used in Omnifocus 2 for Mac (currently in beta).

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Quickly see how many tasks you have in each list with help of Dots

Finally, another significant addition from a design and visual perspective are the dots that appear under lists in Projects and Context. Each dot represents a task in that project/context and they change color as well based on due date (again red for overdue, yellow for due soon and grey for undated or future actions). This is a fantastic way of highlighting quickly how many tasks/actions you have in each folder and whether they’ll require your attention that day.

What’s New

Users hoping for loads of new major features in OF2 might be disappointed. The emphasis behind the new version of the app has more to do with design, and an improved user experience and workflow. That’s not to say there aren’t any new features, because there are several. Background Sync was introduced with iOS 7 and this ability has been brought over to version 2. What this means is that your tasks will sync with the Omni Sync Server (or Mac via Wifi / WebDAV) even if the app is not active. No longer will you have to open the OF app just to get your stuff in sync.

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Roll the dice with Defer Until Later option

As mentioned earlier, “Defer Until” has replaced “Start” and there’s now a neat little “Later” button if you want to Defer your tasks. This is if you don’t particularly care exactly when it’ll be deferred until; when pressed, a date will be randomly assigned up to 3 months ahead for you. For new Omnifocus users, Defer works great by allowing you to filter out things you don’t really need to see on that day, thereby helping you concentrate on actions that can be tackled at that moment. This is accomplished by going to View (pull down to show) and selecting a filter option from there.

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Mind Sweep / add multiple tasks with Save+

Since the bottom navigation menu bar has been axed, the home button is nowhere to be found in V2. Not to worry though, as it’s now a lot more intuitive. By tapping and holding the Back button (top left corner), it’ll take you back to the home page no matter where you are. Last but not least, my favorite (new) feature in OF2 is “Save+”. When adding a new task, users have the option of using Save+ instead of just Save, which immediately saves, closes the current window and opens another item for you to add. This is a huge time saver and makes life easier when performing a “Mind Sweep”, a process David Allen calls when emptying all the things in your head that you want to get done. In this case, it’ll be rapidly dumping all the tasks you want recorded into the Omnifocus inbox. Regardless of whether you follow the GTD methodology, the Save+ button is a great tool for adding multiple actions swiftly.

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Forecast calls for getting things done

Final Thoughts

I’ve been using OF2 now for a little over a week and just love the new flat design, interface and all the little details that went into making the app. The UI and color scheme blend extremely well with iOS 7 and the new features and visual queues help improve usability. Omnifocus 2 for iPhone is a paid upgrade and an awesome one at that for Omnifocus users running iOS 7. Yes it does cost $19.99 and OF1 customers will need to cough up some money again to use the latest version. Unfortunately Apple does not offer upgrade pricing on the App Store, so don’t expect the Omnigroup to sell it for, say, $9.99 even if you did purchase OF1 recently. So is OmniFocus 2 worth the 20 bucks? Absolutely. Assuming it’ll be another 5 years before Omnifocus 3 is released, that’s basically $4 a year to run the most current version of OF on the iPhone. Of course, if you already have Omnifocus 1, you can simply use that on iOS 7, but do note that it’s no longer being supported by the developers and there’ll be no future updates for it. If like me, you rely heavily on Omnifocus for managing your life, this is an easy buy.

What’s to like:

  • Gorgeous new design and interface
  • Home screen is more user friendly
  • New check circle with color scheme
  • Visual dots for Projects/Context overview
  • Improved thumbnail layout for attachments
  • Save+ Feature

What’s not to like:

  • No upgrade pricing on App Store
  • No iPad version for iOS 7 yet
  • No swipe gesture to go back to previous screen
  • Currently no support for textexpander and landscape mode

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  • Dan

    Thanks for this. I was not happy with the update until I read your blog and it suddenly made sense. I love it. Other developers going through the iOS 7 redesign should understand the importance of rationalizing and explaining the new interface. Very well done.

  • Rich C.

    Big fan of Omnifocus here and I too love the upgrade on iOS 7. All the colors just feel right and I second that the Save+ feature is very useful. No way I can go back to using version 1 after OF2!

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