Contd. discussion on iPad & Omnifocus

Moderator: conversation starts here.

Yeah, I don’t rigidly adhere to GTD either, it’s really targeted at a different demographic. The whole bit about contexts and delegation are largely meaningless to me. As a self-employed computer professional, I never delegate (have no employees) and 99.999% of the things I need to do are while I’m sitting at a computer. I can break things down a bit like, “Mac”, “Internet”, etc, but even that is largely meaningless. I’ve experimented with using contexts as a kind of meta-tag, but find folders to be a better way of grouping large amounts of things together. Over the years, I’ve settled on using them as a finer-grained status marker. “Plan & Organise”, “Free”, “Blocked”, etc. OF has a nice feature that lets you put certain contexts “on hold” which makes all actions assigned to that context become blocking elements that are unavailable. If you get to a point in a project where you are waiting for someone else to finish a thing, the whole project goes offline until that block is freed up.

What I definitely do like about GTD, and have greatly benefited from, is the philosophy of breaking things down into small pieces. There really does seem to be a psychological benefit to seeing “Create a new folder on FTP server”, rather than “Update such and such webpage”. I can create a new folder in five seconds, and then check that off and “Gather notes for new page content” pops up. That kind of stuff only takes five or ten minutes to build out in an outline, and seems to make all the difference in approachability.

Something I didn’t even think of above, regarding backups, is OF’s internet sync service. They now have a free sync service you can use if you don’t have MobileMe or your own WebDAV server. This could definitely operate as a remote backup of sorts. Not quite as secure as a desktop backup, but in a pinch, could be a life saver, and a lot cheaper than shelling out for OF desktop! There is nothing about sync that says you have to have more than one device using it. :slight_smile:

Thanks from me as well. I’ve been using Things for a while, but finding it limited. I’m thinking of giving OmniFocus another try. I used it for about a year, but gave it up and switched to Things in 2008 or 2009.

I agree, Amber. I almost never use contexts (maybe an ‘email’ list), and certainly not delegation. But breaking tasks down is invaluable, something I am becoming increasingly aware of as I prepare for assignments. It feels so much better to ‘review chapter three’ or ‘brainstorm ideas’ than ‘write essay’. Actually, I was looking back over the screenshots of the iPad version of ‘Things’ and I noticed that several of the ‘tasks’ in the ‘move to new apartment’ project are really projects themselves (I don’t know of any way to throw a party in a single action!). I guess this shows that ‘Things’ is less suited to this type of planning than OF.

Thanks very much for the advice on backups. All I need is something basic, since I’m really not in a position where losing a task list would be catastrophic.

Thanks for the help and brilliant advice,

Take care,


I spent a couple of hours reviewing my to-dos in Things and transferring them to OmniFocus. I’ve used OF before, but it was a long time ago.

I now have three contexts:

  • Internet, which consists of things I can do anywhere at any computing device: iPhone, iPad, iMac. I’m virtually never disconnected from the net if I’m at one of those devices.

  • WaitingFor, which is where I put reminders to check on things, mostly waiting for people to respond to email. Nobody ever responds to email anymore.

  • Chores, for things to do around the house.

When I last used OF, I had another context: Errands, for things like going to the store or ATM.

The last time I abandoned OF it was because my contexts and projects had gotten way too rococco. I’m going back because I want folders to organize my tasks better. We’ll see how it goes.

I can think of a way, but I am not sure of the legality of it.

Mitch, your simplified context list sounds pretty much like mine, the parts of it that are not status in nature that is. WaitingFor, that is a type of status for me, and set up to be a blocking context. Home, for chores and such, and Errands. Fortunately you can get around not really using contexts in OF. The column can be hidden for one, and even the Context View isn’t precisely just that. Grouping by contexts is only one filter option. I more often use the Due By grouping filter, or none at all. Then it is just a nice tidy list of next actions. The cream of the crop from each active project.

Unfortunately the iPad version does not have this level of flexibility. The context view is basically just that. You could however completely ignore it and just work in a project centric manner.


What do you mean? How is “waiting for” a status? I don’t see anything like that in the status list, just active, hold, completed and dropped. Do you mean hold? And what do you mean by “blocking context”?

I’m using a couple of “miscellaneous” projects to hold my unordered, unsorted to-dos. Each of my current clients has its own folder, with projects and a “miscellaneous” project within, and another “miscellaneous” project for everything that’s not for a particular client.

Apologies, that was meant to be an expansion off of my prior postings above. By status I do not literally mean a feature status, but how I use contexts. I have a few literal contexts as mentioned, but the rest are more Ike status contexts, indicating what stage in the project the action represents. I have a Plan & Org status context for all new project ideas I haven’t fleshed out yet, WaitingFor is another, that sort of thing.

By blocking, I mean I have set the WaitingFor context to be “on hold” which in OmniFocus sets the action to be unavailable. In a sequential project, an unavailable action in the next action slot causes the project to become Pending. Pending is a special status, one you cannot set specifically, separate from setting a project to be “on hold”. This is something you can view in the desktop client. You can review all pending projects and see what is holding them up. Pending projects will carry over to the iPad version, but I don’t think there is a way of reviewing them yet. Perspectives in the iPad version have to be context based, not project based. So you could set up a WaitingFor perspective to review that stuff specifically on the iPad, but not at a project review level.

I do the same thing with setting up a Misc project. I use the Single Action project style for those, since they are not generally projects in the ordinary sense of the word, more just holding bins for things that need to be done. Often these single items get turned into projects later on when I have time to address them.

Thanks! I can see I am just a OF egg.

Nice new topic, AmberV!

I’ve been poking around in the Omni Group forums, they certainly look large. Do you recommend any particular topics or areas?

I second all that Ioa has written, from a position in my case of much less knowledge.

In that this thread is now discussing the contrasting philosophies of Omnifocus and its rivals rather than purely the iPad applications, I would add that the Applescript-ability of the OF Mac application is also a plus in its favour. I’m not aware that Things has the ability for anything similar, or at least Things users haven’t responded as OF users have to the challenge of customising the application.

I’ve got four or five custom buttons on my OF toolbar that launch Applescripts which link OF to other applications or manipulate OF data in various ways. In this respect (in answer to your question, Mitch) I think it’s worth looking at the Omnifocus Extras section of the OF forum. And rather than search topics in the forum as a whole, I’d look for posts and threads led by users such as Curt.Clifton, who has a website with useful OF Applescripts on it, RobTrew, who also Applescripts for OF IIRC, WHPalmer4 and Toadling, all of whom seem to know the programme well.

Thanks, Hugh! I’ve added a task in OmniFocus to check out the resources you described.

I like to poke around in the OmniFocus Extras section every once in a while to see if any cool scripts have emerged. Sometimes you’ll find that someone has coded something you wish OF would do, and you could also put in a suggestion for a script and see if someone would be nice enough to code it for you if you don’t know AppleScript yourself. For myself, I wanted a way to review just real next actions. The default Next Actions filter includes Single Actions in the list, of which I have quite a number and for this particular review I only wanted to see “real” projects to scan for any roadblocks or other problems. Someone came up with a nice AppleScript that accomplished this.

There is a cool script, for instance, that will go through your Archive file and build some HTML graphs and statistics based on what it finds there. OmniFocus’ scripting is one thing that gets commonly overlooked, and with all OmniGroup products, there is often quite a lot that can be done with them. OmniFocus, after-all, started out as an elaborate AppleScript for OmniOutliner. :slight_smile: The nice thing about Omni’s products is their code which allows you to install AppleScripts into the toolbar as if they were ordinary application features.

Other than that, the “Applying OmniFocus” section is great for practical tips on how to use the application, and definitely read OmniGroup’s OF and GTD whitepaper (linked from the product page and perhaps in the application Help menu as well).

The other forums are more tech support related and/or general discussion. So if you have a question they can be a useful resource, but as with the Scrivener forums, it’s a lot to wade through.

Edit: Oops, see Hugh beat me on the AppleScript commentary. :slight_smile:

Sorry to interfere in this OF gtd discussion, someone mentionned PI in previous conversation
Which seems to be the only GTD system, coordinating tasks and calender all together, in one single app
with great proven history
Seems to be most spread device over years, and hardly no positive feed-back here ?
This app, interrestingly gives an option between 2 gtd approches : allen and …The second one being … Hm
(sorry iPad, multitasking )
Well, could someone talk and explain what advantages and interest between those 2 gtd approaches, especially as user experience point of view ?

Thank you, in advance, … -a-review/

Not a problem! The topic is in part about using GTD on the iPad in general, so comparisons are more than welcome. I did take a look at the screenshots of PI a few days ago (I really wish Apple had thought of the whole demo problem when they designed the App Store, its ridiculous to have to buy a program to try it out, and screenshots tell you little) and determined it probably wouldn’t fit my work-style very well. For one it would take quite a bit to move me out of OF desktop at this point, so an iPad application that works with it is only a plus—but a significantly good application could persuade me otherwise. The main issue I had with PI was that it looks to be heavily calendar based, which is really something I have no use for. I have plenty of scheduled items, most of them on repeaters that pop up periodically which remind me to do maintenance tasks on various servers and so forth—but I don’t really need a calendar for that. Something that just pops up in my list of things to do today is fine. If it is a task that takes several days to prepare for and complete, then that is no problem either. Since I break everything down religiously, it’s the preparatory actions which start hitting my radar first.

They aren’t like appointments where I would need to see precise time slots and make sure there aren’t any conflicts. The only thing I really have to worry about is bottlenecks, and OF helps me see if a particular day in the coming week somehow became a nightmare of thirty different routine tasks that need to be done—then I’ll disperse things out a bit (its the interval that is often more important to me than the date; check for security patches on web server every 14 days, type stuff).

Another thing I have less use for is progress views. Being a somewhat strict GTD user, I tend to avoid task types that would even have the necessity for marking it down as having started, or track how far along it is. That is what projects are for, and then the overall state of how many actions remain in that project are all the indication I need in terms of progress.

So that’s why I gave it a pass for myself. It looks like a very good program for people who have a lot of appointments and want to integrate their to-do list with that, like iCal lets you do.

Could you expand a bit on this? That sounds interesting to me, but I’m unfamiliar with the “Hm” method.

Hi, AmberV
Thank you for your input ; dealing with mental cognitive issues, i see criteria that matter. Interresting and clear.

Regarding hm method, i had to leave application and get back connect forum in order to check : option is GTD ®, and franklin

Btw, you might also have heard of The Hit List ? (unfortunately not on iPad, or yet…)
and briefly : 2do, taska … Hm, sorry to create so much diversion in your topic :wink:

Ah, Franklin. That’s actually not a flavour of GTD at all, but was rather the prevailing productivity system before David Allen published his book. The Franklin-Covey system is what you see whenever you go into an office supply store and look at paper-based organisers and agendas, and quite a lot of software is modelled off of it as well. I’m not super familiar with the system myself, but from what I understand the way you work with it is plan out your week, every week. You assemble a list of things to do every day with the help of a daily planner, be it a handwritten agenda book or software like PI.

GTD was actually designed as a counter to what Allen saw as pitfalls in the Franklin-Covey system. Some of those being a lack of specificity on what a “to-do” item is; the difficulties in accurately planning out a full week in advance; and the psychological let-down of not finishing a day’s to-do list. This is the basis behind the model of having a very strictly defined relationship between “actions” and “projects”, and not maintaining any “this is what I’m going to do today” type lists, but rather just building a system that keeps feeding you “next actions” as you work, on the output end, and providing for a way to efficiently assemble new ideas and steps on the input end. The context and delegation system was meant to supplant the traditional mechanisms for this as well.

So in fact, when I saw the screenshots for PI, it looked very much based on the Franklin system, and was surprised when you said it had GTD capability.

The Hit List was, for a time, one of my favourite contenders to OmniFocus. Especially being a UNIX keyboard centric geek, its heavy use of Vim-like navigation and commands, coupled with a smart interface and nice index card action view had me very interested. The only problem is, it’s even worse than Things in terms of development. I think it suffered even more from iPhone-developer-death. i.e. a small team or one guy trying to support multiple platforms and sucking all of the life out of the desktop program that everyone liked enough to want a mobile version for in the first place. It never even made it to the iPhone, let alone the iPad, and the desktop version has only seen periodic minor point releases which do nothing but extend the beta expiration period. Obviously, the guy is still alive, but is anything happening with the program? Who knows.

I don’t know anything about 2do or Taska. Maybe someone else can provide more insight there. Frankly I’ve been using the iPhone version of OmniFocus this whole time, so I don’t know much about the state of mobile to-do apps. It’s never been a huge priority of mine anyway. I do most of my work while sitting at my laptop. The mobility aspects are just nice for when I’m not around it and think of something to add to my inbox, or want to check off a few chore and errand type things.

I very much second the wish that Apple had a trial policy-I have wasted so much on apps!

On a separate note, I do have PI on the iPad, and I think it has great potential. With calendar and tasks, and notes promised, it could be perfect. But right now my issue with it is the lack of stability. When I added tasks and events (about 40-hardly very many) it crashed more than ten times. To me this was just too frustrating, and on top of that the whole thing just felt ‘sticky’ and slow. If updates improve it then that would be great, but until then, I need something else. On the other hand, if it’s still reduced, it could be worth a gamble for the future.

Taska is really good, I just couldn’t seem to cope without nesting. From all the comments here and on the app store, I would say it is a real competitor to ‘Things’ although I think some people have been having sync issues.

I have never read Covey’s book. I have read summaries and tried some of the concepts, but find them rather philosophical and not really suited to my needs. I like GTD very much, and would much rather just modify that to my needs.

Someone on the app store said in a review of OF for iPad that the quest for the perfect organisation tool for GTD can take over your life, and I can certainly see the possibility of that. Somehow no tool really seems to include everything or feel quite right. I know paper is in some ways the closest, but it can be so inconvenient. So the search goes on…

I love these discussions, though, and very much hope people will continue chipping in with ideas and comments.

:slight_smile: I sympathise with that review. Out of all types of software, task managers and PIMS seem to proliferate like rabbits. (See for example

Searching for the perfect task manager may be one of those occasions where the best is the enemy of the good. Sometimes I think one has to “plump” and make the choice work willy-nilly, otherwise seeking perfection can waste more time than is saved by the software and its routines… In this respect plumping for an application that is versatile and under continuous development, even if not perfect, may ultimately be the wisest choice.

I have all but given up on GTD. I still use Things on my desktop for all writing projects but now use Toodledo, which although in the cloud, has a nice iPad app that syncs with it. I like it because I can email tasks to Toodledo, specifying which project they go into. In fact there are many apps for the iPad and iPhone that will sync with Toodledo. You can also have a Firefox addon to make it available there, or indeed within Gmail. It is this ubiquity that I like, since I can access it from pretty much anywhere.