There was a time when I thought that I needed a powerful GTD app to be productive. Over the years, I’ve come to realize that all I need, really, is just a list of things to remember and some calendar events. I’ve been using Apple’s Reminders and Calendar with iCloud as my primary todo systems for over a year now, and my schedule hasn’t been disrupted by a cataclysm of missed appointments and overflowing todo lists.
It’s with this mindset that I approached OmniFocus 2 for Mac, released today as a new version of The Omni Group’s popular GTD software: fundamentally, I don’t need the app. But as an old OmniFocus user who switched over to Apple’s less flexible Reminders and stayed with it in spite of its (sometimes disarming) simplicity, I thought it’d be interesting to evaluate OmniFocus 2 with a fresh pair of eyes and a genuine curiosity for the work put into this new version.
First teased in December 2012, shown at Macworld 2013, and scheduled for a 2013 release date, The Omni Group has today announced that the new version of their popular GTD app OmniFocus, OmniFocus 2 for Mac, will be released this June. The Omni Group is resuming beta testing of the app with 30,000 testers today, and expects the final round of testing to focus on the changes the app has gone through in the past few months. Read more
When I pictured what OmniFocus 2 for the iPhone would look like on iOS 7, I pictured simplified monotone icons in a table-view structure that the app has had since it was first released. The reason is probably because when I think of OmniFocus I think of powerful and quality software, however a bold interface is not a characteristic that would ever come to mind. When I opened OmniFocus 2 for the first time, I was shocked. Not to sound dramatic – I did not fall out of my chair – but it honestly took me a few seconds to absorb what I was looking at. Read more
OmniFocus for iPhone was updated today to include a background location sync feature previously seen in apps like Downcast, Instapaper, and CameraSync.
Users can now leverage iOS’ geofencing to tell OmniFocus to sync its online database in the background and automatically whenever they enter or leave a specific location. There’s a new Background Sync screen in the settings where locations can be configured, which works similarly to Instapaper’s one. Unlike CameraSync, I wasn’t able to receive a local notification when I left or arrived at a location that triggered background sync.
The Omni Group is undoubtedly looking at iOS 7’s new background app refresh options, but, until then, this is a nice (and common) workaround.
An interesting project by Paul Sidnell:
ofexport is a command line utility that reads and exports the task database from the OmniFocus application.
While similar to Robin Trew’s export utility, ofexport has a series of extra options worth trying out. I’m particularly intrigued by the control you can have on date and calendar filters, as well as regular expressions. I constantly check on my OmniFocus todos through the calendar, so I’ll make sure to test ofexport. [via Sven Fechner]
When editing my Drafts 3.0 review last night, I removed this sentence from the Reminders section:
“Again, I don’t use this functionality, but it’ll be interesting to see something like this being tweaked to work with Drafts and Reminders”
Sid O’Neill figured it out right away:
Drafts just updated today to version 3.0. There are a whack of new features but one that I’m most interested in is the new “list in Reminders” action. It makes it easy to add multiple actions to Omnifocus without requiring Pythonista.
I forgot Daniel Jalkut had a script to monitor Reminders and add todos to OmniFocus for Mac. If you’re like me, you know you’ll try to make this work with a Mac server and modified default sync times.
Send Multiple Tasks To OmniFocus Mail Drop At Once With Drafts and Pythonista
Nice workflow by Nathan Henrie to send multiple tasks to OmniFocus at once using Mail Drop, Drafts, and Pythonista:
I’ve also recently started playing with Pythonista, and I came across a Python script written by the dev himself that creates a little SMTP server and sends email directly from Pythonista. Between the two, I found it pretty easy — even for a beginner like me — to put together a combined Drafts / Pythonista workflow that makes for a superior way to import a bunch of tasks to OmniFocus at once (aka “brain dump”).
The Python part is based on the same script I covered in November to send emails through Pythonista; Nathan added a clever Drafts integration by splitting multiple lines (from the draft) into separate email messages sent to your Mail Drop address. Make sure to check out his video to see the workflow in action; I have started using it myself and I like how fast tasks go from Drafts onto OmniFocus via email (I have configured the script with my Gmail address using 2-step verification).
I have become a big fan of OmniFocus Mail Drop. It’s been extremely fast and reliable in my experience, and it works well with Drafts’ email actions.
Speeding Up OmniFocus Sync
Some great tips by Sven Fechner on how you can speed OmniFocus sync. It involves archiving data on the Mac and resetting sync databases on your iOS devices:
The free OmniSync Server makes life a lot easier and keeps your OmniFocus world, well, in sync. If you use your own WebDAV server you have the same capabilities but without the awesome “Mail Drop” feature which allows you to email in your actions.
While the OmniSync Server is fairly reliable, it is not necessarily the fastest syncing solution on the planet. In particular when your database gets larger and more convoluted.
It’s the first time I’ve followed this procedure, and, indeed, my OmniFocus database has been slimmed down and it now takes 5-8 seconds less to sync on WiFi; the improvement is even more considerable on 3G.
I’ve used my own WebDAV server with OmniFocus for months, but the convenience (and simplicity) of the Mail Drop feature lured me back to Omni Sync Server. Mail Drop works amazingly well in conjunction with Drafts, allowing me to quickly send off a task to my OmniFocus inbox in the cloud. In moving to Omni Sync Server, I didn’t lose the ability to have the latest version of my OmniFocus database mirrored to a calendar: OmniFocus does, in fact, come with some great debug commands to change its default sync times.
As an aside, while looking forward to OmniFocus 2, The Omni Group has posted the first batch of videos from The Setup event in San Francisco a few weeks ago. You can watch them here.
Integrating OmniFocus and Reminders On OS X
Daniel Jalkut and Sean Korzdorfer have been working on two aspects of the same problem: bridging the gap between OmniFocus and Reminders on OS X.
Sean put together a series of AppleScripts to send tasks from OmniFocus to Apple’s Reminders app for Mac. Daniel created (and open-sourced) an app to check Reminders for newly added items, transfer them to OmniFocus while keeping due dates, and deleting them from their original location in Reminders.
I love OmniFocus for both Mac and iOS, but it turns out that because I lean so heavily on using Siri to add items, I tend not to open OmniFocus while I’m on the go. When I come home and get to work on my Mac, I notice that OmniFocus doesn’t contain any of my recently added items, so I have to go through the cumbersome steps of opening my iPhone and launching OmniFocus just to get this theoretically time-saving trick to work right.
I have tried to get into using OmniFocus’ iCloud capture feature on iOS, but because I don’t use Siri on a daily basis, that didn’t turn into a habit. I know many rely on OmniFocus-Reminders integration, and I think these are nice solutions for the desktop.
I, however, have become a big fan of The Omni Group’s Mail Drop service. Using Drafts, I can write down a task, send it to Mail Drop, and have it in my OmniFocus inbox after a few minutes; if I want to save a link to a webpage, I can use a bookmarklet that sends a website to Drafts and then to Mail Drop. Rather than further integrating OmniFocus and Reminders, I’d like to open OmniFocus on iOS and find it already synced with all other copies of the app and Mail Drop. Right now developers have to resort to location-tricks to update information in the background, and I wish Apple will allow more background options in the future.