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Posts tagged with "task management"

How I Use Custom Perspectives in OmniFocus

My custom perspective setup.

My custom perspective setup.

A few weeks ago, we released the latest product under the MacStories Pixel brand: MacStories Perspective Icons, a set of 20,000 custom perspective icons for OmniFocus Pro. You can find more details on the product page, read the FAQ, and check out my announcement blog post here. The set is available at $17.99 with a launch promo; Club MacStories members can purchase it at an additional 15% off.

As part of the release of MacStories Perspective Icons (which, by the way, takes advantage of a new feature in OmniFocus 3.8 to install custom icons with a Files picker), I wanted to write about my perspective setup in OmniFocus and explain why custom perspectives have become an integral component of my task management workflow.

Let me clarify upfront, however, that this article isn’t meant to be a primer on custom perspectives in OmniFocus. If you’re not familiar with this functionality, I recommend checking out this excellent guide over at Learn OmniFocus; alternatively, you can read The Omni Group’s official perspective documentation here. You can also find other solid examples of OmniFocus users’ custom setups around the web such as these two, which helped me better understand the power and flexibility of perspectives in OmniFocus when I was new to the app. In this story, I’m going to focus on how I’ve been using perspectives to put together a custom sidebar in OmniFocus that helps me navigate my busy life and make sense of it all.

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Directive: A Terrific Way to Manage Recurring Maintenance Tasks

When I look back at the apps I’ve used over the last several years, there is an unmistakable ebb and flow between generalized apps that try to do and be everything and those that don’t. The former type has the benefit of reducing the overhead of having to track data in multiple apps by centralizing it. However, the focus of the latter often allows them to fulfill a particular need better than a general-purpose app ever could. Directive, a new app released today by LittleFin on the iPhone, iPad, and Mac, is a perfect example of a thoughtfully-designed, focused utility for managing recurring maintenance tasks.

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Todoist Introduces New Upcoming View Across All Platforms

Popular cross-platform task manager Todoist is introducing a new Upcoming view today that serves as a replacement for the previous Next 7 Days view and adds greater functionality to it with a new calendar element and by offering access to all future tasks.

If you’ve used Next 7 Days in the past, or even the Scheduled view in Apple’s Reminders app or Upcoming in Things, you’ll feel right at home in Todoist’s Upcoming view. It’s essentially an endless list of all tasks with due dates, divided by day. One detail I appreciate is that even days containing no assigned tasks remain visible in the view, whereas in Reminders, for example, Scheduled only shows days with assignments. I could see this bothering some users, but for my needs it’s great because it allows easily rescheduling tasks by dragging and dropping them on to any day I’d like; if only the days with existing tasks were visible, that wouldn’t be possible. It’s just as well-suited for creating new tasks, since you can drag the add task button on to any day you’d like.

Besides providing access to all scheduled tasks, rather than just the next week’s worth, the main change with Todoist’s Upcoming view is the new calendar element. Similar to the Forecast view found in OmniFocus, this takes the form of a row lining the top of the screen that displays the next week’s worth of dates. A small dot indicates whether a day has assigned tasks or not, and you can swipe left to page through future sets of days. You can also tap the month/year button in the top-left corner of the calendar row to bring up a scrolling month view for the sake of quickly navigating further into the future.

The Upcoming view isn’t exactly world-changing, but it is markedly better than what it replaces, and if Todoist were my primary task manager it would absolutely be the view I spent all of my time in. I love the ease of seeing all my tasks in one place, rescheduling them via drag and drop, and the added utility of the new calendar row. Everyone’s task management needs and preferences are different, but if it were up to me, every task manager would have a view that works like this.

Todoist is available on the App Store.



Things Debuts Modernized Apple Watch App

The Apple Watch has come a long way in five years, and apps are only starting to catch up. Many Watch apps received the majority of their development attention with the first or second versions of watchOS, before the days of LTE service, independence, and SwiftUI. Those early Watch apps were hamstrung by OS limitations, but in the last few years as the platform has evolved, most apps never adapted to what’s possible now.

Things 3.12, releasing today, exists for just that purpose: it addresses the task manager’s former Watch client shortcomings, making it a truly capable companion for Things on iPhone, iPad, and Mac.

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The New Fantastical Review

The new Fantastical.

The new Fantastical.

Over six years after the debut of the second major iteration of Fantastical – version 2.0 for iPhone, which I reviewed in October 2013 – Flexibits is introducing a new version of their popular hybrid calendar client/task manager today. The new Fantastical1, available today on the App Store, is a single app that runs on iPhone, iPad, Mac, and Apple Watch.

In many ways, the new Fantastical is a distillation of themes typically found in the modern productivity app scene: the app is free, and the developers have switched to a subscription model to unlock a variety of premium features. Fantastical Premium – the name of the new service – costs $4.99/month or $39.99/year and brings a collection of brand new functionalities, integrations, as well as enhancements to existing features. Users of Fantastical 2, regardless of the platform they were using, get to carry all existing features into the new app for free, and can try the Premium service at no cost for 14 days.

I’ll cut right to the chase: I’ve been using the new Fantastical for the past few months (hence the inclusion in my Must-Have Apps story), and it’s become the only calendar app I need, offering more power and flexibility than any alternative from Apple or the App Store. The free version of the new Fantastical – effectively, Fantastical 2 with a fresh coat of paint and some smaller bonuses – is a capable alternative to Apple’s Calendar app, but the Premium version is where Flexibits’ latest creation truly shines. At $40/year, Fantastical Premium may be a big ask for some users, but as a busy individual who deals with teammates all over the globe and likes Fantastical’s new features, I plan to subscribe.

In addition to the unification of the app across all platforms, design changes, and new premium features, which I will detail below, Flexibits has devised one of the most reasonable, generous upgrade flows from the old, paid-upfront app to the new, subscription-based one I’ve seen to date. There will be backlash from folks who are against subscriptions on principle – a discussion that is beyond the scope of this review – but I believe Flexibits has done a commendable job granting existing users access to all features they’ve already paid for, while replacing Fantastical 2 (the new app is an update over the old version) with something that is faster, visually more attractive, and potentially more useful.

With the new Fantastical, I’ve replaced a series of apps I was using for calendars, calendar sets, and time zones, and integrated everything into a single dashboard, kicking Apple’s Calendar app off my Home screen in the process. Even with a few shortcomings and system limitations, the new Fantastical is, at least for me, the non plus ultra of calendar apps at the moment.

Let’s dig in.

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Things’ Quick Find Feature Upgraded Across iPhone, iPad, and Mac

Today the popular task manager Things was updated with several small, but noteworthy enhancements to its Quick Find feature across iPhone and iPad versions, with the Mac update arriving shortly. There’s a convenient new way to access Quick Find, recent lists are now displayed automatically, headings can be searched, and there are a variety of new lists that Things recognizes as search parameters.

One of my favorite details in Things is the ability to pull down from the top of a list to open Quick Find; the matching animation is lovely, and it’s accompanied by a perfect touch of haptic feedback on iPhone. Sometimes though, getting back to the top of a long list can take too long, so now you can simply tap a list’s name, which perpetually sits at the top-center of the UI, and Quick Find will immediately open. Also, the Quick Find window now always displays the four most recent lists you’ve visited; whether you searched for those lists or just accessed them from the sidebar menu, you’ll always see your last-visited lists in the search box.

The other big improvement to Quick Find is the new search parameters it now accepts. There are changes here in two areas: headings and special lists. Headings are an organizational tool you can use to sort your Things projects into divided sections; essentially, they’re a lightweight additional option for organization. Previously, none of your created headings could be searched in Quick Find, but that issue has now been remedied. Any and every heading you create in a project can be surfaced in Quick Find.

Things now offers a handful of special lists that aren’t accessible from the sidebar, but only through Quick Find. These include the following:

  • Tomorrow: Like Today, but for tomorrow’s tasks.
  • Deadlines: All tasks with deadlines.
  • Repeating: All repeating tasks.
  • Logged Projects: Completed projects, including completion date for each.
  • All Projects: Every current project.

Searching for any of these lists will grant easy access to them. I only wish Things provided the option to add one or more of these to the sidebar; hopefully a customizable sidebar is in the cards for Things in 2020.

Historically, iPhone and iPad apps haven’t been as feature-rich as Mac apps when it comes to search functionality. Where Mac apps often enable very granular search options, and power user features like saved searches, search on the iPhone and iPad is typically a bare-minimum approach. For that reason, it’s exciting to see the team behind Things devote a whole update to making search better, not only on the Mac, but across all platforms. Just as it did last year with keyboard shortcuts on the iPad, Things sets a strong example of pushing an oft-neglected iOS feature forward to be on par with its Mac equivalent.

Things is available on the App Store for iPhone, iPad, and Mac.


Actions by Moleskine Adds Reminders Import, Shortcuts with Parameters, and Context Menus

Actions' new Reminders import feature.

Actions’ new Reminders import feature.

The new year approaches, and with it arrive dreams of being a more productive you – which of course involves choosing the perfect task management system for your needs.

In a timely move, Moleskine’s elegant task manager, Actions, was updated today with a new Reminders import feature, so you can instantly migrate any or all of your Reminders lists and tasks into Actions. The update also supports two new iOS 13 features: shortcuts featuring parameters and context menus.

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Todoist Foundations: Key Refinements Modernize the Popular Task Manager

Today Todoist has launched a major update across all platforms under the branding Todoist Foundations. That name implies a complete ground-up revision to the app, and while that’s accurate in terms of under-the-hood code changes, from a user-facing standpoint this is still the Todoist you know, but with a variety of new features: project sections, a dynamic add button, new task and sub-task views, and more. Todoist’s team also says that Foundations lays the necessary coding groundwork for more substantial features that are coming in the future, such as Boards and an Upcoming View.

Todoist didn’t need a big rethinking, but what it did stand to benefit from was design enhancements and streamlining that makes everything quicker, easier to use, and more flexible, and that’s exactly what this release brings. If you haven’t tried Todoist in a while, Todoist Foundations is a compelling reason to give the task manager another try.

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