OmniFocus and Things

OmniFocus IconBack in November of 2009, David and I released MPU 013: Task Management Smackdown where we compared our task management applications of choice, OmniFocus and Things. At the time, I was a devotee of Things and found the application to be more "user friendly" and easier to quickly dive in and put to use for my needs. As you know, David is an OmniFocus Ninja. While I had used OmniFocus before and was familiar with the program, it seemed a little "intense" for my needs. Well, that was then and in the year plus that has followed, I'm now squarely in the OmniFocus camp and training to become a "Ninja" like my podcasting partner. If you've listened to the show you've probably heard me speak some about this change and I've received quite a few emails from listeners asking why. Rather than respond to all those emails individually (I really should make a TextExpander snippet) I figured I'd write this blog post as explanation.

First and foremost, let me make one thing clear up front. The Omni Group is a sponsor of Mac Power Users. My switch from Things had nothing to do with that sponsorship. In fact, my switch had already begun before our sponsorship deal with The Omni Group started.

My biggest frustration with Things started with the iPad.  When I started using the iPad more and more in my daily life I now had three devices that I had to keep in sync with my Things database, a Mac, iPhone and iPad. Things fairly quickly released an iPad app, but despite many months of promise had never released an over the air sync capability that OmniFocus had out of the gate. Every morning (when I had time or remembered) I would sync via Wi-Fi my iPhone Things database with my Mac and now I had three devices to juggle.  It was  really becoming painfully cumbersome to the point where I was using it less and less.

To pile on, OmniFocus released a gorgeous iPad application. David was raving about it and the interface looked so simple and easy. The iPad application was just what I was looking for, a simple, clean, intuitive user interface to the OmniFocus data.  Within a week I downloaded it and started playing with OmniFocus again and realized just how big a deal over the air sync was. I had also already invested in the OmniFocus application and iPhone application from my previous attempt to use the OmniFocus system, so it was a relatively small monetary investment for me to switch back over to OmniFocus.

Now, it just so happens that on May 2, 2011, Cultured Code, the developers of Things announced the first round of Beta testing for their cloud sync service. This is a step in the right direction, but still a long way from an actual release and implementation across the board for all their products. Things had been promising some kind of cloud based sync service was in the works and coming soon for months and months before  I abandoned the platform. It came too late. There was a kludgy Dropbox Sync method that would work between multiple Macs, but left iOS devices to still depend on Wi-Fi sync.

While I understand that cloud sync is no easy task, the repeated promises with no solution also left me with more serious concerns about the state of the application and development roadmap. By contrast, I knew the gang at The Omni Group and their commitment to Mac Development and improvement to their products. I started to think long-term about where I wanted to put my time and resources. Don't get me wrong, I still think Things is an excellent product and will be an even better one once Cloud Sync is implemented, but I couldn't wait any longer and needed to move on.

Once I realized how critical sync was to my workflow and how dependent I had become on the iPad application (really, using it more than the desktop application) I started reading up more on OmniFocus, talking with David and really digging into the application and I found that I could make it fit in my workflow. I wish I had the benefit of David's excellent OmniFocus Screencast series (Part I, Part II) during my transition, but I did have some tips from the Jedi Master himself.

If Things had gotten a Cloud Sync solution together sooner rather than later would I have switched? Maybe, maybe not. I was happy with the Things interface. The lack of Cloud Sync was really the deal breaker that made me want to go look at alternate solutions and the OmniFocus iPad app was just the icing on the case that induced me to take the plunge at that time. I'm happy now using OmniFocus although I'm sure I'm still not using it to it's full potential, the learning curve on OmniFocus is greater to get maximum benefit. But it's really like anything, you get out of it what you put in.