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-   -   Why OmniFocus v1 didn't support multiple contexts per action (http://forums.omnigroup.com/showthread.php?t=28176)

Brian 2013-02-08 01:53 PM

Why OmniFocus v1 didn't support multiple contexts per action
 
Regular visitors to these forums know that various flavors of "when will OmniFocus support multiple contexts (or tagging)?" is a fairly common question here. Over the years, we've answered that question in piecemeal fashion, so it's understandable that new folks wouldn't know where we stand on this. The information has changed over time and is posted in several different threads. It's confusing.

So, we're rebooting the conversation. I'll start this thread off with an attempt to clearly and comprehensively present our thinking on this subject. Once that's posted, I'll lock the previous threads - they'll still be available for reference purposes. Future threads will be merged into this one, so the conversation stays in one place and is easier to track.

Brian 2013-02-08 01:54 PM

In our experience, when an action looks like it requires multiple contexts, it almost always means that the action hasn't really been broken down into concrete, discrete steps.

We're not saying that you should go [I]too[/I] far down the rabbit hole of breaking tasks down into sub-tasks (“Well, in order to send that email I’ll have to fill in the ‘To’ field, then the ‘Subject’ field, then compose each paragraph…”), but in our experience, several small actions are quicker to accomplish than one big, complicated compound action.

This approach also lets you independently accomplish each part of the task and mark it as complete, rather than needing to leave the compound action sitting open on your lists until you've done all the things it actually represents.

Another downside to tagging is that it tends to alter the meaning of your context lists. Rather than a short list of actions that you [I]know[/I] you can do, you end up with longer lists that are full of actions you [I]may[/I] be able to do.

Those longer lists require you to spend time searching through your context list, deciding whether you can actually do each item. Time you spend doing that is time you aren't spending getting things done.

We understand that a lot of folks are comfortable with a "fuzzier" approach to their contexts/workflow, but when there's a conflict between what's comfortable and what's productive, we really want our software to err on the side of productivity.

Obviously, what's "productive" is a subjective judgement, and we're inevitably losing out on sales when we do this - there are other products that take a different approach to this issue. Having lots of options is actually a good thing, though! It's more important that folks be able to use a tool that works the way that they do than it is that the tool come from us.

Myself and the other support folks will be happy to help someone resolve any problems they're having applying a single-context approach to their workflow. Let us know which situations you're struggling with and we'll be happy to help. And if the lack of a multiple-contexts option means that OmniFocus isn't the right tool for you, we'll figure out another solution. One of our core values is that we shouldn't profit from selling tools people can't use or don't need.

Brian 2013-02-08 02:46 PM

Okay, so, if we're not going to support multiple contexts, what [I]should[/I] people used to those kinds of systems do while working with OmniFocus? The following examples are far from comprehensive, but they cover some of the most common use cases we've seen presented.

[B]While I'm at the office, I need to ask my boss a question. It's a high priority task. I need three tags to capture that.[/B]

Create an "Office" context, and put the context for your boss inside that one. Tasks that only your boss can help with go in their context. Tasks that anyone in the office can help with go in that one. (Plus, you can assign a location to the Office context and use the Map view in the iOS apps!)

The highest priority tasks get flagged; everything that's high-but-not-highest priority gets moved to the top of the project, so they're first to get knocked off once the must-do actions are done. Everything else gets reviewed and re-prioritized during your next review.

[B]I need to buy something. I might get it online, or order it over the phone, or buy it at a store in my neighborhood.[/B]

This is a case where breaking the action up has real benefits. You'll often save money by breaking this up into at least four steps. You'll generally want three "research <option>" steps, and one "purchase the best option" step. Skipping any of those steps risks paying more than you should, or not buying the best item.

Of course, sometimes there really are multiple options where you could get the same item with little to no difference in price. (Say, an AppleTV or other unmodified product from them.) In that case, just pick whichever applicable context you look at most frequently. In the majority of cases, that'll get the action done soonest, and you'll save time overall.

[B]I need to ask Anna or Bob a question. Either of them could answer it. I might call them, or email them. I need four tags.[/B]

Make contexts for Anna and Bob. Assign the action to whomever you're in touch with most often, and decide [I]when you capture the action[/I] whether you'll call or email them. Put that info in the action title, so future-you doesn't have to think about it.

[B]I need to show Cindy a new machine that's in a particular location. If I'm not in that place, or if Cindy's not there, I can't do it.[/B]

Assign the action to the context for the location. Put Cindy's name in the title. Check the context for that location when you're there; if Cindy's there, do the action. In the meantime, if you're meeting with Cindy at some other location, you're not distracted by an action you can't do.

achuri 2013-02-09 05:03 AM

Many of the threads that were moved into this one were about tagging and flagging in general. Not about multiple contexts. Multiple contexts would not help me but I would love some tags or at least colored flags.

wilsonng 2013-02-09 05:27 AM

I think this post should be one of those sticky permanent posts in this forum.

Perhaps an FAQ with a link to this post would be on Brian's OmniFocus list?

vanderwal 2013-02-09 09:25 AM

While some things are multiple contexts some can just be handled with tags. There are many things that can be completed without other's involvement, say expense report, but if I have a tag for Susan the company accountant and I am sitting with her, I could filter and pull up related tasks (the two items I am not sure will be approved in expenses makes a this a much quicker task and done in one pass).

I also have contextual conundrums as I have a task for a face-to-face meeting with a friend, who lives in San Francisco. But, I also run into him at some conferences as well as when he floats through the town where I live. If I am planning a trip to SF the note to email my friend to set up a face-to-face and put it on the schedule is needed. For a while I had this in SF trips context, but not in conference related tasks where he was.

While OmniFocus has location context having another "person" context would help as well. Tying this to their entry in address book would be quite nice (the simple mapping names to address cards like VooDoo Pad does is really nice). When adding a person and seeing latest interactions with them (similar to the review with calendar view slated for OF2 would be quite helpful).

I really like the main multiple context filters outlined in the "what should be do..." in Brian's post above.

vanderwal 2013-02-09 11:18 AM

Life has multiple contexts OmniFocus limits to one
 
Related to this thread, I have been doing work for years around building and design tools for groups and teams as well as their needs for individuals. Focus on tasks continually highlights that there are multiple contexts for many tasks. The high level contexts are location, who (and who with, which is often many people), tools and services needed (onilne/off as well as single or multiple tools and services needed), time (when as well as time needed (duration)), and resources (documents and/or objects).

The big ones in this list are where, tools/services, and who. In a prior post I brought up the VooDoo Pad person context service that ties to the Mac's Address Book cards.

Deinhart 2013-02-11 06:13 AM

Thanks Brian.

GeoffAirey 2013-02-11 08:20 AM

Hi Brian,

I mostly use the Ipad Version and the Mac version I pretty much only use to archive old data. OF for iPhone is used for out and about.

My thinking is that I have three types of contexts. People, Places and Tools

For the most part, this serves me well, but there are other things I would like to tag

1) Expected time to complete tasks (Self Explanatory)
2) Energy levels (How able am I to complete this task)
3) Priority

I realise that Priority is not GTD Canon, but I have a lot of things going on, some can be let slide, but some MUST be done in a timely manner whether that means Today, or later. Flags do not provide me with enough granularity.

The other place where contexts fall down, is that I have regular meetings with people. Some things I put against the meeting context as it's a topic to be discussed, but there's also the possibility that I can catch someone before or after that meeting, or something I'd discuss with someone if I caught them alone, but would bring up in the meeting if they're there, it doesn't matter which happens first. I think that being able to put multiple contexts or tags against an item makes me far more productive (Used to do this in egretlist) as I'm more likely to knock things off due there being more available 'contexts' in which to do it.

The reality is that GTD and it's description of contexts is outdated, and different situations are now present that weren't available 12 years ago.

wilsonng 2013-02-11 01:02 PM

[QUOTE=GeoffAirey;120262]Hi Brian,

For the most part, this serves me well, but there are other things I would like to tag

1) Expected time to complete tasks (Self Explanatory)
2) Energy levels (How able am I to complete this task)
3) Priority

[/QUOTE]


There is a an entry field for estimated time that you can enter.
Some people have also adapted the estimated time field for duration.


For priorities, you can try this method:

[url]http://www.asianefficiency.com/task-management/omnifocus-abc-priorities/[/url]


Here's another one for low energy:

[url]http://www.asianefficiency.com/task-management/omnifocus-series-part-02-getting-started-with-omnifocus/[/url]

[url]http://www.asianefficiency.com/task-management/omnifocus-pomodoro-technique/[/url]




I've found that going granular with my priorities has made me numb to it. If I see that a task is a #9 but another task is #7, I might just do the #7 and ignore the #9 higher priority task. They are both pretty important but I'm going to ignore the fact that #9 is higher than #7.

There was an instinctual way of looking for high priority tasks:

All Due or Due Soon tasks that have a real due date must be done first. After those tasks are taken care of, I can look at my flagged tasks which are not urgent but important for me to do in the next few days.

I didn't have to use priority tags for this. If the task is due, then I'd better get started on completing those tasks. Most tasks don't have a due date but I would like to get them done. During my weekly review, I unflag all my currently flagged tasks and start reviewing. I look for projects/tasks that I instinctually decide is important for me this week. It could be something that became interesting because of a recent conversation/movie/book. Then I know I have targeted those flagged tasks/projects for this week.


I did the whole ABC Stephen Covey priority deal with my old Franklin Planner. It never worked. I basically ignored it. I just grouped all my due items on the top part of the planner page. Then I grouped my targeted items (flagged or big rocks) in the middle of the page and all the low priority items either on a separate someday/maybe page or at the bottom third of the day's page.

whpalmer4 2013-02-11 03:23 PM

[QUOTE=GeoffAirey;120262]

The reality is that GTD and it's description of contexts is outdated, and different situations are now present that weren't available 12 years ago.[/QUOTE]Which situations are those?

Brian 2013-02-11 05:41 PM

[QUOTE=vanderwal;120198]There are many things that can be completed without other's involvement, say expense report, but if I have a tag for Susan the company accountant and I am sitting with her, I could filter and pull up related tasks (the two items I am not sure will be approved in expenses makes a this a much quicker task and done in one pass).[/QUOTE]

This sounds to me like one "complete expense report" action in whatever context is best for your workflow, and two "ask about <topic>" questions that go in a context created for Susan.

Potentially in a sequential project, so the "complete report" action doesn't activate until you have those questions answered...

Brian 2013-02-11 05:45 PM

[QUOTE=vanderwal;120198]I also have contextual conundrums as I have a task for a face-to-face meeting with a friend, who lives in San Francisco. But, I also run into him at some conferences as well as when he floats through the town where I live. If I am planning a trip to SF the note to email my friend to set up a face-to-face and put it on the schedule is needed. For a while I had this in SF trips context, but not in conference related tasks where he was.[/QUOTE]

(Separating the examples out to try and keep the conversation/reply threads distinct, btw.)

This sounds like an "email <name of friend> to schedule trip" in some sort of Online or Internet context, and I'd put that action in a "Plan SF trip" project. Can you explain how you use the "SF Trips" context? That may help me understand your workflow and make better suggestions.

Brian 2013-02-11 05:46 PM

[QUOTE=vanderwal;120198]While OmniFocus has location context having another "person" context would help as well. Tying this to their entry in address book would be quite nice (the simple mapping names to address cards like VooDoo Pad does is really nice).[/QUOTE]

Getting OmniFocus to make better use of Address Book data is something we're considering for the future - I'll add this post to that feature request. Thanks!

Brian 2013-02-11 05:54 PM

[QUOTE=GeoffAirey;120262]
2) Energy levels (How able am I to complete this task)
3) Priority
[/QUOTE]

At some point in the future, we do still plan to add the metadata feature we've [URL="http://forums.omnigroup.com/showpost.php?p=13360&postcount=51"]discussed previously[/URL]; if folks want to use metadata to roll their own systems for handling stuff like this, we think that's great. I'll vote the metadata request up.

One habit I'll try (and which I'd like to see the rest of the forum try) to build is telling folks that are asking for tags to file a feature request for metadata. We try to cross-file the two, but humans are fallible, so reminders are helpful.

DrJJWMac 2013-02-12 08:06 AM

I must say, the readings here and on the linked articles sometimes leave me smiling. One could be inclined to think of three approaches to those who (continue now to) ask for [certain ways of having ... see below] tags or multi-context views in OF.

* You are a heathen to the GTD mantra ... wise up!

... or ...

* Here's a work-around/kludge ... be happy!

... or ...

* What you really meant to do is this ... fix it!

Not that polite discourse is not common to this thread -- it is actually very much so. Just my observations, perhaps to ground the answers in a realization that ... certain types of tags or multi-context views being requested for OF are clearly not gonna happen (in your lifetime).

--
JJW

DrJJWMac 2013-02-12 08:07 AM

[QUOTE=Brian;120307]At some point in the future, we do still plan to add the metadata feature we've [URL="http://forums.omnigroup.com/showpost.php?p=13360&postcount=51"]discussed previously[/URL] [/QUOTE]

+1! Via OpenMeta I pray.

--
JJW

vanderwal 2013-02-12 09:48 AM

[QUOTE=Brian;120305](Separating the examples out to try and keep the conversation/reply threads distinct, btw.)

This sounds like an "email <name of friend> to schedule trip" in some sort of Online or Internet context, and I'd put that action in a "Plan SF trip" project. Can you explain how you use the "SF Trips" context? That may help me understand your workflow and make better suggestions.[/QUOTE]

[thanks for breaking out distinct points in my post]

The F2F with my friend is a action that is initially tied with San Francisco (that is where he lives and where I was traveling regularly), but the main hook for it is my friend and our face to face. Years back in OmniFocus I used tools or rough location for context, which has broken a bit, but face-to-face meeting could be a Context. Meeting, particularly called out as face-to-face, has a secondary dependency that is a person or people. This issue arose this year when I missed meeting with my friend when were were both in NYC as well as he had a trip near DC where I am also near.

I have a script that roughly works to track Foursquare, Lanyrd, and Google checkins for upcoming location nearness (worked much better when it was Dopplr and Upcoming focussed) and having context of a person and F2F I can put a filter that is tied into that script (I've thought about tying a positive hit on that script to an OmniFocus flag).

But, the key is there are more than one potential context. Location is a flexible variable, but the person is a key variable. Nearness in location (which may not be fixed to a place, but proximity) is another key.

vanderwal 2013-02-12 10:00 AM

[QUOTE=Brian;120304]This sounds to me like one "complete expense report" action in whatever context is best for your workflow, and two "ask about <topic>" questions that go in a context created for Susan.

Potentially in a sequential project, so the "complete report" action doesn't activate until you have those questions answered...[/QUOTE]

The action in the complete expense report has questions for Susan along with other actions. But, when I am sitting with Susan to review the finances and get a signature on an upcoming project I can also ask her about the expense report. But, I can also email her, or include the questions in the expense report, if I haven't heard back from her by the time I need to file the expense report. There may also be somebody else that could answer the same question, but Susan has the ultimate authority. I need to get the questions answered before submitting the report, or highlight in the submission so they could be approved or declined as line items and not have the whole report rejected and have to wait for the next submission window.

Similar this is in my client project projects with actions. I have a need to get a question answered or an approval by somebody in a role, with authority to approve, but one person whom I occasionally have meetings with can handle this as well as the other three actions that are tied to our meetings.

The "I really needed to also have conversation "X" with this person" problem is one I continually have. When I explain it to others I find it is a big pain point for others as well.

Brian 2013-02-12 12:00 PM

[QUOTE=vanderwal;120337]Location is a flexible variable, but the person is a key variable. Nearness in location (which may not be fixed to a place, but proximity) is another key.[/QUOTE]

This seems similar to the "I need to show Cindy a machine in a certain place" example on the first page - if the action can't happen without the person, we'd recommend that it go in the person's context. Check that context every time you see/meet them, and you'll be able to check it off when you're in the right location.

(Being reminded of the action when your friend isn't at the relevant location doesn't actually help you accomplish it. You're just going to end up looking at an action you can't do when you're in the wrong city.)

Brian 2013-02-12 12:03 PM

[QUOTE=vanderwal;120339]But, when I am sitting with Susan to review the finances and get a signature on an upcoming project I can also ask her about the expense report. But, I can also email her, or include the questions in the expense report, if I haven't heard back from her by the time I need to file the expense report. There may also be somebody else that could answer the same question, but Susan has the ultimate authority. I need to get the questions answered before submitting the report, or highlight in the submission so they could be approved or declined as line items and not have the whole report rejected and have to wait for the next submission window.[/QUOTE]

This sounds much like the "I need to ask my boss" example on the first page. Assign the relevant actions to Susan's context, and rather than punt the decision to call or email her, decide when capturing the action. Put that information in the action title, so you know what you decided when you revisit this in "doing stuff" mode.

whpalmer4 2013-02-12 12:49 PM

[QUOTE=Brian;120345]This seems similar to the "I need to show Cindy a machine in a certain place" example on the first page - if the action can't happen without the person, we'd recommend that it go in the person's context. Check that context every time you see/meet them, and you'll be able to check it off when you're in the right location.[/QUOTE]
And when you review your projects (you do review them, right?), you'll see that you haven't gotten around to showing that machine to Cindy, and you'll respond to that discover by scheduling an appointment with Cindy to look at the machine in that place.

pjb 2013-02-12 02:33 PM

I agree with achuri and the later comments about metadata. One example: there are lots of task I cannot do if the temperature outside is too low; if I had a tag/flag for "warm enough to varnish" it would make it easy to find/enable/hold a bunch of tasks to keep the deck cleared/full of tasks that could actually not/be done at that time in their given contexts. Work around is to use the comment section but that is just messy. Multiple contexts is an answer, but metadata is more flexible.

GeoffAirey 2013-02-20 03:17 AM

[QUOTE=whpalmer4;120297]Which situations are those?[/QUOTE]

GTD's view of contexts would have applied to me back in the early 90's when I reported into a single boss, but not now and I don't think I'm alone.

Related to knowledge workers:
The fact is that lots of knowledge workers now have smart phones or Tablets or Laptops with them most of the time. Very few people in these kind of positions report into a single person anymore and a single context does not cater for these situations in my opinion. if you have a phone and internet access most of the time, this leads to massive contexts which are overwhelming and counterproductive.

This is why multi context with things like Energy, Location and Priorities (even down to Covey's Quadrant of 1 = Important and Urgent, 2 = Important, 3 = urgent and 4 = Other) would allow these Leviathan (pinching someone else's word) contexts to be broken down into far more meaningful lists.

GeoffAirey 2013-02-20 03:27 AM

[QUOTE=wilsonng;120286]There is a an entry field for estimated time that you can enter.
Some people have also adapted the estimated time field for duration.[/QUOTE]

Not on the iPad though and that's where I spend most of my time.

wilsonng 2013-02-21 02:18 AM

[QUOTE=GeoffAirey;120658]GTD's view of contexts would have applied to me back in the early 90's when I reported into a single boss, but not now and I don't think I'm alone.

Related to knowledge workers:
The fact is that lots of knowledge workers now have smart phones or Tablets or Laptops with them most of the time. Very few people in these kind of positions report into a single person anymore and a single context does not cater for these situations in my opinion. if you have a phone and internet access most of the time, this leads to massive contexts which are overwhelming and counterproductive.

This is why multi context with things like Energy, Location and Priorities (even down to Covey's Quadrant of 1 = Important and Urgent, 2 = Important, 3 = urgent and 4 = Other) would allow these Leviathan (pinching someone else's word) contexts to be broken down into far more meaningful lists.[/QUOTE]

I've been able to incorporate my own version of Covey's quadrants in a different way.

Anything important but not in urgent will be flagged. I renamed my flagged perspective as "important_not urgent". I can see all my important and urgent tasks/projects in this perspective.

Anything that has a due date will be revealed in a custom perspective called "important_urgent". This shows all available tasks that are due soon. Unfortunately, this also shows the "not important but urgent" stuff as well. What may be important and urgent to someone else may not be important and urgent to me.

Then my "not important_not urgent" are shown in the Someday/Maybe. These are projects that are on hold. I don't really have the need to keep all my projects in active mode. Just a small handful. This is the equivalence of the Three Big Rocks model. I just flag three projects (sometimes up to but never more than five).


Important is such a mythological label in the productivity world. What may be important to you may not be important to someone else. What was important yesterday may no longer be important today or even in a few day's time. Having to tag every task as "important" or "not important" on a day-to-day basis would be difficult and time-consuming to manage. The importance label shifts so freely from day to day or even hour to hour. I've basically given up on wanting to label important because everything seems important but it may or may not be depending on one's perspective at any given time.

If it's not important and not urgent, it's placed in Someday/Maybe with the on hold status. I know I'll get around to either activating it, deleting it, or delegating it to someone else.


I have been toying around with putting an asterisk (*) in front of the project name and the tasks to indicate an important status. That might work for some folks.



The Location "tag" can be used on the iPhone or iPad. Just set a context to the current location. Whenever you are in the neighborhood, it'll show you what is available in your current location.

Energy "tags" is something I don't really worry about. I can already look at a perspective and determine "yeah, I don't really feel like doing my taxes right now. But I do see another easier low energy task I can do." I don't need a tag to determine whether something is easy to do or not. I'll instinctually know. I don't even bother with energy tags. I can put a label at the end of a task if i wanted to...

Watch TV show @low_energy
Work on my 1040 taxes @high_energy

But here is another link on the tags vs contexts situation. The comments sections has an interesting debate between tags vs contexts.

[url]http://www.usingomnifocus.com/2011/08/contexts-vs-tags-2/[/url]


I know that people would love tags to help generate multiple contexts. But this can lead to an over-abundance of contexts and just drags your system down even further. Here is an article that talks about simplifying your contexts.

[url]http://www.43folders.com/2006/07/31/simplify-contexts[/url]

I'd think that adding multiple contexts may make life more complicated than it needs to be. We sometimes make our life sound more complex than it really is. Sure, you'll feel "liberated" at being able to have multiple contexts assigned to a task but sometimes too much of a good thing is not good for you.



Consider this article about what really makes a context real or "fake"

[url]http://www.evomend.net/en/what-not-gtd-context[/url]

Magd36 2013-02-21 02:48 AM

Okay I'm new to this and I'm starting to think about how I'm going to get OF working for me.

I'm an IPad and IPhone user only so any Mac features don't have any relevance to me.

Contexts seem central to things and the discussions on here are proving very helpful.

My take on this is that implementing sub-contexts is simply a way of implementing tags through de-normalising the tags into contexts due to only being allowed to attach one context to an action.

If this is correct the real debate is around whether tags/sub-contexts are needed.

I can't think of how I can get things to work without out at least sub-contexts which leads me to think that tags must be necessary for me.

Does this make sense or am I missing something in my logic?

nicoledb 2013-02-21 03:05 AM

But OF does support sub-contexts, also on the iPad/iPhone. So I'm not sure what you're getting at?

Magd36 2013-02-21 07:29 AM

[QUOTE=nicoledb;120678]But OF does support sub-contexts, also on the iPad/iPhone. So I'm not sure what you're getting at?[/QUOTE]

I'm not really getting at anything.

The main reason for my post was (selfishly) to confirm my understanding is correct i.e. to see if anyone would see a flaw in the logic, and if there is then explain what it is and correct my understanding (i.e. improve me!!).

I'm new to this and I'm trying to make sure I'm not missing out on anything useful.

I guess if I'm 'getting' at anything my point is that the thread title is about why OF doesn't support multiple contexts per action yet acknowledges the need to do so and facilitates this (relatively inefficiently compared to tagging) through sub-contexts.

As I say I don't have a problem with the sub-contexts implementation and still think OF is superb.

Brian 2013-02-21 11:43 AM

[QUOTE=Magd36;120677]My take on this is that implementing sub-contexts is simply a way of implementing tags through de-normalising the tags into contexts due to only being allowed to attach one context to an action.[/QUOTE]

I don't think I'd agree. In my mind, what differentiates a context hierarchy from a tagging system is the implied relationships between the parent and children.

For example - a big part of my context system involves essentially mirroring Omni's org chart. There's a "Marketing" parent context, for example, with contexts for the folks that work in that department filed underneath. Questions for a specific person go in their context; questions for the entire department (or which anyone in that department can answer) go in the parent one.

I would never file an action in more than one of those contexts, though. There are functional reasons why one place or the other would be the best place to file whatever action I'm considering.

In most of the tagging requests that we've seen over the years, there's often little to no thematic relationship between the ones being requested. You'll see person-related ones, time-related ones, and place- or energy-related ones all attached to the same action and used simultaneously. For every N tags assigned to an action, folks want to see that action simultaneously on N lists, and those lists may 'mean' very different things.

My org chart example isn't the only way to structure a context tree, of course. Some folks structure theirs around the various "headspaces" they need to occupy. Others build theirs around time of day or their energy level. What works best is different from person to person.

Once you figure out which theme works best for you, though, you can build a context tree to support it - and in our experience, once you know what the best theme is, the other stuff is just cluttering up your workflow and distracting you. I think that last part is what's so hard for folks used to tagging systems to understand.

The simplicity of a single-theme approach is actually a [I]feature[/I]; it's not a shortcoming that needs to be addressed or worked around.

nicoledb 2013-02-21 03:13 PM

@Magd36: I understood your post to read that you suppose OF doesn't support sub-contexts. Reading back, I see that it could be read both ways, so just ignore my previous reply.

Magd36 2013-02-25 03:04 AM

[QUOTE=Brian;120692]....I would never file an action in more than one of those contexts, though.....[/QUOTE]

I wasn’t really thinking of the “assigning multiple contexts to an action” point of view.

However sticking with this for a minute, and if we look at the hierarchy proposed, let’s consider if Joe is in Sales. I can’t help thinking that when the context Joe is assigned to an action it is inherently assigning 2 contexts to the action i.e. Sales and Joe (otherwise why have Joe as a sub-context of Sales).

Is the weakness of this not that when you unexpectedly meet Joe and quickly bring up his context you may fail to ask him the general Sales questions that he could have answered?

Magd36 2013-02-25 03:06 AM

[QUOTE=Brian;120692]I don't think I'd agree. In my mind, what differentiates a context hierarchy from a tagging system is the implied relationships between the parent and children....[/QUOTE]

Where my thoughts were coming from was more to do with inefficiency in a context/sub-context structure. If we consider the scenario where Joe works part-time in Sales and part-time in Accounts, to represent this we would need 4 contexts i.e. Sales, Accounts, Joe under Sales, Joe under Accounts. With tags we’d only need 3 i.e. Sales, Accounts and Joe. While this increase is trivial in a simple structure I’d imagine it becomes quiet wasteful as the number of contexts increase.

However, from all the suggestions, I think I’m concluding that the key seems to be:

1. Use verbs in the action rather than assign contexts.
2. Keep contexts to a minimum and set it around a theme where possible. (I simply hadn’t thought of it like this before).

Following this advice I think I can get my Personal contexts to as few as 4 and my Office contexts to 3 with 4 sub contexts.

I’ll post what I’ve ended up with for constructive criticism later!!!

Thanks for all the ideas.

marcd 2013-02-25 06:35 AM

Multi-Contexts and "People"
 
I like the clean look of the new interface and I am looking forward to using OF2.

I heard that there may be further as yet unpublicised features, so here is a feedback request for what it is worth.

I may be a lone voice here, but there are projects I work on which are available in more than one context, for example projects where I can continue working on my desktop mac, my ipad, or macbook. I would really like to assign an action to more than one context, so that my reference list is Context aware.

On a similar vein, I find that "People" are an important category which need to float across "Context" groups. Any chance that multi-contexts might be showing up in OF2? or at least cheat-tagging such that "People" can be tagged if not contextualised?

I know, I know, database sort orders prefer single entries etc. but think of the usefulness...

whpalmer4 2013-02-25 08:30 AM

[QUOTE=marcd;120840]there are projects I work on which are available in more than one context, for example projects where I can continue working on my desktop mac, my ipad, or macbook. [/QUOTE]
I do something like this:

Computer
--Mac
----iMac
----MBA
--iPad

A task I can accomplish only on a specific device goes in that specific context. A task which can be accomplished on any Mac goes in the Mac context. A task which can be accomplished on Mac or iPad goes in the Computer context.

When I move to a different device, I open the specific context for that device and see if there's anything there I should do. If not, I'll move up the hierarchy one or more levels. If you click on the parent context in the sidebar, you see all the actions for the children as well; if you display them grouped by context, then you can close the groups for other children. I can easily see only the actions available to be done on the device in front of me, and I can also see the actions which can be done on the device in front of me.

A legitimate objection might be raised that if you have a large set of otherwise similar machines, and a task which can only be done on a small subset (and you have many tasks for which this is true of different subsets), you can't easily set up a nested structure. Simple answer: pick one machine, assign the task there, and rely on your reviews to either spur you to visit the necessary machine(s) or reassign the work to contexts more frequently visited.

Think of it like managing employees. For any given task, there are probably a number of employees who could do it. You don't assign it provisionally to all of them, hoping that one of them will do it. You pick someone, assign it to them, and then make sure they do it.

whpalmer4 2013-02-25 08:41 AM

There's no appreciable cost to having additional contexts, within reason. I would argue it is better to have "too many" rather than "too few" as "too few" results in seeing tasks displayed which you cannot actually do. If you just have a Sales context and are forced to throw tasks which can only be done with Joe into that context, every time you pull up the Sales context and Joe isn't present, you see all of the tasks which require Joe cluttering up your view. Looking at a hierarchy of contexts, grouped by context, you don't see anything for contexts which have no actions.

If you have difficulty with having a Joe context at several points in the context hierarchy, make a perspective to collate them all together.

Rule of thumb: if OmniFocus is frequently showing you tasks which you cannot do, you've either assigned the tasks to the wrong contexts, your context structure needs refactoring to capture the distinction between the tasks you can and cannot do, or both.

GeoffAirey 2013-02-25 12:59 PM

[QUOTE=whpalmer4;120847]If you have difficulty with having a Joe context at several points in the context hierarchy, make a perspective to collate them all together.

Rule of thumb: if OmniFocus is frequently showing you tasks which you cannot do, you've either assigned the tasks to the wrong contexts, your context structure needs refactoring to capture the distinction between the tasks you can and cannot do, or both.[/QUOTE]

You're assuming that everyone uses the Mac App, but I very rarely get into it due to location and having to use Windows at work.

To be honest, my problem is the other way around. I'm not seeing things I need to do because there's no way to assign Actions to multiple contexts where thins can be done and I can't see a way to do this without multiple tags.

You seem to see multiple tags as having only having an OR relationship, which is one use, e.g. Fred, or Rose or John, but it can also have an AND relationship. Phone AND Alert AND Laptop AND Fred. Yes that can be done as project but that seems pretty inflexible. What if you have all there, or 3 of the 4 which you can quickly rope the 4th into.

Different people work different ways.

whpalmer4 2013-02-25 01:27 PM

[QUOTE=GeoffAirey;120854]You're assuming that everyone uses the Mac App, but I very rarely get into it due to location and having to use Windows at work.
[/quote]
No assumption made. I do this all the time on the iPad. Yes, it is necessary to have the Mac app to make the perspective, but that's a one-time operation. You could even get the Omni support ninjas to build a perspective for you if you don't have the Mac app.

If you choose to work in a way that makes it impossible to do what you want, that's your choice.

I didn't respond earlier to your prior post, but I see nothing in the list of "new situations not present 12 years ago" that hasn't been true for much longer than 12 years. Reporting to more than one boss a novel concept? Hardly — see for example Galbraith, J.R. (1971). "Matrix Organization Designs: How to combine functional and project forms". In: Business Horizons, February, 1971, 29-40.

Magd36 2013-02-26 02:11 AM

[QUOTE=whpalmer4;120856]...You could even get the Omni support ninjas to build a perspective for you if you don't have the Mac app...[/QUOTE]

Now that's interesting as I don't have a MAC so could be useful for me. I think it would fix my point when I posted:

"Is the weakness of this not that when you unexpectedly meet Joe and quickly bring up his context you may fail to ask him the general Sales questions that he could have answered?"

If perspectives group contexts is this kind of like making contexts act like tags?

In general, my office contexts seem to operate around "time required to complete" as I usually have everything I need, where as my personal contexts operate on a "things I need to complete" basis.

marcd 2013-02-26 03:17 PM

Multi-contexts and People
 
That's a useful method whpalmer4, thanks for sharing it.

But... I still want People to be a separate context which crosses other contexts because if I talk to someone or before I call them I want to see what is pertinent to them, what am I waiting for from them, what was that great idea i wanted to share with them, tell them not to forget to collect the kids, get some oil for the car, shave the dog etc. Any of these might be spread across any number of Place or Tool (iphone, email, home, office) contexts. People are just a different sort of category concept which overlap and just won't nest under other regular Contexts.

And while I have your attention, I'm sure there was something else I was going to mention to you, now where did I file my note?

whpalmer4 2013-02-26 03:30 PM

[QUOTE=marcd;120895]That's a useful method whpalmer4, thanks for sharing it.

But... I still want People to be a separate context which crosses other contexts because if I talk to someone or before I call them I want to see what is pertinent to them, what am I waiting for from them, what was that great idea i wanted to share with them, tell them not to forget to collect the kids, get some oil for the car, shave the dog etc. Any of these might be spread across any number of Place or Tool (iphone, email, home, office) contexts. People are just a different sort of category concept which overlap and just won't nest under other regular Contexts.

And while I have your attention, I'm sure there was something else I was going to mention to you, now where did I file my note?[/QUOTE]

Easy, you look in the whpalmer4 perspective if you have whpalmer4 sub-contexts sprinkled about in your tree and the perspective collates them together.

I suggest you have a look at the other discussion where Brian does his best to gently make it clear that OmniFocus isn't likely to support multiple contexts. [url]http://forums.omnigroup.com/showthread.php?t=28176[/url]

Brian 2013-02-26 04:14 PM

I'm actually going to move this conversation to the thread that Bill referenced in his post in just a moment. So when future folks see a link to the same thread the posts are in, that's why.

To answer Marcd directly: sorry, no plans for multiple contexts per action in OmniFocus 2. See previous posts in the thread your post got moved to for suggestions on how to handle things, and feel free to continue the conversation in this thread. Hope this helps!

philrob 2013-02-26 11:57 PM

Watching this debate from the sidelines, my hope is that with OF2 the problem/debate will go away.

Not because OF2 will directly implement tags/contexts, but because (please, please, please) the search function will behave intuitively and allow us to either search the whole database or just the current view.

Once there is a comprehensive (intuitive) search function, people can implement tags to their hearts content.

I suspect that we will see scripts here very quickly that will allow users to set their own 'tags' (or several of them) which are written to the notes field and can later be found (filtered) using the search function.

It could probably be done now using the existing 'search all OF' script - that some of our high level practitioners and script gurus haven't gone to the trouble of writing such a script probably indicates that when you are a 'yellow belt' you think you need a solution like this. When you are 'black belt' you know that you don't.

Me, I would just like to get above the white belt stage...

Magd36 2013-02-27 04:09 AM

[QUOTE=philrob;120915]... when you are a 'yellow belt' you think you need a solution like this. When you are 'black belt' you know that you don't ...[/QUOTE]

Brilliant. I's anologies like that that make me feel better.

marcd 2013-02-27 02:04 PM

[QUOTE=Brian;120900]I'm actually going to move this conversation to the thread that Bill referenced in his post in just a moment. So when future folks see a link to the same thread the posts are in, that's why.

To answer Marcd directly: sorry, no plans for multiple contexts per action in OmniFocus 2. See previous posts in the thread your post got moved to for suggestions on how to handle things, and feel free to continue the conversation in this thread. Hope this helps![/QUOTE]

Cheers Brian. Now I know this, I will follow up the suggestions in the other thread and try out alternative interesting approaches so that I am ready for OF2 shipping.

Kevin Crenshaw 2013-04-25 09:42 AM

A Productivity Coach's Perspective
 
As trainers and reviewers of GTD software, we are regularly asked about OmniFocus and multiple contexts.

Here's the perspective of a TRO productivity coach and any responses. ([URL="http://priacta.com/Training"]TRO[/URL] is an advanced GTD++ type system.) The post in the other forum:

[url]https://www.priacta.com/forum/discussion/1150/anyone-on-the-omnifocus-2-beta-is-it-tro-capable[/url]

digitalagua 2013-04-25 12:25 PM

I think multiple contexts would be OK
 
Brian,

OK, I see your point of view but it seems like you can easily come up with a scenario that would be much easier to manage with multiple contexts.

I need to talk to Bob about a new proposal.

I can do this if I have phone time, if I am on client site or I see Bob.

I would like to organize the "new proposal" under client, phone, Bob for the following reasons.

If I am speaking to Bob in person or he calls. Than that is the context I would like it under. I would like it there because I can easily say oh yeah, I have some Bob actions.

If I have Phone time, I don't want to have to review every person I have listed, 50+ because by the end of my free moment I have only had time to review, so I would like to have it categorized here as well.

If I am on client site, I'd like to have a list of actions that are specific to the client because I honestly might have forgotten that Bob even existed when I am there.

When I am finished talking with Bob, I'd like to tick the box and have it removed from all the categories.

It seems odd for a piece of software to not include some obviously desired functionality due to some dogmatic vision of how people should use it. The lack of this feature will keep me from upgrading this product.

Thanks,

james

Cypher 2013-04-25 02:30 PM

I'm not sure why this would be a problem as you could easily implement it using hash tags or something similar to get around it and then search on the tag.

Here's an example tasks with three embedded hash tags for your three contexts.

Task: Talk to #Bob about a new proposal. #phone #client-xyz

Also maybe setting a base Context of Multiple would provide a way of also finding tasks that had multiple context.
Context: "Multiple"

As there would only be one task as such, marking it as complete will close it off from all three hash searches.

I've just done a quick test of this by setting my normal phone context to #phone. Then in some other tasks, which weren't already phone tasks, I just added the hash tag #phone to the end of the existing task description.

Searching for #phone now quickly shows me a list of all my "phone" tasks and includes all those contains #phone in the description or in the context.

digitalagua 2013-04-29 08:34 AM

@Cypher
Thank you for the reply and that does work. It still seems more of a work around than functionality though. I guess I am more curious as to why multiple contexts are so taboo, and why Omni Group doesn't just add them in.

Cypher 2013-04-29 10:22 AM

If you go with the hash tag method you can also create a perspective containing the saved search on the various hash tags, probably only worth doing for the ones you use a lot but having a perspective for #phone or #bob will save you having to continually enter the search string.

Gardener 2013-04-30 11:09 AM

[QUOTE=digitalagua;123314]@Cypher
Thank you for the reply and that does work. It still seems more of a work around than functionality though. I guess I am more curious as to why multiple contexts are so taboo, and why Omni Group doesn't just add them in.[/QUOTE]

As a programmer, my guess - and I could be wrong - is that adding them in would drastically increase the complexity of OmniFocus's codebase, gobble up months' worth of programming resources that could be used to add other features, and increase the complexity of the codebase and the test and support resources that it requires, and quite possibly the effort required for other new features, forever after. So that it wouldn't be "just" add them, but a huge effort, because contexts affect everything.

Now, I would think (also guessing) that adding searchable tags that _don't_ act like contexts wouldn't be as much of a nightmare, but then I'd guess that we'd all grumble that we really wanted them to have all the cool features of contexts.

So I can certainly see that as long as Omni isn't convinced that multiple contexts have value, they're not gonna add them. I may disagree on the point of whether they have value, but I can certainly agree that if they don't, they're too big to add just in case.

vile 2013-05-17 05:26 PM

[QUOTE=Brian;120150]but when there's a conflict between what's comfortable and what's productive, we really want our software to err on the side of productivity.
[/QUOTE]

You should put on shoes one size smaller and try to run around for a day "being productive". By the end of the day you'll understand that only time you can be productive, is when you have a comfortable working environment.

[QUOTE=Brian;120345]This seems similar to the "I need to show Cindy a machine in a certain place" example on the first page - if the action can't happen without the person, we'd recommend that it go in the person's context. Check that context every time you see/meet them, and you'll be able to check it off when you're in the right location.
[/QUOTE]
Ok. I'm collaborating with approximately 80 people. For about 30 of them I have collaborations on private and work matters.
Sometimes I need to call them, meet them, e-mail them. Very often things that can go to e-mail can be resolved when I'm talking to the person instead of sending e-mails.
I'm doing e-mails in timeslots: i.e. "next pomodoro I'm going to spend reading/answering e-mails". E-mails are quite often a part of particular project.


My need is: I must be able to pull up list of related questions for the person when I'm face-to face with them and e-mail items for any person, when I'm working in the timeslot.
My second need: If some topic comes up during the conversation, I want to pull up all the relevant items from my list

What I would want ideally: "Send an #e-mail to #Brian, tell him that #OmniFocus tags are good and small shoes are bad." => 30min,Prj:"Find good #gtd software to replace #omnifocus"
When I start search: #B - it lists #B[I][COLOR="Blue"]rian (1)[/COLOR][/I], #B[I][COLOR="blue"]ob (4)[/COLOR][/I] as a hint with counters for number of items under each. Other #B-tags are not listed, because there are no open tasks with them.
When I'm typing: "#e-" results in a #e-[I][COLOR="blue"]mail[/COLOR][/I] hint.

If I would be able to create perspectives based on that - even better.

Question: What is faster: "command-option-F #Br<enter>" or "command-2, find necessary context, click" ???

wilsonng 2013-05-19 03:55 AM

How about just having an Agenda context?

An agenda context for the following:

Agenda:Search Committee
Agenda:Annual Summer Bash Party Committee
Agenda:Employee Evaluation Committee


Then put the tasks into one of these agendas. Go through them and you can decide whether to just call someone, e-mail someone, or delegate it to someone else.

I'd probably eliminate e-mail contexts and phone call contexts and just call it agenda contexts. With so many different variations of contacting someone, it's pointless to just use e-mail, Facebook, phone, etc.

I usually have a pretty good idea of who are the members of each committee. So I don't worry about who I'm supposed to be talking to. In any case, I just CC: everybody in that committee. I already create e-mail groups in Mail.app or use a collaborative program such as Google+ circles or Facebook groups.

I don't worry too much about contact method and just figure out on the fly. I don't need OF to tell me which methods I should use. I know that some people respond better to Facebook than e-mail. Some folks just prefer an SMS message. I don't really like to spend time doing multiple tags when I just want to contact someone.

So maybe the next pomodoro shouldn't be about e-mailing. Rather the pomodoro should be titled "followup on agenda items."





I usually check my contexts once every quarter just to see if there is a context I can add or delete.

RiK 2013-06-10 02:36 PM

Interesting to note that Apple are introducing system-wide tags in OSX 10.9.

Time to reconsider them in OmniFocus perhaps?

Humbro 2013-06-22 06:05 AM

Contexts are 1D only.
 
Thank you for this, Brian! The lack of tags in OF has frustrated me greatly over the years, and was my main reason for migrating to Things. It was good to finally get a comprehensive account of your thinking on this matter.

I have one main objection to your argument: For contexts specifying [I]place[/I] only, I agree that your current approach works. However, David Allen has himself suggested using contexts for more than just place, e.g. energy level required to do a task (e.g., braindead chores vs. demanding reading).

If I want my contexts to span these two dimensions, place and energy, I have a hard time seeing how I could implement that in OF.

Fermey 2014-01-14 02:50 PM

I think what it amounts to is that there *are* valid reasons why one task could validly be on more than one context list. The easiest example to provide is a situation where you have phone calls that you want to make in the office, phone calls that are personal (home) calls, then calls that might be validly be made either at work or at home.

I don’t think it would invalidate David Allen’s system by allowing tasks to be on more than one context list. In fact, I’d argue that Allen would say the advantage of automated tools like OmniFocus over paper lists is that you can easily have one task fit in more than one context. Because we are stuck with one context in OmniFocus, we are left with workarounds that never quite satisfy user’s needs.

Brian, I appreciate your taking on this issue head on in one thread, but what it sounds like to me is excuses for avoiding a many-to-many relationship in the OmniFocus database, which would likely hurt performance and make it a lot more difficult to develop. Let’s face it, messing with the OmniFocus database structure wouldn’t just affect one program, but three (OmniFocus for Mac, OmniFocus for iPad, OmniFocus for iPhone). I think most of us would be happy just to have the long-awaited version 2.0 arrive on our Macs. :-)

I believe it’s disingenuous to say that the OmniGroup doesn’t want to implement multiple context tasks because it adds unnecessary complexity and the added complexity prevents users from getting things done, as stated in one of your original posts. True, that added complexity would make it more difficult for the *OmniGroup developers*, but if there is one thing I’ve learned after reading all these workarounds is that these workarounds themselves add unnecessary complexity.

Gardener 2014-01-15 03:56 PM

[QUOTE=Fermey;128965]I think what it amounts to is that there *are* valid reasons why one task could validly be on more than one context list. The easiest example to provide is a situation where you have phone calls that you want to make in the office, phone calls that are personal (home) calls, then calls that might be validly be made either at work or at home. [/QUOTE]

I realize that I'm responding to a specific case that you're using to illustrate a general point, but this one seems fairly straightforward to me. I'd create separate, non-nested contexts for Phone, Home Phone, and Work Phone. In my Work perspective I include Phone and Work Phone; in my Home perspective I include Phone and Home Phone.

I realize that you may see this as a workaround, but I actually see it as easier. I only have to set up the perspectives and define the contexts once, and then each time I create a phone action--something that should happen far more often--I only need to choose one context.

Fermey 2014-01-15 04:03 PM

[QUOTE=Gardener;128988]I realize that I'm responding to a specific case that you're using to illustrate a general point, but this one seems fairly straightforward to me. I'd create separate, non-nested contexts for Phone, Home Phone, and Work Phone. In my Work perspective I include Phone and Work Phone; in my Home perspective I include Phone and Home Phone.

I realize that you may see this as a workaround, but I actually see it as easier. I only have to set up the perspectives and define the contexts once, and then each time I create a phone action--something that should happen far more often--I only need to choose one context.[/QUOTE]

Precisely, just trying to illustrate a situation where one task could legitimately live in two contexts, though there are dozens of better examples throughout this thread.

Gardener 2014-01-16 09:04 AM

In my case, I would kinda sorta _like_ to be able to apply more than one context to a task, but I have yet to find a sitution where the lack of that ability genuinely inconveniences me. So if the answer really is, "No, that would be too expensive and you wouldn't get any other features for eighteen months," that answer would be fine with me. No multiple contexts. I'll be fine. There are features that I want much, much more.

I suppose the situation where I would most like multiple contexts is the "shopping list" scenario. For example, to use a simple personal Next Action, right now I need a hook closure for a skirt. There are six convenient stores that might have one, and one less convenient and generally unpleasant and icky store that certainly will.

It would be handy if I could walk into my handy knitting store and check a context or perspective that shows all of the things that might be bought there (the hook closure, a button that I need for another garment, a copy of Threads) and none of the things that I'm absolutely not going to find there (butter, fire starters, my dry cleaning.)

But when I enter "buy skirt hook closure" as an action am I *really* going to go through all of my "store" contexts and add all of the possibly relevant ones, one by one by one? Or am I instead going to create a Crafty Store context and put the item there, and if I see an entry for yarn while I'm in the bead shop, so be it? If I'm going to do that, then I don't need the multiple contexts.

Now, if I want to have both the Crafty Store context AND the Icky Store context, because I'd be extra anoyed if I went all the way to Icky Store and forgot the hook, OmniFocus already supports that--I create a Crafty Stores context and make Icky Store a subcontext. I apply Icky Store, and that will make the item also show up when I'm looking at the more general Crafty Stores. This does mean that I have to remember to check the Icky Store context, specifically, when I'm there, to make sure I'm not distracted by other items. But I think that the multiple-context request assumes that we're checking the specific context; I assume that's the point.

But now let's imagine that I sew for a living and that I get to The City once a quarter to buy supplies, hundreds of items, and if I miss anything or run out of time I pay a premium to have items shipped. Imagine that I pre-research everything--I can get THOSE buttons at any one of those four places, and THOSE patterns at any one of three other places, and so on. Imagine that I really want clear-cut lists that show exactly who has what.

If I do that, then I'm probably going to just buy some sort of app optimized specifically for that, and take all that out of OmniFocus, and probably nag whoever writes that app to provide some sort of "shopping trip analysis" that tells me that I can get ninety-three percent of my items by going to these three stores, as opposed to ninety-eight percent of them by going to eighteen different stores, but that the first option will cost me thirty percent more for the items that the two options have in common. I could check off or eliminate items and it could optimize my shopping agenda on the fly. I like it! Somebody write it?

Anyway. This is similar to the fact that my bug list for programming doesn't live in OmniFocus, but instead in a separate database that I treat as project support material, because there are just too many fields that OmniFocus doesn't offer--and shouldn't offer; it's not a bug tracking system. Or the fact that some people are going to use contact manager apps even though they also use OmniFocus. For me, there's a level of complexity where the data exits OmniFocus and becomes Project Support Material. And that may be a philosophical conflict, re how one uses OmniFocus.

In my professional-sewing-shopping scenario above, OmniFocus would Next Action me through entering and organizing everything into the shopping app, and through making my travel and lodging plans, and throw a tickler to remind me to check whether ButtonsNThings is going to have their usual January sale, and remind me to follow up with the employee that I delegated to double-check the prices in the shopping app and to confirm that my wholesale buyer paperwork is still good, and tell me to inventory and double-check each day's shopping each night, and so on. It just doesn't handle the nitty-gritty of two gross of semi-translucent white shirt buttons; the shopping list app does that.

So I can't find a situation, for me, where I need multiple contexts that (1) don't already have a hierarchical relationship and (2) aren't so complicated that I want a task-specific app anyway. I struggle to find a situation where they would even really be useful. If Omni Group really does mean "it's too complicated to program/support" rather than "It would be wrong", well, I might want them to be more straightforward, but I still support that decision.

David_Haddad 2014-01-27 01:43 AM

I found this thread by doing a search. OF is [I]exceptionally[/I] useful to me. It would be even more useful to me if it supported multiple contexts.

The first couple of posts by the fellow at OF reflect two typical thinking errors, thinking that because something works for you it should work for others, and placing too much emphasis on thinking there is a "right" process. It's hilarious reading his analysis of why he doesn't think people need multiple contexts and how he will "help users resolve problems applying a single-context approach". The perfect example of a religious convert that thinks they've seen the light, and over minutia at that, and needs to help other people see it. Heck, he even thinks he's protecting some sacred values by not implementing it, and is willing to "lose out on sales", how admirable!

Different people process information in different ways, and a lot of people are going to find multiple contexts useful. Everything else is largely noise.

If we were talking about a business where it's sometimes crucial that everyone is following the same process, this might be a more important discussion. But OF is for individual users and here, the main questions should be:

1. Would giving people multiple contexts be useful to a lot of users (regardless of whether some people think they've found sacred productivity truth and know that single contexts are best).

2. Could it be implemented without making the software more complicated for users that don't need multiple contexts.

IMO the answer to both questions is yes.

psidnell 2014-01-27 02:42 AM

[QUOTE=David_Haddad;129293]
Different people process information in different ways, and a lot of people are going to find multiple contexts useful. Everything else is largely noise.
[/QUOTE]

I guess this is the quandary Omni find themselves in:

To be all things to all <gender neutral pronouns/> or concentrate on a subset of users that are happy enough with "classic" GTD or don't even use contexts.

The product is already pretty complex (but not unnecessarily so IMO) and adding more features would only make it more intimidating to new users and harder to support/sync on iOS. Multi-contexts (or tagging) significantly affects the UI, workflow and scripting, it would break a lot of stuff.

If they did something radical like abandoning contexts and going with tagging that would just upset all the existing core users who like things as they are.

I've road tested "Things" (which has hierarchical tags, v similar to multiple contexts) and while I liked that feature, OF did everything else (that I needed) better.

With Things 3.0 about to drop it's possible that there will be a home for both camps. With two task managers of similar quality levels but competing on approach/metaphor (tags v contexts) time will tell where the new customers go.

Gardener 2014-01-27 03:26 PM

[QUOTE=David_Haddad;129293]1. Would giving people multiple contexts be useful to a lot of users (regardless of whether some people think they've found sacred productivity truth and know that single contexts are best).

2. Could it be implemented without making the software more complicated for users that don't need multiple contexts.

IMO the answer to both questions is yes.[/QUOTE]

But I think there's a third question:

3. Would the increased value outweigh the increased value that could be achieved by using the same programming resources to produce other features?

For me, the answer's no.

David_Haddad 2014-01-28 01:57 AM

[QUOTE=Gardener;129317]But I think there's a third question:

3. Would the increased value outweigh the increased value that could be achieved by using the same programming resources to produce other features?

For [B]me[/B], the answer's no.[/QUOTE]
In other words, your metric for answering # 3 isn't based on any objective criteria, but whether you think it should be. My point # 1 beats your point # 3 :p.

Gardener 2014-01-28 01:39 PM

[QUOTE=David_Haddad;129333]In other words, your metric for answering # 3 isn't based on any objective criteria, but whether you think it should be. My point # 1 beats your point # 3 :p.[/QUOTE]

Your objective criteria is made up of the opinions of people. My opinion is an opinion of a person. :) The fact that my opinion is the reverse of their opinion doesn't negate it.

Unless we grab Omni's feature backlog list, estimate the cost for each one, and take a massive poll of who wants what and therefore some sort of gauge of cost-against-improving-user-experience-and-utility-based-on-user-opinions, there's really no telling.

DrJJWMac 2014-01-28 02:23 PM

[QUOTE=Gardener;129317]But I think there's a third question:

3. Would the increased value outweigh the increased value that could be achieved by using the same programming resources to produce other features?

For me, the answer's no.[/QUOTE]

This is a time-based analysis.

4. How soon will the market produce something that gives users an equivalent option to OF but with multiple tags?

I suspect ... sooner rather than later or certainly sooner rather than never.

GeoffAirey 2014-02-03 05:13 AM

[QUOTE=David_Haddad;129293]I found this thread by doing a search. OF is [I]exceptionally[/I] useful to me. It would be even more useful to me if it supported multiple contexts.

The first couple of posts by the fellow at OF reflect two typical thinking errors, thinking that because something works for you it should work for others, and placing too much emphasis on thinking there is a "right" process. It's hilarious reading his analysis of why he doesn't think people need multiple contexts and how he will "help users resolve problems applying a single-context approach".

Different people process information in different ways, and a lot of people are going to find multiple contexts useful. Everything else is largely noise.

the main questions should be:

1. Would giving people multiple contexts be useful to a lot of users (regardless of whether some people think they've found sacred productivity truth and know that single contexts are best).

2. Could it be implemented without making the software more complicated for users that don't need multiple contexts.

IMO the answer to both questions is yes.[/QUOTE]

Apologies David for chopping your comments.

I agree with some things

1) There certainly isn't a right way.

2) Yes people work in different ways. The way my mind works, multiple contexts is nothing but a win scenario, however others are different. GTD and Omni's implementations of contexts feel very restrictive to me.

3) You got the main question wrong though, it is:
What vision do Omni have for OF as a product?

In the end, that's all that matters. It's Omni's product to do with as they wish. Omni are a well run company which provides premium quality software products at fair prices. If Omni choose to stay with a pure GTD product then Multiple contexts are not included. That's their call and as customers it's our call as to whether Omnifocus is the best product available to help us.

At the moment, none of the other competitors have shown me anything which meets my needs more than OF, including Forecasting, Review (Key piece here) and contexts / projects.

Any other system has left me unclear as to whether I'm meeting all of my committments so I keep coming back.

But Multiple contexts would cement me into OF 2 on Mac, Ipad and iPhone without a second's hesitation. At this moment I'm still not sure whether I will step aboard version 2 or not.

David_Haddad 2014-02-03 04:49 PM

I'll only respond to the part I disagree with.

[QUOTE=GeoffAirey;129448]3) You got the main question wrong though, it is: What vision do Omni have for OF as a product?

In the end, that's all that matters. It's Omni's product to do with as they wish.[/QUOTE]

"It's their product and they can do is they wish" is a catch-all response when you don't have an actual argument to make :p, it can be used as an "out" in nearly every business discussion on the face of the earth. They can fill the product with motivational biblical passages if they want :).

I suggested some of the questions that software companies often use to produce meaningful metrics on whether to fulfill a feature request, in fact it could even answer whether it fits with their vision, depending on that vision. That assumes the vision is flexible. If the vision is "even if adding it would not increase complexity, and even if it would make a lot of users happy, we know what's best for users and won't be adding it", then never mind.

I think I might find the "vision" discussion more interesting if we were talking about serious issues, for instance balancing user privacy versus convenience is a serious issue with some software development. But when we are talking about whether a user should be allowed to define multiple contexts for an action item, and someone is writing about it like it's an important philosophical discussion that could compromise the product, and/or has an important effect on how productive people are, I find it pretty funny.

David_Haddad 2014-02-03 08:14 PM

And just to clarify, if they are looking at this and saying "it will take 3000 hours of code writing to re-write our application for this, and we don't believe the payoff is worth that investment", that's completely legit, as would be a number of other reasons.

My point was very targeted - what I find hilarious is the fact that development on this issue, going by the first couple of thread posts, is (apparently) being driven by a belief that appears to border on religious that multiple contexts are bad and that they'd be violating some principle by giving them to users, it's missing the forest for the trees. Sure, that's their "right", but that doesn't make it any less ridiculous.

It's akin to having a lot of users ask to have the [I][B]option[/B][/I] of highlighting high priority items in red, and telling those users:

[QUOTE]In our experience, when an action looks like it requires [B]red[/B], it almost always means that you aren't using due dates or setting next actions properly, blah blah blah[/QUOTE]

Anyhow, I'm embarrassed that I've wasted more time writing on this at this point than it deserves, goes to that whole "winning an argument on the Internet" thing :D.. The only reason I commented was I'd like to be able to apply two contexts to my items. But I can see that is unlikely to happen since Omnifocus does not think that would be good for me! Thank God they are protecting us multiple contexters from ourselves.

Yury 2014-02-14 03:12 PM

Brian,

While your reply makes sense Tagging is not always used as you mentioned, I actually created a script to help me look for things and identify things fast that has Tagging.

Example: I am on a security team for a Linux distribution which means a LOT of bugs, that go in to OmniFocus. All bugs have a stage which is what I use for context (example: stabilize, cleanup... etc). The problem is that each item also has a priority to them that describes how FAST it must go stable based on severity. There is no way for me to have a project with the Bug #, plus a severity identifier, and have the ability to search for that as an identifier. So TAGS (which is what I use the script for) is very important as when I need to do a search for something, just context alone will not help.

svsmailus 2014-02-22 11:20 AM

Moot point
 
Isn't this all rather a moot point? Over the years I've followed many of the threads of people asking for tags or multiple contexts. I would suggest at least 50% of your users would like this. So why not give it to them? You can make an option one can turn off if one doesn't like it. What I object to here is the omni believes that it knows better than I do on how I should manage my tasks. This really comes across as arrogance. There are many different productivity philosophies, from GTD, ZenGTD, Covey etc. Each fits into the uniqueness of different people. I fail to understand Omni's approach of telling folks that Omni knows best? Apart from a basic GTD philosophy these other methodolgies don't work with omni. Good luck at trying to implement Covey's matrix. Yes, I've seen people post suggestions, but these work-arounds are cumbersome and demonstrate omni's infelxibility.

Over the years my productivity methodology has changed considerably and sadly, omni has not kept up with the times and still attempts to shoehorn people into its GTD method. This may be useful for folks whose methodology is identical to omni's but allows no leeway for folks who do things differently.

No doubt folks will say, you're free to use something else, but considering the quite considerable expense I've invested it's a shame that omni is so rigid that it won't even listen to half its users who want this option. I had thought that good developers listen to their customers, but that certainly doesn't seem to be happening here.

Jay6821 2014-02-22 06:09 PM

[QUOTE=svsmailus;129667]Isn't this all rather a moot point? Over the years I've followed many of the threads of people asking for tags or multiple contexts. I would suggest at least 50% of your users would like this. So why not give it to them? You can make an option one can turn off if one doesn't like it. What I object to here is the omni believes that it knows better than I do on how I should manage my tasks. This really comes across as arrogance. There are many different productivity philosophies, from GTD, ZenGTD, Covey etc. Each fits into the uniqueness of different people. I fail to understand Omni's approach of telling folks that Omni knows best? Apart from a basic GTD philosophy these other methodolgies don't work with omni. Good luck at trying to implement Covey's matrix. Yes, I've seen people post suggestions, but these work-arounds are cumbersome and demonstrate omni's infelxibility.

Over the years my productivity methodology has changed considerably and sadly, omni has not kept up with the times and still attempts to shoehorn people into its GTD method. This may be useful for folks whose methodology is identical to omni's but allows no leeway for folks who do things differently.

No doubt folks will say, you're free to use something else, but considering the quite considerable expense I've invested it's a shame that omni is so rigid that it won't even listen to half its users who want this option. I had thought that good developers listen to their customers, but that certainly doesn't seem to be happening here.[/QUOTE]

+1

I was Covey trained before I discovered GTD and both approaches have pro's and con's for my work style. Tags make sense to me, a single context does not.

David_Haddad 2014-02-23 11:17 PM

As much as I liked OF I just moved to another program that among other things, supports multiple contexts. It's great to be able to view info the way I want to, not the way someone else has decided is best for me. I won't be moving back.

I have to say that reading this thread was an influencer in the decision. It made it clear this is a product that won't be seeing any exciting improvements as long as this is the development attitude driving it, it helped me to understand why the still non-existent 2.0 didn't look to be an improvement at all. I also found it head shaking that the person starting the thread is so convinced that multiple contexts are wrong that he doesn't appear to even get how many people would actually use them, he's missed the forest for the trees.

psilas 2014-02-24 09:25 AM

[QUOTE]As much as I liked OF I just moved to another program that among other things, supports multiple contexts. It's great to be able to view info the way I want to, not the way someone else has decided is best for me. I won't be moving back.[/QUOTE]

Would you let us know which program you have moved to please?

Ken Case 2014-02-24 06:36 PM

Sorry for the lack of response from Omni in this thread—we've just been heads-down working on OmniFocus 2 lately, trying to get the basic app polished up and all our Pro features in place. (We just got v2 to the point where it can load arbitrary Perspectives again a few hours ago.)

Our thinking has evolved on this over the years, and we do plan to add support for creating arbitrary lists of tasks which cut across projects and contexts. But this functionality isn't planned for the initial v2.0 release, since we want to ship that release as soon as possible.

Ken Case 2014-02-24 06:44 PM

By the way, the way to implement this workflow in OmniFocus right now is to use #hashtags in notes, creating saved context-mode perspectives which search for those #hashtags. Those perspectives will sync from the Mac to the iPhone app, so you can quickly get to those lists wherever you are.

David_Haddad 2014-02-24 08:26 PM

The comments from Ken here are much appreciated. Edit: haha, I notice the "and likely never will support them" has been removed from the threads title.

[QUOTE=psilas;129679]Would you let us know which program you have moved to please?[/QUOTE]
I somewhat hesitate to respond since this is OF's forum after all, but i suppose I opened that can of worms with my last post. The answer is Organizer:Pro by TaskFabric. I'm not suggesting for a second that it's "better", just that it is for me. It's a bit rough around the edges with regard to the aesthetic design (which is also skinnable), but the functionality is outstanding. It has all the things I loved about OF, plus two things I desperately missed, multiple contexts and the ability to open notes about an item in a dedicated window. And the built in mind mapping feature blows my mind :D. It also works with Windows which is huge for me since I have to use Windows for Work.

I suspect there are plenty of areas OF is stronger too, for instance I haven't seen a way yet to create highly customized views as is possible with OF, then again I haven't looked too hard as the default views meet my needs very well.

It took me a good couple of hours working with it to figure it all out, I initially rejected it, so if you do try it I'd suggest you be willing to spend some time on it. Things I initially thought it didn't have were there, but not immediately apparent. I also found that the appearance and layout, even of the navigation bar could be substantially altered in settings, which allowed me to change things I initially assumed were not able to be altered. I'm sure there is much more to discover that I haven't even gotten to yet.

The company has also responded surprisingly quickly to my inquiries, I asked them why they didn't have a user forum and they responded they are creating one, I asked them about the one major thing I noticed was missing, that I could not manually set the order of tasks and they responded that they've received that feature request and will be adding it in the next release due in a few months.

svsmailus 2014-02-25 04:11 AM

[QUOTE]...we do plan to add support for creating arbitrary lists of tasks which cut across projects and contexts[/QUOTE]

Thanks for the response Ken. I'm not sure what your above statement promises? Are you looking at implementing either muliple contexts per task or a tag system across the board?

Ken Case 2014-02-25 06:45 AM

[QUOTE=svsmailus;129688]Thanks for the response Ken. I'm not sure what your above statement promises? Are you looking at implementing either muliple contexts per task or a tag system across the board?[/QUOTE]

I'm just saying that we understand and are planning to address the need. Either of those options could solve this need, though I don't think those are the only two options.

But right now, we need to keep our focus on shipping 2.0 so we can ship that promised sync-compatible transition release—which will then free us to start making changes to our underlying data architecture that won't be compatible with v1. There are some basic changes there that we've been wanting to make for years (like being able to drop actions without deleting them or marking them complete).

psilas 2014-02-25 11:32 AM

[QUOTE=David_Haddad;129685] The answer is Organizer:Pro by TaskFabric. I'm not suggesting for a second that it's "better", just that it is for me. [/QUOTE]

Thanks very much for letting us know what you went with David. I have had a look at this program but intend to stick with OF for the time being. Particularly now multiple contexts are on the table.

All the best.

svsmailus 2014-02-25 11:57 PM

[QUOTE=psilas;129694]...but intend to stick with OF for the time being. Particularly now multiple contexts are on the table.[/QUOTE]

I'd be a bit cautious about this. Just because something has been mentioned as a possibility does not mean it will become a reality. Omni does not have a speedy development cycle. The current version of Omnifocus was initially released in 2008. That makes it just over 6 years old. Version two, apart from the iPhone, is not out yet.

Basing your use of omnifocus on the possibility of multiple contexts could cause you considerable investment financially and you may not see multiple context for a number of years.

I use omnifocus less and less as it is too inflexible for my productivity focus. I use Covey matrix. Omnifocus is great if you work the way it wants you to. If not you'll end up endlessly tweaking it and not being effective.

wilsonng 2014-02-26 01:24 AM

[QUOTE=svsmailus;129703]I'd be a bit cautious about this. Just because something has been mentioned as a possibility does not mean it will become a reality. Omni does not have a speedy development cycle. The current version of Omnifocus was initially released in 2008. That makes it just over 6 years old. Version two, apart from the iPhone, is not out yet.[/quote]

Speedy development cycles also have their detractors. We see people complain about how Adobe pushes out a new Adobe Suite upgrade every year. It appears that the changes are incremental but we pay the full upgrade price or just skip every other version upgrade. We see yearly updates to the iPhone and people complain that it isn't revolutionary enough. There seems to be a new FileMaker Pro update every year with small incremental changes and an upgrade price.

On the other spectrum, Omni has been steadily updating OmniFocus without charging for it. Omni has been also busy trying to keep up with the various iOS updates and adding features that we didn't have before. Things like iOS Reminder integration, an iPad app, and two iPhone apps (OF 1 for iPhone and OF 2 for iPhone).


Heck, we also see programs get long in the tooth all the time. Microsoft Office hasn't been updated since 2011 is one example. Within the last week, there was a huge outcry about Apple taking 4 days to address a security program with Mac OS X.

So there is no real definition about speedy development process. Omni had to deal with keeping their programs compatible with multiple versions of Mac OS X and iOS and slowly adding features at the same time.


[quote]Basing your use of omnifocus on the possibility of multiple contexts could cause you considerable investment financially and you may not see multiple context for a number of years.[/quote]

I don't know about this. There are many people who have been working just fine with single contexts. No serious considerable financial investment lost here. But of course I also would love to see tags and am willing to wait for it. But for now, many folks have their system humming along just fine or have switched to other tools with the intent of coming back to OmniFocus to see what the future holds.

[quote]I use omnifocus less and less as it is too inflexible for my productivity focus. I use Covey matrix. Omnifocus is great if you work the way it wants you to. If not you'll end up endlessly tweaking it and not being effective.[/QUOTE]

I've found that OmniFocus has actually been quite flexible. Its flexibility lends itself to becoming difficult to use. But its flexibility has also allowed me to change my folder structures and use of contexts over the years.

I've also found that it made me challenge myself. We can have well baked ideas and philosophies that may have worked in 2010 but no longer work in 2014. Sometimes, it is a good idea to face one's self in the mirror and find other ways. I've used the Covey matrix a few years ago. I've found other similar philosophies that actually support the Covey matrix and expanded on it. I don't see a reason to stay with one philosophy. I like changing my productivity system as my needs and demands change over the years. In high school and college, an ABC priority method may have worked well for me but it won't work now. My life is very different and needed a different productivity system to handle a different workload. I know that when I retire, I'll probably not need the capabilities as much because my work demands will have dramatically changed or been reduced.

As always, we're always looking at one software package or another. It's good to switch when you need to. But every time I've tried switching, I find features of OmniFocus that I can't seem to find in other programs and end up coming right back. The last time, I had tried out Things 2 for a month. It didn't take. I just missed so much of OmniFocus. I switched back. But I did find several aspects of Things that I would love to have. But it's not enough to keep me in Things.

svsmailus 2014-02-26 10:05 AM

[QUOTE=wilsonng;129707]Speedy development cycles also have their detractors.[/QUOTE]

We're talking about 6 years here. None of the other software developers I use have this length of version cycles.

[QUOTE=wilsonng;129707]Omni has been also busy trying to keep up with the various iOS updates and adding features that we didn't have before. Things like iOS Reminder integration, an iPad app, and two iPhone apps (OF 1 for iPhone and OF 2 for iPhone).[/QUOTE]

Wow, you're not doing them any favours. Six years just to keep up-to-date with os changes. Apart from some minor changes OF hasn't changed much in this space of time.

[QUOTE=wilsonng;129707]I don't know about this. There are many people who have been working just fine with single contexts. No serious considerable financial investment lost here.[/QUOTE]

Two things.

1. Psilas mentioned sticking with OF based on multiple contexts being on the table, not because single contexts are great.
2. OF is serious financial investment. Desktop, iphone and ipad all together come to a not inconsequencial sum.

[QUOTE=wilsonng;129707]I've found that OmniFocus has actually been quite flexible. Its flexibility lends itself to becoming difficult to use. But its flexibility has also allowed me to change my folder structures and use of contexts over the years.[/QUOTE]

Hardly flexible, "change folder structure and use of contexts"! Flexible means I can change the programme to suit my workflow. This is not possibe with OF. As mentioned before apart from cumbersome work-arounds Covey's matrix cannot be used. The same applies for tasks that have multiple contexts such as a tool and a person.

[QUOTE=wilsonng;129707]I've also found that it made me challenge myself. We can have well baked ideas and philosophies that may have worked in 2010 but no longer work in 2014.[/QUOTE]

Exactly, so an app that has seen little real change since 2008 is going to be a problem.

[QUOTE=wilsonng;129707]I like changing my productivity system as my needs and demands change over the years.[/QUOTE]

So do I. I do not change my core system, because it is reliable and I'm effective using it. I do however, tweak the system. This is where OF has become increasingly untenable as it does not allow this.

I have a heavy workload. Covey's roles and important principles work well for me. The only task management system that was almost perfect was The Hit List. Sadly, the developer has issues and development has almost but stopped. The Mac app is still great, but I need iPad support which it doesn't offer.

I have some 40 active projects and a couple of hundred tasks. Importance plays a key role in allowing me to see what I should be working on. Roles also enable me to be balanced in life rather than focusing on just one role to the exclusion of others.

At the moment Things best allows me to use this system. Areas are great for roles and tags allow me to use urgent and important criteria. Along with this I am responsible for many people. This also needs to be included into the mix of tasks, which incidently can be rudimentally done with Things' contact option. One context is a joke. Even suggesting that one should use #tag in the item description demonstrates the need for more than one context (as suggested by Ken himself earlier in this thread). I'm amazed that omni has been dragging its feet for so long on this issue.

I've really wanted to like OF and tried to use and re-use many times, but the single context kills the whole thing or forces my to lengthy workarounds that reduce my effectiveness.

DrJJWMac 2014-02-26 12:53 PM

[QUOTE=svsmailus;129708]We're talking about 6 years here. ...

Even suggesting that one should use #tag in the item description demonstrates the need for more than one context ... I'm amazed that omni has been dragging its feet for so long on this issue.

I've really wanted to like OF and tried to use and re-use many times, but the single context kills the whole thing or forces my to lengthy workarounds that reduce my effectiveness.[/QUOTE]

I have to agree with the negative statements, even though I currently have no need for multiple contexts or tags in my workflow and I currently find OF 1 rather good for what I need.

The stubbornness with which OG has taken a stand against multiple contexts or tags, only to change positions now and fall to (what I think is a kludge) #hashtags in notes, indicates to me a serious reluctance on their part to innovate. I have a card on my bulletin board with a dinosaur against a background of falling comets. It says, Innovate or Die. While I think loyalty to OF may still strong, I also think the next big innovation in a GTD app with a solid design can kill that customer loyalty quickly.

In summary, I have this nagging feeling that, by going only part way, OG is essentially not going in the right direction on the issue of multiple contexts and tags. I have the same sense on some others issues too (e.g. the iPhone 2 update that looses the option for custom layouts of custom perspectives on the home screen at the expense of adding a "prettier" interface design). At the end of it all, while I still like OF and am productive using it, I have a sense that OG are just lumbering blissfully along with where they want to take it, much as a somewhat clueless dinosaur who may be about to face a comet storm.

intranation 2014-02-26 02:10 PM

It doesn't sound so far fetched to me (as a professional software developer) that the lack of movement on this is a database issue - they have to coordinate 3 separate versions to maintain compatibility (it's not a trusted system if it stops working the same on one or more devices), and I take Ken's statement that OF2 will address the database issue at face value.

Of course you could also ignore this and continue complaining whilst forgetting that it's a free market and no-one is forcing you to use OmniFocus. If it doesn't work for you you're free to go use something else - personally I come to this forum for OmniFocus chat and updates from the team, not to listen to loads of people who have never posted here before come and complain endlessly about how their system is broken by not having multiple contexts. They work fine for me personally, and if they didn't I wouldn't use OmniFocus.

svsmailus 2014-02-26 03:39 PM

[QUOTE=intranation;129719]If it doesn't work for you you're free to go use something else[/QUOTE]

...and there it is. The statement that has been rehashed in hundreds of forums and is a complete cop-out. It fails to appreciate investment of the user in a product. This is not a one-sided gig, where I commit to omni financially, and invest time and effort, but they are under no obligation to commit to me as a customer.

I'm not an isolated case, and please note omni themselves have even changed the title of this thread that caused a response from users. This is specifically to do with single contexts, that's what this thread is about. If you look through the forum you will find a high volume of chatter about single and multiple contexts. This chatter demonstrates that there are significant numbers on both sides of the fence. Up until now, omni has only ever supported single contexts. The change of this thread's title and some comments from Omni representatives including Ken Case are beginning to reveal that their current decision has ostracised many OF users who prefer to work in a different manner due to their personal productivity philosphy. Had people not voiced there desire and even argued it in these forums, I doubt omni would consider bringing in mutliples contexts and/or tags.

I'm glad OF works fine for your personally, but for me and many others it doesn't. We've highlighted that omni could make changes that would not ruin your workflow, but make the workflow of others much easier. I'm really glad that omni is listening. I take Ken's comments positively and look with anticipation to what future OF updates will bring. I will however, continue to make comments that I believe will make OF a better product and more suitable to more people. Surely in doing that it's a win/win situation for all? Perhaps we say things in frustration that could have been said kinder or we get overzealous with our viewpoint. I hope these things can be excused. The goal is the perfect task manager and OF certainly has the ability to become this.

If every time I found something problematic in a product I purchased and just stayed silent and made no comments nothing would be achieved. The business would lose a customer and I a product. It's through discussion and comments that we understand and make ourselves understood and this creates the possiblity for change that is mutually beneficial.

wilsonng 2014-02-26 07:41 PM

[QUOTE]We're talking about 6 years here. None of the other software developers I use have this length of version cycles.
[/quote]

But if the development cycles were shortened as we see with Adobe Suite and Filemaker, we would be scratching our heads about why we should be upgrading to the latest and greatest when feature set upgrade is minimal.

I also think that we may be seeing the trees but can't see the forest. Omni has been busy with their other product lineup. They can't ignore their other offerings, can they?

OmniFocus
OmniOutliner
OmniGraffle
OmniPlan
Omnipresence
Omni Sync Server
OmniFocus Maildrop

The only other thing I can think of is to have OmniFocus spin itself off into another company dedicated to nothing but OmniFocus. But even single product companies like Things and The Hit List haven’t been able to speed up their product cycle.

I also see the same arguments at the Things forum.

"They're so slow…"
"Why aren't they implementing my feature request already? Everybody wants it! It should be easy to implement!"
"Why can't they just hire more developers to get the job finished?"
"How come they didn't see this coming?""
"Why are they so inflexible?"



A lot of the behind-the-scenes work that went into OmniOutliner will be making its way into OmniFocus 2. So we can bet that there was significant process made to OmniFocus’ underlying engine.

OmniFocus is like a theater stage play. There are so many behind-the-scenes events that go on that the audience doesn't see. Rehearsals, revisions, tweaking, costumes, lighting, auditions, etc.




[quote]Wow, you're not doing them any favours. Six years just to keep up-to-date with os changes. Apart from some minor changes OF hasn't changed much in this space of time.[/quote]

Keeping up with OS changes are not small things that should be considered trivial. In many IT departments, we can still see many who are still stuck in Windows XP or have just only recently upgraded to Windows 7. They're not in any hurry to upgrade to Windows 8.

OmniFocus has changed quite a lot since its inception. Look at the release notes to get an idea of what they’re doing. They’re not standing still.

[url]http://www.omnigroup.com/releasenotes/omnifocus[/url]


[quote]1. Psilas mentioned sticking with OF based on multiple contexts being on the table, not because single contexts are great.[/quote]

no argument here. I would also love to see tagging that can take the place of multiple contexts. But reality is what it is. We’re just gonna have to wait for multiple contexts/tags.


[quote]2. OF is serious financial investment. Desktop, iphone and ipad all together come to a not inconsequencial sum. [/quote]

I think the sum I paid for the three OmniFocus apps has paid itself back ten times over for the productivity gains I received.


[quote]Hardly flexible, "change folder structure and use of contexts"! Flexible means I can change the programme to suit my workflow. This is not possibe with OF. As mentioned before apart from cumbersome work-arounds Covey's matrix cannot be used. The same applies for tasks that have multiple contexts such as a tool and a person.[/quote]

Bruce Lee quote:

[url]http://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-1385/Bruce-Lee-Be-Like-Water.html[/url]

"Be like water making its way through cracks. Do not be assertive, but adjust to the object, and you shall find a way around or through it. If nothing within you stays rigid, outward things will disclose themselves.

Empty your mind, be formless. Shapeless, like water. If you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup. You put water into a bottle and it becomes the bottle. You put it in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Now, water can flow or it can crash. Be water, my friend."

It seems that everyone finds their own way through a program. Flexible can also mean evolving and adapting over time to new changes.



[quote]So do I. I do not change my core system, because it is reliable and I'm effective using it. I do however, tweak the system. This is where OF has become increasingly untenable as it does not allow this.

I have a heavy workload. Covey's roles and important principles work well for me. The only task management system that was almost perfect was The Hit List. Sadly, the developer has issues and development has almost but stopped. The Mac app is still great, but I need iPad support which it doesn't offer.

I have some 40 active projects and a couple of hundred tasks. Importance plays a key role in allowing me to see what I should be working on. Roles also enable me to be balanced in life rather than focusing on just one role to the exclusion of others.

At the moment Things best allows me to use this system. Areas are great for roles and tags allow me to use urgent and important criteria. Along with this I am responsible for many people. This also needs to be included into the mix of tasks, which incidently can be rudimentally done with Things' contact option. One context is a joke. Even suggesting that one should use #tag in the item description demonstrates the need for more than one context (as suggested by Ken himself earlier in this thread). I'm amazed that omni has been dragging its feet for so long on this issue.

I've really wanted to like OF and tried to use and re-use many times, but the single context kills the whole thing or forces my to lengthy workarounds that reduce my effectiveness.[/QUOTE]

I also wished that The Hit List was able to get off the ground. Folders in OmniFocus can be used to classify projects into Roles, Areas of Responsibilities, or moments in time (Spring Projects, Summer Projects, Autumn Projects, Winter Projects). That’s what I call flexible.

Why not use hashtags for the moment? Now that we can create saved perspectives with search criteria, it appears that OmniFocus 2 for iPhone can use those perspectives as well.


But in the end, at least Omni is considering tags. The schedule has been set. OmniFocus 2.0 for Mac will keep backwards compatibility and hopefully give us that user interface refresh that many have been asking for. Then OmniFocus 2 for iPad should be coming a bit afterwards. Then it’ll be time to look forward to OmniFocus 2.1. That’s probably when we’ll see changes to OmniFocus that will give us multiple contexts and tags that some of us are asking for.

+1 to intranation's post. Come back to OmniFocus if you find it has finally changed to fit your needs. I know I've tried out the various demos whenever something new shows up. But I just keep coming back to OmniFocus.

It's not easy developing software. Customers wants their feature wish list yesterday. But it takes time and careful thought/consideration to implement. At least, we know that Omni is being deliberate and delivering feature sets on a schedule that shows promise.

We can debate until we're blue in the face. It looks like Omni is listening.

svsmailus 2014-02-27 04:39 AM

[QUOTE=wilsonng;129728]But if the development cycles were shortened as we see with Adobe Suite and Filemaker, we would be scratching our heads about why we should be upgrading to the latest and greatest when feature set upgrade is minimal.[/QUOTE]

You cannot compare the devlopment cycle of applications that clearly are not equal. Adobe and Filemaker are not a good comparison to OF

[QUOTE=wilsonng;129728]I also think that we may be seeing the trees but can't see the forest. Omni has been busy with their other product lineup. They can't ignore their other offerings, can they?

OmniFocus
OmniOutliner
OmniGraffle
OmniPlan
Omnipresence
Omni Sync Server
OmniFocus Maildrop[/QUOTE]

If omni doesn't have the manpower then they either need to increase it or drop products. This is not a good argument. I'm interacting with OF not Omniplan. If I had purchased a suite of apps I might agree with you, but I haven't.

[QUOTE=wilsonng;129728]The only other thing I can think of is to have OmniFocus spin itself off into another company dedicated to nothing but OmniFocus. But even single product companies like Things and The Hit List haven’t been able to speed up their product cycle.[/QUOTE]

THL has lost users because of it's poor development cycle. Things has a much faster turn around the Omni. Things 1 was released in 2009. Things 2 in 2012. That's half omni update cycle.

[QUOTE=wilsonng;129728]I also see the same arguments at the Things forum.


"They're so slow…"
"Why aren't they implementing my feature request already? Everybody wants it! It should be easy to implement!"
"Why can't they just hire more developers to get the job finished?"
"How come they didn't see this coming?""
"Why are they so inflexible?"[/QUOTE]

I agree with you. There are still things to be done. My real gripe with Things is its tags implementation.

[QUOTE=wilsonng;129728]A lot of the behind-the-scenes work that went into OmniOutliner will be making its way into OmniFocus 2. So we can bet that there was significant process made to OmniFocus’ underlying engine.[/QUOTE]

Actually this is untrue. Omni have made no change to OO data architecture. [URL="http://forums.omnigroup.com/showthread.php?t=29454"]http://forums.omnigroup.com/showthread.php?t=29454[/URL]

[QUOTE=wilsonng;129728]OmniFocus has changed quite a lot since its inception. Look at the release notes to get an idea of what they’re doing. They’re not standing still.[/QUOTE]

Hardly major changes. Omni is pretty much what is was in 2008 in terms of functionality.

[QUOTE=wilsonng;129728]I think the sum I paid for the three OmniFocus apps has paid itself back ten times over for the productivity gains I received.[/QUOTE]

I've been every bit if not more productive with applications that cost half of omni's outlay.

[QUOTE=wilsonng;129728]Bruce Lee quote:

"Be like water making its way through cracks. Do not be assertive, but adjust to the object, and you shall find a way around or through it. If nothing within you stays rigid, outward things will disclose themselves.

Empty your mind, be formless. Shapeless, like water. If you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup. You put water into a bottle and it becomes the bottle. You put it in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Now, water can flow or it can crash. Be water, my friend."

It seems that everyone finds their own way through a program. Flexible can also mean evolving and adapting over time to new changes.[/QUOTE]

Totally disagree. A mind like water achieves very little. An empty mind becomes open to all sorts of negative influences. Water does not become a bottle or cup if poured into them. It may take on their shape, but it is still water.


[QUOTE=wilsonng;129728]I also wished that The Hit List was able to get off the ground. Folders in OmniFocus can be used to classify projects into Roles, Areas of Responsibilities, or moments in time (Spring Projects, Summer Projects, Autumn Projects, Winter Projects). That’s what I call flexible.

Why not use hashtags for the moment? Now that we can create saved perspectives with search criteria, it appears that OmniFocus 2 for iPhone can use those perspectives as well.[/QUOTE]

The workaround to get omni to do what Things automatically does is to cumbersome and counterproductive. I really like the perspectives in OF, but Things' areas and contacts is excellent. I also really like the review on iPad, but alas it's only on iPad. Folders really do not help as you cannot use them effectively for Covey's matrix. I need roles, contexts, priorites, people. OF at the moment does not do this well.

[QUOTE=wilsonng;129728]+1 to intranation's post. Come back to OmniFocus if you find it has finally changed to fit your needs. I know I've tried out the various demos whenever something new shows up. But I just keep coming back to OmniFocus.[/QUOTE]

I do, every so often I fire her up and see how it's doing. The problem is with OF 2 round the corner there is another considerable financial outlay. Considering that I never really got a great deal out of OF 1, I'm not sure I want to invest. At least until multiple contexts is included.

[QUOTE=wilsonng;129728]It's not easy developing software. Customers wants their feature wish list yesterday. But it takes time and careful thought/consideration to implement. At least, we know that Omni is being deliberate and delivering feature sets on a schedule that shows promise[/QUOTE]

This I understand, but some features have been requested years ago such as multiple contexts.

DrJJWMac 2014-02-27 02:45 PM

[QUOTE=wilsonng;129728]...
But in the end, at least Omni is considering tags. The schedule has been set. OmniFocus 2.0 for Mac will keep backwards compatibility and hopefully give us that user interface refresh that many have been asking for. Then OmniFocus 2 for iPad should be coming a bit afterwards. Then it’ll be time to look forward to OmniFocus 2.1. That’s probably when we’ll see changes to OmniFocus that will give us multiple contexts and tags that some of us are asking for.[/QUOTE]

The arguments from others are akin to this ... OG is late to the race, has decided to run the race with crutches of their own making, and will take time to put on its make-up while the other contestants do the first lap or so ahead.

As a hobbyist dabbler in software development (for a data analysis system) over the years, I understand the pressures to sustain the current framework against those that demand a break from that same framework to move to the next S curve in product cycle.

In this regard, I would expect by now, the decision should have been resolutely made within OG to do tags / multiple context right or absolutely to not do them at all. Sustaining backward compatibility in database layout is a poor excuse for the delay to date. It is also a poor excuse for #hashtagging them in as hidden objects in note fields. Comparing the "we are sure that we know tags/multiple contexts are not good for you" language that has been posted in the many years of the past against the "we now see the light, hallelujah (but only in a kludgey sort of way, amen)" also tends to leave a somewhat sour feeling behind.

Innovate or Die ... At some point really has to mean something to the gut instincts of how a software company decides to cycle its products. The next stage will surely be a call to strengthen collaborative tool sets. So, when this push hits, will OG still be trying to find their backsides to decide what the heck they should do to make OF "prettier" or "even more compatible"? Rather than bite the bullet one way or the other, will they fall instead back to the same ambiguous "we think we know better" or "it could break our compatibility" mantras?

(sigh)

One of my New Years Resolutions was to stop stirring the pot across a broad range of things that I do (forum posting being one of them). Perhaps I'll try to do that for Lent. :-)

eurobubba 2014-03-09 12:06 PM

Where do I go to add my vote for metadata? (I've begged for it many times in these forums, not sure any of that counted as "votes" though.)

eurobubba 2014-03-09 12:18 PM

[QUOTE=Brian;120692]In most of the tagging requests that we've seen over the years, there's often little to no thematic relationship between the ones being requested. You'll see person-related ones, time-related ones, and place- or energy-related ones all attached to the same action and used simultaneously. For every N tags assigned to an action, folks want to see that action simultaneously on N lists, and those lists may 'mean' very different things.

[...]

Once you figure out which theme works best for you, though, you can build a context tree to support it - and in our experience, once you know what the best theme is, the other stuff is just cluttering up your workflow and distracting you. I think that last part is what's so hard for folks used to tagging systems to understand.

The simplicity of a single-theme approach is actually a [I]feature[/I]; it's not a shortcoming that needs to be addressed or worked around.[/QUOTE]

One thing I think you're missing here is that there are many reasons to want to view a filtered list of tasks other than being ready to work on them. Off the top of my head, I might need to review tasks from different contexts and projects for the same client or with input from the same vendor/subcontractor, or billable versus non-billable.


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