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Forgive me a short trip through some history…
Coming from Life Balance back in the OF 1.0 sneaky peek days, I was expecting action groups and projects to show up in context view when their child actions were complete. The proper behavior was vigorously debated back in the day (see threads here and here).

I considered the OF behavior, which persisted through the 1.7.x releases to be a bit of a hack. In particular, it struck me as very ad hoc that an incomplete action group in a sequential project would not block subsequent actions. That ad hoc design decision was made to prevent projects from grinding to a halt due to an incomplete action group—a worthy goal but an arbitrary distinction between actions and action groups.

My Verify Next Actions Exist script was my work-around for the ad hoc behavior. The script identifies action groups and projects that are incomplete but lack incomplete actions. The introduction of an auto-complete setting for action groups and projects made the script less critical to me, but still important for identifying places where I still needed to think of a new next action.
Given that background, I was expecting to like the change in 1.8 to show action groups and project in context mode. Unfortunately, the problems with No Context and with action groups not being styled as such, mean that the current sneaky peek design messes with my OCD-tendencies.

Like vinyl_warrior, I want to make sure every task has a context. Like several others, I don't want to assign a default context to action groups and projects. GTD theology aside, I've found that I need to consciously decide the correct context for each action. Even if a default context is correct for most of the actions in a project, I still want my system to force me to make a conscious decision. Otherwise I'll end up with a mis-filed action throwing rocks in the water of my mind.

I think the goal of the design should be to arrive at a simple set of rules that users can learn. Having a parent appear in the context of every one of its children, as macula suggested, is intriguing. I think it might work well for those of us who wise in the ways of the Focus. On the other hand, I'm afraid it may be confusing.

I wonder if it would be any clearer to add a Parents bin to the sidebar in context mode. The existing No Context bin and badge would just show actions that lack a context, but never action groups or projects. After all, action groups and projects don't have a "context". They have a "default context". The new Parents bin and badge would show all the action groups and projects, subject to view bar filtering.

This Parents bin proposal gives similar behavior to Ken's suggestion of setting a special default context like "Review" for action groups and projects. It moves action groups and projects out of the No Context bin and into a specific, identifiable bin. The Parents bin has a couple of other advantages: the default context field isn't forced to do double duty and the user doesn't have to set an arbitrary default context.

The biggest drawback of adding a Parents bin seems to be in handling action groups and projects that have a default context set. Some users will expect these action groups and projects to appear in the bin of their default context. Others will expect them to appear in the Parents bin. Still others will expect them to appear both places. I would argue that the Parents bin is the correct place, since the action groups and projects don't have a context of their own. But the fact that there is room for debate means my proposal isn't as simple as it might be. Perhaps it is as simple as it can be though?

I've submitted this as formal feedback to Omni. I'd love to hear others thoughts on this proposed design.


Last edited by curt.clifton; 2010-04-23 at 04:56 PM.. Reason: grammar