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On the state of task management apps Thread Tools Search this Thread Display Modes
Last januari the moment had finally come: Omnigroup proudly presented the first screenshots of an all new Omnifocus 2. Then Mavericks came along and a public beta had to be repealed. Now, with the year coming to an end soon, there is no new public beta in sight yet.
How will this develop, what is the worst case scenario?
Let us suppose that Omni will have a public beta out a year after that first announcement, so by the end of january. If the beta period of OmniOutliner 4 (in beta since March and not out yet) is any measure, OF2 may not be ready for release before oktober 2014. But by then Apple will have pushed out a new OS X, causing further delays for OF2 development and then the circle starts again. I conclude that Omnigroup has a serious problem. Be it lack of capacity, investment, inspiration, focus or coffee, I donít know what bothers them and I donít need to know either. But I do know that given this pessimistic forecast, I need a plan B. So I started to look for alternatives.
Based on my needs, I set five knock-out criteria.
1. App must allow subtasks.
2. Email import with working link back to the original mail.
3. Good customer support, no abandon ware
4. Syncing between multiple Macs and iOS
5. Stable and no ugly bugs
Next I visited the App Store and looked at serious ToDo apps in the 30-50 euro price range. I found Things, 2Do, The Hit List (THL), FireTask and Organize:Pro (OP). You may not know the latter. It is a business oriented tool to manage multiple projects, you can position it between Omniplan and Omnifocus.

This is what happened when I applied my criteria.
1. Subtasks: exit Things and FireTask.
2. Working link back to email: 2DO bites the dust.
3. Customer support, no abandonware: THL falls through, according to forums, dev never responds.
4. Syncing: THL goes down again: itís a payed service, not too expensive. But pay recurring subscription fees to a dev who never ever answers an email or support request? Never!
5. Stable and no ugly bugs: Organize:Pro had one problem, not serious.

Then there is the so subjective issue of the user interface.
- Things: slender and elegant. Features stay out of sight until needed.
- 2DO: functional, but you need to like dull blue-gray. Start and due dates are too hidden, causing extra mouse-clicks.
- THL: great and efficient interface. Good use of icons, colors and fonts. The tab system is fantastic.
- FireTask: ugly, childish, almost comical.
- OP: huge, unique designer dashboard, interesting features, very different from the rest. A lot of attention went into that. Task bars are too bulky and attributes buttons on them are too small and greyed out.

So for an alternative to OF, I have to acquire Organize:Pro, a heavy duty tool meant for professional project management and control. Ironically, it is well designed, contains unique advanced features, and yet is a lot cheaper than OF. @Omnigroup: this should get your attention. OP is less flexible, but in terms of functionalities and UI you are being outclassed at a lower pricepoint.
The rest of the pack worries me. The other apps are seriously priced and the devs clearly aspire to go beyond hockeymom level. The underlying concepts are well known and no rocket science. Why then is it so difficult to do EVERYTHING right and build a real good ToDo app and service?

Anyway, I found my Plan B candidate.
I think you maybe reading too far into the future . I think Omni Group knows what place they are in and I'll be very surprised if the beta isn't rolled out by end of January and the software isn't released by 2nd quarter 2014. Seems to me like more resources at omni are committed to omnifocus than omnioutliner . But that's just my opinion .
We'll written. I predicted this half a year ago, and they responded that OF2 would be out Q4. My guess is Q2 for .0 and at least another half a year for support for prio/tags/configurable column, or any other new feature.

My biggest issue with OF2 is the lack of essential changes. In this forum a lot of people have suggested good ideas and I've not seen any of them implemented in the past 2 years. The beta was a big step backwards: just a new GUI (who cares!?), and soooo sloooow (beyond repair).

So, OF fits the 'bad customer support' category quite we'll by now!

I'm in the process of reviewing various apps as well. I'm just hesitating to spend another 100 euro to find out that the new tool also has severe problems with handling 1200+ actions in 350+ projects.
I succumbed to the OF 2 hoopla a year ago and anxiously awaited the long overdue upgrade.

Letís start with OmniFocus 2! For OmniFocus 2, weíre bringing back to the Mac all of the design and innovation that went into our iPad edition of OmniFocus: dedicated Forecast and Review modes, clearer navigation, and a fresh look and feel. Iím looking forward to sharing it with you! At 6pm on January 31, youíre invited to join Merlin Mann, David Sparks, and me for the first public debut of OmniFocus 2. This will be a free event, hosted at the Cartoon Art Museum (a short walk from Macworld/iWorld), and anyone who attends will get early access to the OmniFocus 2 private beta. Space is limited, so if you plan to attend please let us know.

Even though 2.0 was only going to bring the Mac version up to parity with the iPad version I was hopeful that once that was accomplished version 2.5 or whatever would add some of the features that have been requested on this forum for years. I was excited.

Now here we are a year later, and even the beta for OF 2 is no where in sight. What a disappointment.
Originally Posted by NickHibma View Post
We'll written. I predicted this half a year ago, and they responded that OF2 would be out Q4.
I'm not sure who "they" were, but I sure hope it wasn't anyone at Omni! Since we first announced OmniFocus 2, we've tried to be quite clear that we don't know when OmniFocus 2 will ship.

Specifically, here's what I said about timing in my blog post announcing our plans for OmniFocus 2:

How soon will OmniFocus 2 be shipping?

The simplest answer to that question is that I donít really know! A more accurate answer is that the answer really depends on what feedback we receive from all of you. We use an iterative development process at Omni, so our next step is to ship a private test release so we can get feedback from customers on how well itís working in practice. Based on that feedback, weíll update our design and ship another private test release (and invite more people into the test pool), and the cycle begins again.
I'm sorry that we can't predict this more accurately!

My biggest issue with OF2 is the lack of essential changes.
We're itching to make big under-the-hood changes tooóbut until we've shipped 2.0 for all platforms, we need to maintain sync compatibility so people can sync these new 2.0 releases with their latest-available 1.x releases. We're looking forward to shipping 2.0 for Mac and iPad, so we can move ahead on those other things!

Last edited by Ken Case; 2014-03-24 at 03:37 PM.. Reason: Removed a stray tag
Originally Posted by NickHibma View Post
My biggest issue with OF2 is the lack of essential changes. In this forum a lot of people have suggested good ideas and I've not seen any of them implemented in the past 2 years. The beta was a big step backwards: just a new GUI (who cares!?), and soooo sloooow (beyond repair).
I think one of the biggest gripes that people were complaining about was OF1's UI as cemented in this line "just a new GUI (who cares!?)"

Well, I think we should care about a new GUI. We've had enough people groaning about how OF1 looks old and outdated. But when OF2 comes out with a new private test and saw a "prototype" of the new UI, people still aren't happy?!?! Remember - this is a prototype - not the final golden master. Things can and will change.

I think including something as simple as the review mode into the Mac desktop version was a good first step. That's part of the new GUI. Testing out different things like the animated slabs was something that Omni had to test on people to see if it was well received or not. Testing out that new balloon pop-up inspector was important to see how it affected people's workflow. I know I didn't care for it and prefer to have the inspector in a pane on the right side of the window and have stated so in my feedback to Omni. These are all design decisions that Omni had to try out before making any concrete decisions.

I think the UI is the first of many steps. I think OF2's first iteration is helping to transition over OF1 data to OF2 seamlessly. I'm probably thinking that OF 2.5 will have a considerable data structure change. This might just affect your OF database and you will no longer be able to revert back to the old data file. OF 2.0 will probably allow people to slowly but surely move over to a new data structure over time.

Nobody said that the Private test version was the "final" or golden master. Take a deep breath. It's far from over.

So, OF fits the 'bad customer support' category quite we'll by now!
well, then Apple infamously belongs here. We've seen the growing pains of Final Cut Pro X and the firestorm that was caused by a brand new version. Critics flamed on and said "well, it's a brand new UI. Who cares? I want my old Final Cut Pro 7 data to transfer over easily."

Heck, even the new iWorks is going through growing pains. They introduced a rebuilt-from-the-ground-up version and will be adding much of the functionality back.

Apple has been effectively sticking back in stuff into thew new FCPX and has perhaps surpassed FCP7. It offered a new paradigm, new workflows, and tossed out old structures that were probably outdated and would interfere in the new workflow.

So I think Omni is on the right track here. There's a lesson from J.D. Meier's Agile Results system. It's called incremental versioning. You don't have to get it perfect the first time. Just push out something that is deemed acceptable and then improve on it. If you wait until you get the "perfect" version, you'll probably be waiting forever...

Don't forget that this was a "private test" version. Nobody paid a penny to test out OF2 and offer their own opinions and workflow ideas to improve OF2.

I know that people were in a huff when Omni said they were going silent for a while and no new private release builds will be coming until much later. This was a good time for Omni to step back, take in all the user feedback collected during the private test, figure out what worked and what didn't work, then start releasing another private test eventually.

So, let's just wait until we have to plunk down some our hard earned pennies. Then we can critique the state of task management apps.

On the state of task management apps, I don't think anyone will find the right one for them. i have a couple of friends who try to show off the newest kid on the block that they just bought on the Mac App Store or on the iTunes store. I just kindly chuckle while I'm still humming away getting things done with the tools I have on hand.

The Holy Grail is probably something that will never be reached. The only perfect task management app I know is probably Iron Man's virtual assistant called "Jarvis".

"Hey Jarvis, can you get me two tickets to the Super Bowl by January?"

"Jarvis, what's the meaning of life?"

The perfect task manager is something that can read your mind and have finished the task even before you know what you wanted.

Well, we're not at that state yet but hopefully in this lifetime.... *sigh*
Excellent thread!

What IS going on in business of task management apps???

As I see it, there are three options out there (the big three);

1. OmniFocus
2. Things
3. The Hit List

And guess what? They all suck in their own special way! Lets analyze this list in reverse order.

The Hit List

My long time favorite and last one of the three I tried. The longer I used the more I loved it! It seemed to implement the best characteristics of both Omni and Things, as well as being more intuitive and creative than both. All was good until it seemed like the dev. just disappeared from the face of the earth! WHO does that?? THL had a stable fan/user base and an excellent app, development was slow at times but stuff happened and got implemented in the app. Now its unusable due to the lack of support, and I can't for the life of me figure out why this company didn't get acquired or something by someone else...


My first app. Not much to say really, what it does it does quite well. To bad it doesn't do much at all! Im baffled about the "strategy" to not include subtasks. Development is unbelievably slow, first adding cloud sync about a million years after everyone else. And so on.


There is probably no need for my rant on OmniFocus. Just study your own forums. Anyway, OmniFocus is the most stable, robust and promising piece of software out there, with an excellent family of apps. BUT you seem to consider customer requests as "a bother" which should be corrected because the we, the customers/users, obviously is using OmniFocus wrongly. Like Things, features take eons of time to implement, if they ever show up. What ever happened to the promise of OmniPlan-Omnifocus sync back in 2007? (SIX YEARS AGO???)

So, what my question really is...

Is there something I should know about the task management development industry? Am I missing something? How come e.g. THL evolved quite quickly into a stable and good app, as did Things and OmniFocus, only to "slack of" and taking years get stuff done/refusing to hear customers? Shouldn't you be grateful that customers actually cares enough to give an opinion? Shouldn't you be grateful that you have customers? Bad karma dudes!

My own theory states: You (and Things) lack competition. I, and Im guessing a lot of users, are here trying to make OmniFocus work for us because its LEAST worst of the alternatives. I see the same tendency in the Things user forums.

Basically I think this is a leadership issue due to the lack of healthy competition. Hopefully, a real competitor will emerge someday and you will once again have to work hard for your customers. You make great apps, but no progress whatsoever.
Originally Posted by wilsonng View Post
The perfect task manager is something that can read your mind and have finished the task even before you know what you wanted.

Well, we're not at that state yet but hopefully in this lifetime.... *sigh*
Hmmm... Lets say this would be a possibility now, a Jarvis that is. Do you think the OmniGroup would implement it? I don't. These are more probable scenarios:

Users: Please give us a Jarvis feature! Omni: We are working on it until v. 2.0. It will be ready never. We are going silent.

Users: Please give us a Jarvis feature! Omni: No, we don't need it and neither do you.

Users: Please give us a Jarvis feature! Omni: No, you're doing it all wrong and asking for the wrong things.

Users: Please give us a Jarvis feature! Omni: No, we actually believe in productivity system developed in the 90īs for pen and paper in a vastly different world of work, so Jarvis doesn't fit our state of minds.
From Cultured Code's Blog earlier this week . . .

For a little over a year now, weíve been working on Things 3, which will be available for the Mac, iPhone, and iPad. It introduces a fresh new visual style, a revised user interface, more structure for your lists, and an array of great new features that are designed to make you more productive. Weíve revisited many areas of the app that have been neglected in the past, and renovated much of our codebase. Itís the most ambitious update weíve ever undertaken.

It will be interesting to see which comes first, OmniFocus 2.0 or Things 3.0!

Personally, I'm not going to hold my breath on either one, but I would love to be surprised by either one.
Task management is the vital part of the life style in the segment of work productivity as well. And the most important need is the usablity which matters a lot. For getting more out of the strategy companies are looking out for competitors performance. And hence my recommendation for you as well will be the same.

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