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OmniFocus - Second Impressions Thread Tools Search this Thread Display Modes
Ok, so I said in this thread that I'd elaborate a bit when I had more time. So here are some further comments, questions, and suggestions...

I like the GTD approach that OF offers in terms of the concepts and underlying functionality. However, I don't find the UI to be as approachable or friendly as it could [and should] be, such that common tasks are non-intuitive and, at times, cumbersome. For me, the UI often gets in the way of actually using the app. Managing my projects and actions should not itself be an annoying or distracting task. I would therefore like to offer up the following thoughts for consideration.

One quick preface to my remarks. I use OF exclusively in landscape mode (in fact, my iPad is locked in that orientation most of the time), so please let me know if there's any significant difference in behavior in portrait orientation.

Flagging Items

Toggling the status of an item - what a simple and useful concept! So why does it have to be such an ordeal? Unless I'm missing some alternative method, it requires up to 4 taps (a minimum of 3) with distracting screen activity and context changes - all to get a little flag to appear next to an item in a list.

Why not use a simple double tap to toggle the flagged status? Two quick taps, and it's either flagged or not - all without the screen "gyrations" - i.e. windows appearing, keyboards sliding into view, etc. And since it's so simple, why not allow flagging of all actions within a project, folder, or context by double tapping its title? The same thing goes for actions with sub-actions.


Swiping a folder, project, or context in the sidebar, or an action under a project on the right, allows for deletion. Great! It's quick, simple, and intuitive. But why doesn't it work for projects on the right? In other words, why can't I swipe the title of the project to delete it and all its actions? In fact, it actually makes more sense to me to delete a project in that way because you can view the project details before deleting it. Instead, you have to tap a little trash can in a window that's completely [visually] "disconnected" from the item you're trying to delete. Alternatively, putting "Delete" in the menu that appears on tap + hold of a project's title would be quite helpful.

Icons and Styling

Humans are visual creatures, and as the saying goes, "A picture is worth 1000 words." My experience with UI's over the years has taught me that images (and appearance/styling in general) can help orient and focus the mind - especially when viewing things at a glance. (Of course, they can also clutter and distract, so one must be careful.) An app like OF could benefit from better use of images and styling.

For starters, items like folders, projects, and contexts in the sidebar appear identical. There's no identifying icon, no difference in styling, etc. This, for me, results in time spent [wasted] getting my bearings when I go to the app to do something. The items and context are not immediately obvious at a glance.

Similarly, icons are not used to good effect on the right side. A project icon appears on the right side of the title bar (next to the disclosure triangle), but only for single action project types. Why not for the other project types? And worse, the project icon magically transforms into a project status icon when the status is anything but "active." Huh??

Instead, why not display an icon for each project type on the left (instead of right) and have the status indicated by an icon badge. Then, at a glance, four things would be immediately obvious:
  1. That it is a project. (After all, there's currently nothing to visually distinguish projects from contexts.)
  2. What type of project it is (by its icon).
  3. What its status is (by the icon badge).
  4. What the folder/project hierarchy is (by virtue of the icons' indent levels - i.e. the left edge of the title bar would be more pronounced.
Furthermore, the icon could function as a drag handle (see below).

Drag and Drop

As I mentioned in my original post in this forum, I'm sorely disappointed that I can't drag and drop to arrange items (and baffled as to why) - especially given the hierarchical nature of the content - i.e. folders, projects, and actions.

With a touchscreen device, the "drag and drop" metaphor is even more relevant, precisely because you are reaching out to interact with the software using your hands! The lack of drag-n-drop in OF is a major failing in my view.

Although I can imagine a number of ways to implement it, if there were icons as I described above, one way would be for them to function as "hot spots" for triggering a drag. This would allow for easy and intuitive reorganization of content.

And what about processing inbox items. Let's say that at the end of the day, I have a dozen (or three dozen or more) items in my inbox to process and that multiple items can be "filed" into the same place. Am I really expected to perform like a circus monkey and tap 4 or 5 times to process each item one-by-one?

If each inbox item had an icon on the left, it could be used to drag that item to the appropriate location(s) in the sidebar view. Tap + hold on any item's icon, and the appearance of all inbox items changes somehow to indicate you can now tap individual items to toggle their selected status (i.e. include or exclude them from the selection). That would allow for multiple discontinuous selection. Drag any of the selected items and the whole lot can be moved at once (with a really slick animation).

Of course, you should still retain the ability to process items individually, but even that experience could be dramatically improved.

Well, I have other ideas and comments, but that's all I have time for right now. Comments are welcome. I'd really like to see the usability of this app improve.


Last edited by Shotster; 2011-12-08 at 01:57 PM..
Hi Shotster

I agree with all of your points except the Delete. In any computer it should be difficult to delete something because once it's gone, it's gone. it really shouldn't be easy to delete anything and it IS easy to swipe and hit something accidentally.

I would also suspect that very few people delete projects, rather they mark them as Completed or Dropped so that they can refer back to them.
Hi GeoffAirey, thanks for your reply.

Originally Posted by GeoffAirey View Post
In any computer it should be difficult to delete something
I disagree. It should never be difficult to do anything. Yes, it should be unlikely that it could be done inadvertently, but that's very different from being difficult to do. That's why you must swipe and then confirm. That gesture is already pretty standard in many apps, including Apple's own - (not that everything Apple does should be viewed as a gold standard).

because once it's gone, it's gone.
No, you can undo. Software can be programmed to behave more intelligently than perhaps you realize. Swipe + Confirm + Undo is, in my view, ample protection against unwanted data loss.

And as I said, you already can swipe to delete projects, but only in the sidebar (where you might not even be viewing the project details) . Why allow it there and not in the project detail view where you can readily see the actions comprising the project?

I would also suspect that very few people delete projects
I myself do delete certain kinds of projects. In any event, I don't think it's particularly relevant. The functionality is provided, so it should be accessible and consistent.

Regarding Flagging Items on OF for iPad:

I find it cumbersome to set flags! I feel like I should just be able to tap in the location of the flags (at the end of the task) and it should flag the task. That way I can go through a large list and tag/flag the items I want to work on for that day, with out having to open every task I want to flag. This seems like it should be easy to program and would increase UI productivity and efficiency - which is what OF is all about!

Is there a reason why this functionality has not been added until now? It seems like a no-brainer to me.
A desire to avoid accidental interaction with an adjacent UI element, perhaps?

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