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I want Life Balance's simplicity from OmniFocus. Thread Tools Search this Thread Display Modes
I'll be a devil's advocate here.

Feature request: simplify OmniFocus.

OmniFocus is too complex: Folders, Projects, Actions, Singletons, Action Groups -- I've been using the product for weeks and am still confused.

Enter http://www.llamagraphics.com/ -- this program presents a simple outline. There is only one kind of thing in the outline, a task. Task's become "projects" by virtue of having children. Children must be completed (either in parallel or sequentially) before the parent shows up in the task list. Any task can be repeating, or not. All tasks have a context (the default is "Any Context" so uncategorized tasks are easily spotted).

There! I just described Life Balance task/project structure. Doing the same for OmniFocus is impossible to do as succinctly.

In Life Balance I can have a project that has a single gating action followed by 3 parallel actions like so:

- My Project (set to sequentially execute)
-- Gating Action
-- Parallel Actions (set to execute in parallel)
--- Action1
--- Action2
--- Action3

I just tried to express the above in OmniFocus -- I can't figure out a way. Action groups seem to execute sequentially with no option to change it.

I realize OmniFocus is pre-beta and that my complaints may be about pre-ship warts that already have solutions planned. I'm just throwing it out there that it'll be great if all these different kinds of "things" you plan with in OmniFocus can be unified into something simpler to work with.
 
Why aren't you using LifeBalance? What weakness does it have that drives you to try OF?
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by MattArmstrong View Post
In Life Balance I can have a project that has a single gating action followed by 3 parallel actions like so:

- My Project (set to sequentially execute)
-- Gating Action
-- Parallel Actions (set to execute in parallel)
--- Action1
--- Action2
--- Action3

I just tried to express the above in OmniFocus -- I can't figure out a way. Action groups seem to execute sequentially with no option to change it.
In OF try right-clicking the action group and choosing "parallel". You might also be interested in these threads (1, 2, 3, 4) discussing eliminating the distinction between projects and action groups. There are many other threads along similar lines. You aren't alone in wishing for a more regular structure, but neither are those who like the current variety of grouping mechanisms.

I'm somewhat surprised that you've been using the product for weeks and didn't come across how to make an action group parallel. What could be changed to make this more obvious? Is it that changing the parallel status of projects is "in your face" while for action groups it is unexpectedly more subtle? Or is it a problem with lack of documentation? Without a manual yet, I find that reading the forums regularly is very helpful to me in understanding how the product works and different ways of using it.
__________________
Cheers,

Curt
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by MEP View Post
Why aren't you using LifeBalance? What weakness does it have that drives you to try OF?
I can't pretend to speak for the original poster, but I left Life Balance because I got sick of using an interface on my Mac that was designed for the screen of a Palm PDA. It's a great program for keeping track of what I have to do, but a lousy program for entering data efficiently.
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by curt.clifton View Post
In OF try right-clicking the action group and choosing "parallel". You might also be interested in these threads (1, 2, 3, 4) discussing eliminating the distinction between projects and action groups. There are many other threads along similar lines. You aren't alone in wishing for a more regular structure, but neither are those who like the current variety of grouping mechanisms.

I'm somewhat surprised that you've been using the product for weeks and didn't come across how to make an action group parallel. What could be changed to make this more obvious? Is it that changing the parallel status of projects is "in your face" while for action groups it is unexpectedly more subtle? Or is it a problem with lack of documentation? Without a manual yet, I find that reading the forums regularly is very helpful to me in understanding how the product works and different ways of using it.
Sounds like action groups are a little "half baked" at the moment (and maybe singleton tasks too) -- i.e. sources of confusion for many. My hope is that this "variety of grouping mechanisms" could be unified into attributes of just one or two as they are not that different from each other, but I'm sure there are many tricky issues, and there is an art to knowing when to ship version 1.0.

Needless to say, my take on programs like this is that the manual should be unnecessary, so I'd say this is not a documentation problem.

As for not discovering parallel/non-parallel under the action group right mouse button menu -- my MacBook has one mouse button. My original 128k Mac had one mouse button. Gosh darnit, Mac programs shouldn't require you to "option click" on stuff to find out if they do anything interesting. ;-) I do appreciate your pointing it out!

As for not using Life Balance any longer, my answer is similar to Brian's. The simplicity of the outline structure is elegant but the desktop version has a simplistic UI that makes it hard to do things like weekly reviews or manage larger outlines. I stopped carrying a PDA, so the product lost its luster.
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by MattArmstrong View Post
Sounds like action groups are a little "half baked" at the moment (and maybe singleton tasks too) -- i.e. sources of confusion for many. My hope is that this "variety of grouping mechanisms" could be unified into attributes of just one or two as they are not that different from each other, but I'm sure there are many tricky issues, and there is an art to knowing when to ship version 1.0.
I agree that action groups at the moment are a little wonky, but I'm willing to be forgiving at the moment because it is still an alpha. I'm starting to warm to the notion of action groups as opposed to sub-projects on a philosophical level, but I think the UI of OF at the moment is confusing in how it deals with action groups (the fact that I can't find any text anywhere in the application itself that actually says "action group" is the first problem). There's nothing to really indicate to the user what an action group is or how to interact with it. At the very least, I'd like to see the little parallel/sequential button from projects show up for action groups so new users don't have to "discover" the right-click menu to set this attribute. The problem is, where do you put it on a line that's already cluttered with all of the normal action attributes?

And why are there no "action group" specific settings in any of the inspectors? This is the most glaring issue because it's very easy to assume that an action group is a sub-project and try to edit the project attributes in the inspector while selecting the action group which will, of course, not do what you would expect it to do.

Quote:
My original 128k Mac had one mouse button. Gosh darnit, Mac programs shouldn't require you to "option click" on stuff to find out if they do anything interesting. ;-) I do appreciate your pointing it out!
Don't get me started on the one-button mouse debate. Apple's original human factors team dramatically underestimated the average user's ability to adapt to two buttons, and they continue to make the same mistake in the face of a mountain of human interaction studies that contradict the Apple party line. This is not good design anymore, it's just a blind stubborn refusal to change.

What I don't get is why current Apple laptops still ship with only one button when Apple now ships "two-button" (or crappy hateful imitations of two-button) mice, Apple-written software makes generous use of right-click context menus, and the Mac OS has supported multiple buttons for almost two decades. For over a decade now, Apple has made great strides forward in the design of their systems by ignoring the needs of legacy systems. (remember the first floppy-less iMac? or having to buy a USB printer because they dumped parallel ports?). It seems so out of place for Apple to be sticking to their guns on the one issue that everyone seems to agree on -- that multi-button mice are more useful than one-button mice and it's really not as hard as we once thought it was for new users to figure out how to use them.

Quote:
As for not using Life Balance any longer, my answer is similar to Brian's. The simplicity of the outline structure is elegant but the desktop version has a simplistic UI that makes it hard to do things like weekly reviews or manage larger outlines. I stopped carrying a PDA, so the product lost its luster.
Gotcha. Interface issues aside (and all UI issues may be temporary so long as we provide Omni with email feedback), I think the organizing structures of OF are actually pretty simple. Of course, I'm not using folders at all right now. I've got several hundred tasks in there and I'm perfectly content with projects and action groups. If all you use are projects and action groups, I think you can get the functional equivalent of what you describe with LifeBalance.

Quote:
Originally Posted by curt.clifton
I'm somewhat surprised that you've been using the product for weeks and didn't come across how to make an action group parallel. What could be changed to make this more obvious? Is it that changing the parallel status of projects is "in your face" while for action groups it is unexpectedly more subtle? Or is it a problem with lack of documentation? Without a manual yet, I find that reading the forums regularly is very helpful to me in understanding how the product works and different ways of using it.
A general rule of thumb with user interface design is this: Never put anything into a context (right-click) menu that can't be discovered outside of the context menu. Right click menus are convenience features that can make certain frequently performed tasks easier (read: faster) to get to, but they should never ever be the sole place to access any feature. Users should never be expected to have to "scrub" every interface element of a new application just to discover the hidden features that lie in tooltips or within context menus. OF really should provide a more visible UI element (or at the very least, a main menu item) to change the parallel/sequential state of action groups.

But again, I'm fairly forgiving at this point because it's still an alpha.

Last edited by MEP; 2007-08-24 at 09:01 AM..
 
I thought you could set the parallel state of action groups in the inspector, but it seems the the inspector is working on the parent project. I've filed a bug for that issue.

We also have some planned changes for Action Groups that will be coming down the pipe.
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by xmas View Post
I thought you could set the parallel state of action groups in the inspector, but it seems the the inspector is working on the parent project. I've filed a bug for that issue.
There is no inspector for the "Action Group", as noted earlier.



Quote:
Originally Posted by xmas View Post
We also have some planned changes for Action Groups that will be coming down the pipe.
Do tell, then, so we're not spinning our wheels trying to figure out how to make the current program work and then discussing on the boards how it doesn't.
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by MEP View Post
What I don't get is why current Apple laptops still ship with only one button when Apple now ships "two-button" (or crappy hateful imitations of two-button) mice, Apple-written software makes generous use of right-click context menus, and the Mac OS has supported multiple buttons for almost two decades.
Apple's current laptops effectively have two buttons. It's just that one is virtual. On my MacBook Pro, if I place two fingers on the trackpad and click, I generate a right-click. It's become so habitual for me that I go nuts when I have to use my old PowerBook G4 and I need to control-click.
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by MEP View Post
Why aren't you using LifeBalance? What weakness does it have that drives you to try OF?
Why have I moved on from Life Balance? Development has effectively stopped. The company exists, but they seem to focus on new platform support (Windows Mobile, Vista, etc.) while there's been a huge laundry list of minor enhancements requested by existing users for years. Llamagraphics has taken to heavily censoring their user forum because there were so many complaints from customers. I waited 2 years in the hopes I'd get a few minor features. I gave up.

I moved on to MyLifeOrganized, which is a Windows app I run under Parallels. It's fantastic, but it's a Windows app. I'm constantly dealing with issues on cutting/pasting between OS's, Parallels being a memory/CPU hog, etc.

If I could have some basic functionality that Life Balance and MLO (MyLifeOrganized) has, but on the Mac platform, I'd be set. Hence why I'm investing a lot of time in to OF.

So the main things I want:

- An easy hierarchy - why should i have to worry if it's a project or task list or task? Why can't OF just figure this out? Just allow me to create a hierarchy and nest things within each other

- Priority to my hierarchy. Some tasks and projects are more important in my life. Lt the important or time critical things float to the top of my to do list


Remember the idea of a life/task managing application is to GTD. Not that I'm a strict follower of GTD, but I have found that OF takes a lot more of a learning curve than Life Balance or MLO to setup, and I spend more time on just organizing my tasks.

But the UI features are great!
 
 


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