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Dangerous Sync Problem? (data loss) Thread Tools Search this Thread Display Modes
I use OmniFocus for extremely critical projects where I absolutely cannot afford to have it lose a task or mis-file a task. I am sure many of you are the same way.

Today I experienced a very unnerving sync problem that has got me considering switching away from OmniFocus alltogether.

I have been syncing through the OmniSync server for my Mac and my iPhone for a while now with no problems.

Here is what happened:
  • Yesterday, I was on an airplane with no connectivity, and I spent about 1 hour processing tasks from my inbox, moving tasks around, renaming them, re-filing them, adding them, etc.
  • When I landed, I did not have a chance to sync my laptop just yet. But I did use my iPhone in the airport terminal, to add a few more tasks to the inbox. It did sync during this time.
  • Later that night I got to the hotel and plugged my laptop in to sync. But I did not go over the projects.
  • Later when I looked at my iphone, an large amount of the work that I had done on the airplane had reverted itself!
  • Many of the tasks that I had filed on the airplane, moved around, etc., were back in the inbox! I have so many tasks that I have no idea how to track how much damage was done and how much information I did on the plane was lost. I have no idea if any new tasks were lost. But it seems like the data rolled back, and was merged with the new tasks I added on my iPhone.
  • I have synced my phone and my mac several times now and the syncing is working fine now. Adding and removing items is working now. But the data seems to have been lost that I did on the plane.

My question here is, what happened, and how can I make sure this doesn't happen again?

I'm worried enough that this will happen again at a random time that I no longer feel save trusting OmniSync to store my thoughts and my work.

I would like to know how to reproduce this problem, so that I know what to avoid to allow it to happen again. Otherwise I will have to switch away from OmniFocus.

Your help is really appreciated because I certainly do not want to move away. I love everything about the software and I really want it to work. I own it on my Mac, iPhone, and iPad and have been using it for a long time.

You should open a support ticket and discuss it with a ninja. You should also learn how to open backups, and how to sort your data by change date. You should also ask yourself what other product is available that is known to have a significantly more robust sync than Omnifocus.
Once you've made changes on a device, don't use OmniFocus on any other device until you've successfully synced the one where you made the changes.

Good news: they've said they plan to fix problem this after they finish rewriting the user interface for OmniFocus for Mac. Having the new shiny sooner outweighs an occasional bit of data corruption, right?

You may want to set the preference to back up every time you quit OmniFocus, and get in the habit of quitting (or explicitly doing an OmniFocus backup from the File menu) after doing a big block of work. Had you done so, you could have restored from your last OmniFocus backup on the Mac and gotten your work back, though it would still be an inconvenience to retrieve the new items added on the iPhone.

Apparently, the bug you encountered is only seen when items in the Inbox are processed. Perhaps someone in the know at Omni could comment on whether moving everything in the Inbox en masse to a project ("Fake Inbox") and syncing would eliminate the vulnerability. If so, you could do that before getting on the plane or otherwise leaving your Internet connectivity behind and still be able to spend the time offline in a productive fashion.

A final word of warning about some sync behavior that is unlikely to change even when the Inbox issue is fixed: if you change the same item on two different devices without syncing in between the changes, you risk losing the first change made, or duplicating the item if the change made was completing a repeating item. For this reason, OmniFocus isn't reliably used as groupware where anyone can change anything at any time.

If you always sync a device before and after using it, these issues go away, and sync performance generally improves, too.
I am new to Omnifocus and have it on my mac Ipad and iphone.
It worked well for a week and then for no reason synced and deleted 50% of my mac data and the even though the phone still had that data then synced and deleted all of that too- soooo frustrating. Is there a glitch I don't know about?
Originally Posted by foodieskier View Post
I am new to Omnifocus and have it on my mac Ipad and iphone.
It worked well for a week and then for no reason synced and deleted 50% of my mac data and the even though the phone still had that data then synced and deleted all of that too- soooo frustrating. Is there a glitch I don't know about?
Your purchase of OmniFocus includes support. Ask them.
It is rather more likely that you have changed the view settings and are now only being shown part of your data than that OmniFocus has actually deleted large chunks of your data. In either case, the right move is to call Omni's free support line at 800-315-6664 or 1-206-523-4152 and get their help investigating the problem.
I'm a relatively new user and have all three versions of the product. I mostly use the Mac and iPhone versions and saw some odd things early on.

Several times I would add entries on the iPhone, and then work on the Mac later. A couple of times I noticed that I lost a few entries and contacted support.

I kept a close eye on this and found the following:

A new action would be entered on the iPhone and then while working on the Mac later, I would see a blank action like you sometimes get when adding. So I would delete it.

After I started checking, I noticed that sometimes the sync happens in two steps. First a blank record comes over, then it gets populated.

Once I realized that, I don't hastily delete blank records. I reported this but did not get feedback about this being an issue.

I could find no other symptoms of data loss, and I'm paranoid. Anything else was attributed to filtering. I would probably make sure everything syncs before doing major changes but if I had seen this thread before I would probably not have made the commitment to the product.

It's all about a "trusted system" and you should not have to think about syncing before editing. Conflict resolution has been around for a long time and records edited in two places could be duplicated and flagged somehow.
"Once you've made changes on a device, don't use OmniFocus on any other device until you've successfully synced the one where you made the changes."

seriously ??
meaning I use OF on my iPhone, MacPro and MBA and I make OF-action on all devices on many days and haven't the chance to sync between the 3 instances (the macPro is off, the mba sleeps and so on).
I never noticed any problems on sync over the omniServer in the last year, but with your info I'm nervous about problems...

thanks for your help/info ...

:-) tpau17
The approach I stated is a conservative one, and if followed should protect you from the bug Omni hasn't yet fixed. I think you may have misunderstood what I was saying: if you make a change on device A, be sure that you sync device A before starting to use devices B, C, D, etc. I'm not saying that you have to keep all the devices in sync all the time. You just want to make sure that the device you are using has all of the changes that have been made (and you should want that even if you didn't have to worry about this bug).

The trouble happens (and it should be said, only infrequently happens) when you make a change on device A, don't sync it, then device B comes along, makes a change, syncs it, and when device A's change is finally synced, it undoes part or all of device B's change. If you sync the device after making a change, and sync the device when you start using it, you eliminate the conditions needed for the bug to rear its ugly head. You also lessen the chance of losing any particular change due to loss of the device on which you made it, because syncing effectively backs up the change.

If the change isn't worth syncing, why bother making it?

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