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Why is OmniFocus for iPhone's startup/sync time variable? Thread Tools Search this Thread Display Modes
I'm counting the time after the "Opening document" progress bar disappears. Is the document still loading after that? This morning it was quite fast, just a couple seconds after that. Probably because I hadn't done anything since yesterday. If I turn off autosync, startup is quite fast, less than 5 seconds.

So this morning I completed one action and hit the sync button. The phone took over 30 seconds to sync. This is over wifi and a cable modem, syncing to That's about 30 times longer than it took my mac to sync to swissdisk a couple minutes later, using the same wifi and connection. I don't understand why the iPhone should be that much slower than the mac.

whpalmer, when you sync, how long does it take?
Sync times can vary quite a bit depending on how much needs to be transferred and processed, and especially if database compaction takes place. I'll try to describe a set of repeatable measurements in the hopes of being able to compare apples with apples.

Start up OmniFocus on both desktop and iPhone/iPod. After both have started up and become fully active, click the sync button on desktop, wait for it to complete, click the sync button on the iPhone, wait for it to complete, and sync the desktop one more time. This should ensure that both devices are fully up to date with the central database and each other.

Add an action to the inbox on the desktop, click sync. My elapsed time for the sync wheel on the desktop (2 GHz Core 2 Duo MacBook, 2 GB RAM, 10.4.11, OF sneaky peek 1.6.1 (v77. to stop turning is about 2 seconds.

Now force the iPod to sync, and the elapsed time for its sync wheel to stop is about 5 seconds.

Add an action to the inbox on the iPod and force a sync. Elapsed time about 12 seconds.

Sync desktop to retrieve that change. Elapsed time about 3 seconds.

Now, launch a different application on the iPod. Go to desktop and individually enter 20 more actions in the inbox, syncing after adding each one.

Open OF on iPod. No sync takes place, despite Auto Sync being on. Opening time is 6 seconds. Force a sync to pull in the 20 newly added actions, sync time is 32 seconds.

On iPod, mark those 20 actions completed and sync. Sync takes about 13 seconds. Note that this isn't quite the same as what was done before, as this will go out as one multi-part change in the same file whereas the other will have a transaction file for each action.

At that point, I unregistered my other clients and forced the iPod to do another sync, which compacted the database from 267 files (as seen on the iDisk from the Finder) to 152 files, and took about 110 seconds. This would be very inconvenient to have happen on app startup when in a hurry to add a fleeting thought! In practice, it doesn't happen to me. What seems to happen is that the machine which hasn't been syncing for a day or two while I've been busy elsewhere adding, modifying and completing actions ends up being the one to do the compaction when it does finally sync, and the mobile client is never that machine. Or maybe I've just been lucky!

After that compaction, the next sync by the desktop (no changes to contribute) took about 10 seconds. After that, times seem to be back as they were before, repeating a few of the measurements.

I'd be interested to see the results if you try the same methodology. I'm suspicious that the long sync time you saw on the iPhone to add one item was perhaps doing more work than you realized.

I'm still wondering if differing software versions might be playing a role here, too. I've got OmniFocus 1.2.2 (v77. on the iPod -- is that what you have on your iPhone? What about on the desktop?

Yet another question for me is why Auto-Sync doesn't seem to force a sync every time I launch OF on the iPod. I'm not complaining, just curious how it magically seems to know what (not) to do :) Does it always sync on startup for you?
Originally Posted by Chris View Post
I'm counting the time after the "Opening document" progress bar disappears. Is the document still loading after that? This morning it was quite fast, just a couple seconds after that. Probably because I hadn't done anything since yesterday. If I turn off autosync, startup is quite fast, less than 5 seconds.
Ken may hop on to correct me, but once the "opening document" screen disappears, we still have some work to do.

Spinner: contacting sync server to see if there are any new transactions we need to download (and, if so, getting them).

"Opening Document" means we're reading existing data from flash into RAM on the phone.

Once we do that, at a bare minimum, we have to check the existing data for any state changes. (Unavailable/available/overdue changes, for instance.) If there was a sync, we have to integrate any new transactions into the database. Best case scenario, we tack the new transactions onto the end of the transaction tree that's on the phone and roll everything forward. That's likely what's happening during the 5 second sync you mentioned.

However, if we have synced transactions from the network that occurred before the most recent transaction on the device, we have to roll the transactions on the phone back to before the first synced change, insert the synced changes, then walk back to the present, resolving any conflicts we encounter as we go.

The 30-second syncs likely have some of this going on. Again, Ken may correct me, but I'm guessing that any state changes that happened overnight - actions changing between unavailable/available/overdue - are going to generate transactions on both the phone and the Mac. (You don't want the phone to depend on the Mac to tell you when those changes happen.) We have to reconcile those in some fashion...

In general, there's a fair amount going on in a sync beyond the changes that you may have made manually. From one perspective, managing to get a device with a processor that's literally 2000 times slower than a low-end desktop machine to only take 30 times as long to do all that is something of a victory. I also concede that it can be frustrating, though. ;-)

Last edited by Brian; 2009-05-05 at 03:13 PM.. Reason: add the state-change stuff, once I thought of it.
Originally Posted by whpalmer4 View Post
Yet another question for me is why Auto-Sync doesn't seem to force a sync every time I launch OF on the iPod. I'm not complaining, just curious how it magically seems to know what (not) to do :)
Auto-Sync means "push any un-synced changes up to the server, or check to see if there are new changes on the server if it's been an hour since my last sync".
Thanks for the feedback, Brian.

I've been using 1.6 on the desktop (updated to 1.61 this morning), and the same iPhone version. I did some tests, the results were similar to whpalmer's.

I'm still adjusting to using OF on the iPhone, and I use it mostly on the desktop. Maybe I get into a feedback loop where I don't use the phone so much, so syncing is slow, which means I don't use OF on the phone, etc. I'll see if it improves with the new versions of OF and with more consistent usage.

Edit: One other thing. I read about 50 different blogs using NetNewsWire, often on my iPhone. I have a much better opinion of that syncing process than OF's syncing. It's the same device, so processing speed isn't the issue, and I suspect that syncing and downloading 100 blog posts involves the transfer of a good amount of data. Maybe OF needs to do a lot more on-board processing, I don't know, but I just thought I'd mention that that's the sort of standard I'm using to evaluate OF's syncing.

Last edited by Chris; 2009-05-06 at 05:44 AM..
Hi Ken,

Preface: I own OF for Mac and iPhone, and am a happy camper. As a matter of fact I own almost all of the Omni apps, in their professional versions. :)

Re: Synchronization clients can lock down fewer transactions, allowing the database to compact more frequently.

Is there some sort of setting/toggle/etc for this? If so, where is it? I'm not seeing anything.

For me, opening up OF on the iPhone is a painful process (I use webDAV for synchronization). It takes several minutes. It almost always freezes the first time and needs to be 'force quit' and restarted. Anything that can make starting OF quicker would be greatly appreciated.

MRL - no toggle needed; it's an internal change we made in the way the app works.

Moving your post to the existing thread on minimizing app start time. Try the suggestions in this thread. :-)

Last edited by Brian; 2009-05-11 at 05:35 PM.. Reason: that -> this
This is my biggest complain about OmniFocus for the iPhone: launch speed. It takes much too much time (sometimes dozens of seconds) before OF has loaded the data (starting/opening document...).

I have 93 projects, 677 actions and 5 zip files. I removed all unnecessary clients, I only have my iPhone and portable mac. I also regularly archive on the Mac.

I regularly heard people saying they prefer other "lists/tasks" apps just because OF is too slow.

So please keep improving speed (I mean "launching speed"):
- cache as much info as you can
- first display the screen then load data (only needed data - lazy loading)
- reopen the app on the last screen (cache it's data)
- counters (number of items) - if that slows down the app - could be turned off in settings or could be cached (keep counter variables in the DB and update them when adding/removing items
- keep thinking!

I know background pocesses would help but in the mean time you can still do a lot more for speed and it will always be good for OF (even when bgnd processes are allowed by Apple)..,

Good luck and keep up the good work!

Last edited by vincentkeunen; 2009-07-24 at 12:16 AM..
Vincent - it sounds like you've taken most of the usual steps, but I wanted to mention one thing in case it helps. Is Auto-Sync turned on in the Sync preferences?

If not, it may be worth experimenting with. You'll need to tap the sync button from time to time, of course, but it should reduce your launch times considerably. I just make a habit to tap the sync button when I'm done with OmniFocus. Stick the phone in my pocket and let it sync while I'm otherwise engaged.

If you have auto-sync turned off, those launch times are longer than we'd expect; if you contact the support ninjas, we may be able to figure out what's going on.

I found a excellent solution - it seems. I have a pretty large database (to some standards... *I* don't find it that big; it was probably 10 times bigger in ShadowPlan on my Palm Treo...): 93 projects, 683 actions and 88 zip files. I had already archived old item, do the sync-wait 61 minutes dance, disabled automatic sync, removed useless clients, etc... OF launch time was improving... but the best I could get was still 5 seconds (ok but could be better).

Then I decided to take the risky road:
- I jailbroke my phone (Google for "iphone hacks jailbreak")
- I installed Backgrounder and put OF in the background (Google for "iphone backgrounder")

Now, believe it or not, OF launches in LESS THAN 1 SECOND, basically, it's immediate. Hurray! All apps should start that fast!

Some say applications are not aware of being backgrounded and might misbehave... So, OmniGroup, can you make sure OF behaves well?

You know what? I'm happy. :-)

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