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OmniFocus review/critique from TidBITS Thread Tools Search this Thread Display Modes
Quote:
Originally Posted by mcoad View Post
But in Project mode, if you sort by Remaining, they simply reappear further down the Today list, even though they are for Tomorrow!
In planning view, we sort (or group) one project against another, but we do not rearrange the contents. We also won't separate the project out into multiple chunks, with some in the 'today' bucket and some in the 'tomorrow' bucket. To plan your project, you need to see the whole thing as a contiguous list.

We also assume that you put the tasks into an order that matters to you - list position is essentially an infinitely-deep priority system. To respect that, OmniFocus will not reorder items in the task list - if a repeating action is the third action in the list, the 'tomorrow' version of the task will also be the third action in the list.

In context view, projects are completely ignored. Actions exist as atomic bits, which you can sort or group regardless of which project they come from.

Quote:
Originally Posted by mcoad View Post
OF sorts by projects, and not tasks, and looks for the earliest date and uses that value. I never really understood this, but what it seems to mean is that for OF the task exists in the here and now even if it’s actually due in the future, so is included in Today’s list but with Tomorrow’s date.
If you have a project with twelve items due tomorrow, and one item due today, the whole project will appear in the 'today' group. The project will only move to the 'tomorrow' group when there's nothing in that project that's due today. The project is sorted (or grouped) on the basis of the earliest date that it contains.

I'm of the opinion that we either need to change the group headings to make this behavior clearer, or we need to set it up so changing your sorting or grouping collapses all the projects that are visible, then does the sorting/grouping. That would make it more obvious that we're only sorting projects, not the contents of projects.

The upshot here is that planning mode is meant to show you your whole project, not a filtered or chopped-up portion of your project. If you want the latter, you can switch to context view and sort/group your actions once they've been broken out of the project lists.
 
Thanks for the explanation, Brian, which is good and clear. I see the logic. However, given the way the interface is designed at the moment the problem persists. Surely it is just an obvious nonsense to have a list called “Due today“ which may in fact be made up of a long list of tasks none of which are due today, and may be due over several dates perhaps well into the future. There’s no way this isn’t going to be mega-confusing.

I’d suggest there are two things here causing the confusion. One is the list heading in the main window as you mention. Changing this would help a lot, though I guess it’ll be hard to find a clear and succinct way of doing it. The other is reflected in the sidebar in Planning mode, and in what Matt says about preferring to see this called Projects mode. Originally, of course, it was, and was presumably changed precisely in order to emphasize what you say: that this is where you do your overall planning rather than dealing with the nuts-and-bolts of the project once planned. However, the sidebar and toolbar continue to talk about “projects” - inevitably, given that’s what they are dealing with - and the lack of some other way of emphasizing that this is a Planning space tends to encourage the piecemeal (“breaking into chunks”) way of thinking you describe.

In other words, I think this distinction between how you use the two modes is confusing for a lot of users - not the concepts themselves of Planning and Contexts, but the way they are implemented. As you say, Planning/Projects is for overall planning, and produces the problems I’ve described if you try to use it for dealing too closely with the detail (wanting it laid out by exact date, for example). But given that the whole point of Contexts is that tasks from different Projects can be carried out in the same Context, this mode easily becomes semi-divorced in the user’s mind from the idea of the Project as a whole. This leaves many in a quandary over just where they should record their processing of actions and do their rethinking about their Projects as such. Contexts work fine when you’re thinking and organizing yourself in looser, “contextual” terms. But when you’re thinking about the Project you naturally go back to the Planning mode, and there are times when you do indeed want to break it into chunks, see how it pans out over time, list things clearly by different dates, etc, not just see it in an undifferentiated list (except for the date column, of course). Hence the confusion I’ve been griping about.

I hope it’s clear what I’m saying. I don’t know what the answer is*, except to change some headings in Projects and try to persuade people to think of Contexts as where they actually get their stuff done. But it seems to me there is a real conceptual problem to be addressed if the app is to be as transparent as I guess we‘d all like it to be.

*Actually I do know what some will say is the answer: get OmniPlan, if you’re so worried about this kind of detail. I don’t think so, however. Apart from the question of overkill, this same confusion is going to persist as things stand at the moment in OF.
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by mcoad View Post
Surely it is just an obvious nonsense to have a list called “Due today“ which may in fact be made up of a long list of tasks none of which are due today, and may be due over several dates perhaps well into the future. There’s no way this isn’t going to be mega-confusing.
Yeah, I really want to change those headers to read "Projects with actions due today" (or whatever the heading should be). Right now, the interface doesn't make it clear what that grouping really represents, which does confuse folks.

Quote:
Originally Posted by mcoad View Post
But when you’re thinking about the Project you naturally go back to the Planning mode, and there are times when you do indeed want to break it into chunks, see how it pans out over time, list things clearly by different dates, etc, not just see it in an undifferentiated list (except for the date column, of course). Hence the confusion I’ve been griping about.
I don't know how we'll ultimately deal with this - but yeah, we're aware that the current setup doesn't work for some folks. This is definitely on our radar screen.

Quote:
Originally Posted by mcoad View Post
Actually I do know what some will say is the answer: get OmniPlan, if you’re so worried about this kind of detail. I don’t think so, however. Apart from the question of overkill, this same confusion is going to persist as things stand at the moment in OF.
I don't think the solution is to get OmniPlan - for one person, it really is overkill. We're definitely committed to making OmniFocus work for as many folks as we can; once we get the iPhone application done - or invent a developer-cloning process - we can start in on version 2 and re-examine stuff like this.

Last edited by Brian; 2008-05-13 at 03:02 PM..
 
Great - that’s all very good to know. Thanks Brian

Btw, I suggested in another thread that it might be helpful to have a section on the website dedicated to sample uses of OF - concrete, widely differing examples, redacted and well presented, rather than in the looser form usual when people are swapping experiences in the forums. More work, I know, but it would help folks see ways through such confusion.

Last edited by mcoad; 2008-05-13 at 03:48 PM.. Reason: Following Brian’s edit of previous post
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by mcoad View Post
But when you’re thinking about the Project you naturally go back to the Planning mode, and there are times when you do indeed want to break it into chunks, see how it pans out over time, list things clearly by different dates, etc, not just see it in an undifferentiated list (except for the date column, of course). Hence the confusion I’ve been griping about.
I handle this in two ways, depending on my goals.

1. In Planning mode, I'll reorder actions and action groups to reflect my current sense of priorities or workflow.

2. I'll focus on a project and then switch to Context mode, where I can group and sort individual actions to my heart's content.

In other words, I think that OF provides the tools to do what you want, but the documentation might not explain how to do it. I've been using OmniFocus for over a year now, so it has become second nature to me, but I respect Matt Neuburg's views and I think that he made some good points.

By the way, as I recall the discussion in the forums, the switch from Project mode to Planning mode was made, at least in part, because the Inbox is also in Planning mode, and it's not a project.
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by brianogilvie View Post
By the way, as I recall the discussion in the forums, the switch from Project mode to Planning mode was made, at least in part, because the Inbox is also in Planning mode, and it's not a project.
And single-action lists aren't technically projects either. To me, "Planning Mode" makes a lot more sense. I wonder if Matt Neuburg just didn't fully think that one out.
 
In addition to replying to Matt about his article (yeah, I don't know why there are no comments for the TidBITs articles --- the "Talk" posts are completely separate, which is weird for the content that is directly related to their articles), I would strongly encourage The Omni Group staff to read the comments/posts in the TidBITs Talk forum post area of their website (comments to Matt's original article).

Also, if you complain about the behavior of various Cocoa widgets/code, that's just an excuse (and almost tantamount to whining). If the OS X provided widgets/code don't work properly, are buggy, or don't do what you want, guess what... write your own code... geesh... Work around things... that's what programmers are for... And, saying that you need some new feature of Leopard to make the GUI work is absurd. Simply, simplify, simplify. I seriously doubt that OmniFocus needs anything more than what is currently available.

And, don't feel like you have to follow everything David Allen says, like he's some sort of god (he isn't). I'll bet anyone a dollar that the most important part of DA's GTD system is about getting things written down and then regularly managing those things. People who are organized already do that. People who aren't will benefit most by adopting nearly any system.

So, an application like OF should help automate things, and even, dare I say, improve on what DA himself has proposed. OmniFocus should strive to be compatible with GTD, not hamstrung or limited by its particular idiosyncracies (something will come along in a few years that probably wipes out GTD).

GTD is not the be-all, end-all of task management... ;-)

It's been said before, but apparently most people need to hear it like a mantra... If someone takes the time and effort to provide feedback about your products especially that which may be critical, you better listen and not react defensively or with conceit... most everyone who provides feedback actually cares a lot about your products... And, just because you've designed and programmed an application doesn't mean you know everything... unfortunately, that kind of vibe seems to be put forth to often...

I do like OF and would love to see the items that Matt, the commenters at TidBITs Talk, and others have suggested get added in the future... Thanks for the work on OF, so far...

Last edited by D-Mac; 2008-05-14 at 01:21 PM..
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by D-Mac View Post
I would strongly encourage The Omni Group staff to read the comments/posts in the TidBITs Talk forum post area of their website (comments to Matt's original article)
I've read them, and I've heard them mentioned in a couple of conversations, so you can rest easy. ;-)

Quote:
Originally Posted by D-Mac View Post
Also, if you complain about the behavior of various Cocoa widgets/code, that's just an excuse (and almost tantamount to whining). If the OS X provided widgets/code don't work properly, are buggy, or don't do what you want, guess what... write your own code... geesh... Work around things... that's what programmers are for...
It wasn't my intention to whine or complain. Since the author was specifically taking us to task for writing our own controls and not using cocoa controls, I thought it was important to explain that the symptoms were there, but that his diagnosis was incorrect.

In general, we'd love to fix every bug that affects our code, even if we didn't write the code in question. We have developers, but not an infinite number of them, though. ;-)

The drawbacks to doing this are that it takes time away from adding features that customers want, it makes getting the issue fixed less likely (by masking the problem), and it doesn't help anyone affected by the bug in other applications that use the frameworks.

Even worse, there are some framework bugs that we just flat-out can't fix - there's a crashing bug in the Nvidia drivers that affects OmniGraffle, for example. We don't have the source code to the drivers; game over. When I discussed the the calendar control with the lead developers, they told me that it fell into the same category.

Quote:
Originally Posted by D-Mac View Post
And, saying that you need some new feature of Leopard to make the GUI work is absurd.
I'm assuming you're referring to my original response to the screencast here? That was meant as a specific response to "why are these controls flashing so much?" Core Animation exists on 10.5, and makes it much, much easier to do some things than it is on 10.4. The UI works - but it could be better, and making that aspect better on 10.4 would eat up a lot of time.

While we could drop everything else and fix the issues pointed out in the review, we feel that our customers would be better served by working on the things we currently have on our plate, like machine-to-machine synching. We know this because of the amount of feedback attached to the bugs we have open on both sets of issues in our development database.

If the items mentioned in the review were at the top of that pile, it would be a different story. :-)

Quote:
Originally Posted by D-Mac View Post
If someone takes the time and effort to provide feedback about your products especially that which may be critical, you better listen and not react defensively or with conceit... most everyone who provides feedback actually cares a lot about your products... And, just because you've designed and programmed an application doesn't mean you know everything... unfortunately, that kind of vibe seems to be put forth to often...
I'm in complete agreement with you here; if I have put forth that vibe, it wasn't my intention to do so and I apologize. We didn't get where we are today by ignoring customer feedback. ;-)

To turn it around, though, it's easy for folks to toss around words like 'obvious', 'futile', and 'absurd' when they post here. It makes for a more enjoyable read, but often doesn't cover all the nuance of the situation. I have to worry about the perception that could create for subsequent readers.

Software development is a fairly opaque process to most folks; my posts here are intended to make it more understandable, and to attempt to correct the misconceptions that folks have about it.

Last edited by Brian; 2008-05-14 at 03:03 PM.. Reason: clarified a point about 10.4 vs. 10.5 development
 
Brian,

For what it's worth, I feel that your responses on this thread have been anything but defensive-- certainly not the vibe I've gotten.

Stefan
 
Brian,

I would like to thank you for the time you spent answering my mostly rhetorical post (and others' more succinct posts)...

And, thanks for the other explanations...

Please note that my comments were not meant to be very critical, nor were they necessarily aimed at you or anyone else at TOG (about being defensive, etc.). I did run into some difficulty back in December. Your posts in this thread have been terrific. I apologize if my (likely imprecise) comments earlier seemed to have been directed specifically to you.

I know all too well how difficult it is to develop software. I know it sucks when you find all sorts of system-related bugs, especially ones you can't work around. And, like you said, working around them often requires revisiting the workaround later on, which is fun for no one. The difficulty is compounded by resource issues, as it usually is... ;-) Hope you find that cloning machine...

I know that it didn't help anyone that Leopard was in such a state of flux right up until it was released. I have seen that fact mentioned by many developers. At least once Apple gets Leopard "debugged" a bit more, it will be a vast improvement over all other previous OS X releases.

Good luck with OF 2.0. I look forward to it.

-Dave

Last edited by D-Mac; 2008-05-14 at 03:09 PM..
 
 


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