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"Sync to iCal as Events for Due Dates?"

I've spent the last several weeks during the holidays looking for a program just like OmniFocus (not knowing about OmniFocus, of course) and didn't have any luck until last night.

tahdah... After reading a Twitter post sent from @apple_live [TUAW] The best Mac and iOS apps I used in 2010: Following up on my article about the best Mac apps I used in 20..., by TJ Luoma, I became excited. Finally, a task management program (for the Mac) that will work perfectly for me as it takes into account all of my task/project needs as a design consultant.

I watched the beautifully produced videos and fell in love with OmniFocus. But before I bought yet another program I wanted to make sure that this one would work for me, entirely. So I went to the discussion groups to see what was written about OmniFocus supporting iCal events. This is where the dark cloud of gloom swept in from the north. I found the question asked by group member, @tah, and addressed by OmniGroup staff.

I need to add my frustration that parallels @tah almost exactly. I believe she hit the nail on the head. I, as she, is a consultant. I've been in the design business since 1983 and live the pressures that comes with being an independent consultant with incredible deadlines. The one thing that OmniFocus is missing is the ability to add tasks, projects, etc., to iCal as events. I too need to look at the big picture and digest my week/month at a glance; being able to do so in calendar mode and sync back to the program, and vise versa, is crucial. I need the ability to include my work (tasks/projects, etc.) along with my life events (take dog to vet) and make it all work out right. It's the big picture that is really important. Once this is done I can then begin to work.

Needless to say my search continues. I'm extremely disappointed that OmniFocus will not work for me... Nor, will it work for the many others with the same need.

It would be interesting to know the percentage of Mac users (vs. Microsoft Windows users) that live their lives similarly.







Quote:
Originally Posted by Brian View Post
Updating this thread, since I'm about to direct a poster in another thread to have a look at it.

The development team has held extensive discussions about syncing OmniFocus actions to the calendar database instead of or in addition to the ToDo database; for the foreseeable future, we feel it's not the right thing to do. If that changes, we'll certainly make that known.

We feel that actions which have very specific times associated with them - say a meeting that's from three to four PM next tuesday - should defitnitely go on a calendar. Fixed start time, fixed end time. Calendars are really, really good at tracking information like this; they better be, because they've been doing it for centuries. :-)

In addition to the well-defined ones that go on your calendar, there's a second class of actions: these are the ones that OmniFocus is particularly good at helping you with. As an example, one of these actions would be to prepare for that meeting I mentioned in the previous example. That action has a firm end time - when the meeting starts - but doesn't have a firm start time. It could begin in five minutes, or it could begin tomorrow, or it could begin five minutes before the meeting. :-)

Actions like that are the ones that OmniFocus is particularly good at helping you with, but they don't translate well to the calendar. Given the ways that iCal presents event information, we can think of several ways to add items like this to the calendar; none of them would work in every case. That means we probably need to add them all, which means more "stuff" folks using the app have to wade through, and that they'll have to figure out why the choices they made didn't produce the results they expected. (Another alternative would be that we allow you to sync some actions to the calendar and forbid others, which will also confuse and annoy folks.)

After considering these and some other factors, the team feels pretty strongly that using OmniFocus and a separate calendar is the way to go. (Essentially, we recommend adopting the workflow that Yucca advocates in his post.) The calendar provides information about the hard landscape, and OmniFocus helps you fill in the gaps by holding a stack of actions you can pull from as you're able.

Trying to mix the two would be a lot of work and would likely produce results that weren't as satisfying as folks expect from us. In our opinion, it's simpler and more effective to track the things that a calendar is good for on the calendar, track the things that OmniFocus is good for in OmniFocus, and use the two together to be most productive.

Yes, your information is in two places, but that's because the two apps are actually tracking different kinds of information. (There are rare cases where the information needs to be entered in both applications, but we don't advocate double-entry on a regular basis.)
 
Dear Brian,

You wrote: "Yes, your information is in two places, but that's because the two apps are actually tracking different kinds of information."

Sorry to be unfriendly, this feels condescending. As does your teaser "Check out the VERY INTERESTING last post"...just say: We won't add this feature.

Users -keep- asking for this feature, and you talk a lot but never do it. I don't want to install more widgets and pretend like the setup is useful. It's not.

I gave up using OmniFocus, and I wish I could get my money back. :-\
 
One of the features in OF for ipHone I like is the 'calendar events' in Forecast view. I can't seem to find this in OF for Mac. Is it there?

Would be good to be able to drop tasks onto this sort of timeline?

Thanks

Tim
 
Either a calendar feature or more complete iCal syncing would help a lot. (Current iCal sync through WebDav only shows things that are due in the next week). Not because we users necessarily want to use OmniFocus as a calendar, but because in the event that tasks do need due dates or start dates, we need a visual way to see that they do not overlap in impossible ways.

The last thing you want is to be broadsided by 2 things coming due in a week that can't possibly be done at the same time. That's what a calendar view saves you from. You won't assign an impossible due date if you can see when the other thing is due.

Some people, I think, have a fairly small number of tasks to do. For them, maybe reviewing every single task every day can work. Others may own more than one business. We're also pretty driven and probably somewhat competitive. It's good, because we get a lot done. But it also means we find ourselves in business "race" conditions, trying to finish projects before someone else can. And we're up against client deadlines too, and personal ones, and government ones.

So the point of a calendar view isn't to use it as a calendar.

That's right, I don't need the calendar to be a calendar.

I need it to be a visual representation of the tasks or projects I have committed to deadline.

Why, you ask. Because I need to make quick decisions. I have used Omnifocus for a little longer than the trial period now (bought it of course). Already I have 47 tasks across 9 projects. No worry, I always have at least 9 projects. I'm getting lots of things done, probably more than I was pre-Omni. But I'm also in a predicament.

If I need to assign a due date to a task, or a start date, I have to read through all those other tasks and their due dates (if they have them) before I can assign the due date or start date. Everyone has their limits, and mine is holding more than about 4 dates in mind at once. However, a calendar VIEW does not ask you to understand dates and times all at once, thus taking up your verbal and math resources. A calendar view lets you look at the distance between two objects and say "those aren't too close together. I can fit one here." That task is much easier when done spatially than it is when done with a list of numeric dates.

To be clear, the tasks and projects I'm talking about are generally NOT things like "buy cat litter" or "attend the meeting." They are more like "Edit volume 2 of 'Insurance Practices for the Risk Manager.'" They are ongoing tasks. When you edit a book, you spend many days doing it, and you also have to do other things on those days, and you also will surely have a deadline.

One or two posts made a statement that sounded like "anything with a deadline should go on a calendar." But editing a book doesn't fit well on "just" a calendar. You might need to look at a calendar view to see if you can edit a book in a given period of time, but a calendar would be useless for managing the task of editing a book. A calendar doesn't tell you what to do next. And so, ironically, that's one reason why OmniFocus needs to have, or integrate with, a calendar. It is because there are many tasks and projects which OmniFocus is suited for, and which calendars are unsuited for, yet which need to be cross-referenced with calendars and the things that calendars have on them. And to do that cross-referencing, it is easier and less error-prone to allow people to use the visio-spatial capacity of their brains, by showing everything on a calendar view, thus understanding date conflicts as shapes and patterns and distances, not as lists of numeric dates on one side and a calendar on the other.

And if you don't like calendars or don't want to make one, it wouldn't take much at this point. Currently you have iCal syncing through WebDav. Just add the option to see *everything* that has a dues date assigned, rather than only the things with due dates in the next week. That way, when we find we need to assign a due date, we can flip over to the calendar (or iCal) and see that the week or month we're shooting for is not saturated with one or more other due dates.

I hope that makes some sense. Thanks for reading, and I'll also send an email through the feedback feature in the application.
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by rbeverly View Post
Either a calendar feature or more complete iCal syncing would help a lot. [...]
Well said, and you bring up some good points.

I like the iPads "Forecast" feature tremendously, as it helps with many of the issues you bring up.

But it also is incomplete, or at least has some limitations in its current implementation. For example, it really is a tool to look at the immediate window of time, and it doesn't give an indication of tasks that have earlier start dates that need to be looked at.

I hope they do build some calendaring into future versions of the product.
 
I agree with rbeverly!
otherwise I leave OF.

amelchi
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by joelande View Post
it doesn't give an indication of tasks that have earlier start dates that need to be looked at.
The problem is distinguishing between tasks where start date differs from due date because the expectation is the task will take more than one day, and those where it will not. A task with a start date of Monday and a due date of Friday might equally well be a task which will require 5 days' effort, or 5 minutes; all we can determine is that it is not available prior to Monday, and it should be completed by Friday.

OmniFocus (and GTD) excels at keeping track of your commitments, but it makes no attempt to assess the feasibility of meeting those commitments, nor to suggest the proper plan to most efficiently meet them. If you're trying to accurately track what you will be working on in the future and when you will be doing it, I submit that OmniFocus is not really the best tool for the job, and a tool such as OmniPlan which does describe availability, schedule, etc. might be more suitable. Sharpening a screwdriver does not make a good chisel :-)

Maybe one of these days Omni will finish up the very intriguing work to tie OmniPlan and OmniFocus together, so that one could do the overall planning in OmniPlan, with the actual day-to-day execution being done through OmniFocus. Had the iPad not come along, perhaps we'd already have it by now!
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by whpalmer4 View Post
The problem is [...]
I don't view this as a problem. There are many potential ways to build tools to work with this.

For example, the current iPad "Forecast" view currently groups due and start items for each day. There could be an additional group for tasks that have been previously started.

But the iPad Forecast view isn't really a calendar either, and does not address all of the items we are looking for. I was merely mentioning how useful the Forecast view is, even with its limited feature set, viewing both calendar appointments and tasks for the current week.



Quote:
Originally Posted by whpalmer4 View Post
OmniFocus [...] makes no attempt to assess the feasibility of meeting those commitments
Wanting a calendar view does not suggest that it has to assess feasibility. But it can be a more powerful tool for me to assess the feasibility if I can view start/dues tasks, tasks in progress, and calendar appointments in one view.


Quote:
Originally Posted by whpalmer4 View Post
If you're trying to accurately track what you will be working on in the future and when you will be doing it, I submit that OmniFocus is not really the best tool for the job, and a tool such as OmniPlan which does describe availability, schedule, etc. might be more suitable.
I don't agree.
OmniPlan is a great tool for working on long, complex projects (I have it and I use it).
But that isn't what we are looking either (not to mention the fact that OmniPlan doesn't really integrate my calendar into the view either, nor does it show me what I may have in OmniFocus, which you mention).

I still feel that it would be useful to view OmniFocus data in a calendar view, integrating my personal calendars as a layer in that view. I know that just by the fact that every day I have to keep glancing back and forth between OmniFocus and my calendar.

Calendars are also much easier to visually get a feel for schedules and time frames as opposed to a table-like view of tasks.
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by whpalmer4 View Post
A task with a start date of Monday and a due date of Friday might equally well be a task which will require 5 days' effort, or 5 minutes; all we can determine is that it is not available prior to Monday, and it should be completed by Friday.
Well, that's not really all we can determine if this functionality is important enough for the user to do a little extra estimation and data entry. Don't forget that OF tasks do also have a duration field.
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by eurobubba View Post
Well, that's not really all we can determine if this functionality is important enough for the user to do a little extra estimation and data entry. Don't forget that OF tasks do also have a duration field.
While that's true, you can only edit or directly view that field if you've got the Mac edition in the mix...
 
 


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