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The current state of the choice between Omnifocus and Things Thread Tools Search this Thread Display Modes
I run a successful small internet business from my laptop. I'm currently looking for the core software to help manage the overwhelming things and projects I have to do. I really need help, there's too much for me to handle and I can't take it anymore.

I really like the philosophy of GTD and am implementing such a system. Omnifocus looks like an excellent, tight program. But context is not useful to me since the vast majority of things I have to do are all managed from my laptop, and I have access to it just about 24/7. My contexts would be something like @Mac and @Errands most of the time. That's about it. But Omnifocus makes context so integral to its system that it is just rather silly and contrived for someone like myself. And David Allen himself doesn't require you follow every aspect of his system religiously if it doesn't suit your workflow.

Ah, tags would be so nice to be able to use instead. So powerful and flexible. I don't think that GTD is anti-tags, it's just that tags is basically a new technology that wasn't widespread when the system was originally created in the somewhat more pre-digital era of 2002 (that statement would sure sound funny to someone in the year 2002).

So this obviously gives a nice advantage to Things. Also, Things has a more intuitive interface, at least that's how it appears to someone on this side of the learning curve.

But Things has major problems. Their synching situation is horrible; it has dragged on for an amazing amount of time and they still haven't fixed the problem. And even if that was the only problem they had, it shows me that that company is not a reliable partner going in to the future. The team behind OF is clearly better and more responsive. And it seems that OF generally has everything Things has and more in terms of features. Further, it seems that OF is much better than Things in terms of organizing projects, which is a key thing I'm doing.

So I'm heavily leaning towards OF. But again, the OF heavy use of context given my situation just seems silly, like I'm having to force a square plug in to a round hole. I was considering doing everything with a mind mapping program (Novamind is great) but I saw that, while it could basically handle task management in addition to things like brainstorming, it couldn't compare as a task management interface. That was really using the wrong tool for the job, but I still have some of that feeling with OF and its context-heavy system.

Oh, please help me out here.

Last edited by Danworld; 2011-08-27 at 10:20 AM.. Reason: Tried to change title to include The Hit List
I agree that Things is basically unusable without sync. It's frankly shocking to me that they still haven't implemented it. I like OF very much, but I agree it would be nice if they added tag support.
There are lots of options besides OmniFocus and Things. Flow and, uh, the Potion Factory one come to mind. I'm sure there is no one "best" for everybody - probably just whatever you feel most comfortable with is the thing to use, even if there are some features of one that are not matched by another.
Contexts (use of which is entirely optional ...) don't have to be interpreted geographically.
You can also use them to allocate tasks to particular stages of the day, on-line or off-line periods of work, or any other grouping of animate/inanimate resources.

Or you can just get on with it and ignore them :-)
For me, the real problem with Things is the lack of subtasks. I heavily depend upon subtasks and the parallel versus sequential feature available in Omnifocus. Without that feature, Things falls flat for me.
Originally Posted by daltongreen View Post
For me, the real problem with Things is the lack of subtasks.
I agree. I want from OF to Things a couple of years ago because of its interface and a "today" view (IIRC). However, lack of subtasks was a hinderance I had to work around. Also, when one very important task was lost in some other area (which I wan't aware of) and didn't show up in any of the views, except in the list of tasks, I gave up and returned to OF.

Like you, I don't need contexts since I have phone, computer, etc. by my side at all times. My recommendation is to be creative in the use of contexts. I.e. use them for other things.
Originally Posted by Danworld View Post
But context is not useful to me since the vast majority of things I have to do are all managed from my laptop, and I have access to it just about 24/7. My contexts would be something like @Mac and @Errands most of the time.
Just in case it's helpful: a recent blog post from our UI/UX designer is about pretty much this exact situation. His approach:

Instead of organizing actions strictly by where the work needs to happen, this approach also considers the kind of work your brain needs to do in order to get them done. That way, when I'm sitting in front of the Mac or the iPad wondering what to work on, I can choose based on where my mind is, instead of paging past tons of stuff that seems too boring or too demanding.

More available in the full article - Slay the Leviathan Context
. Hope this helps!
FWIW .... My switch from Things to OF was primarily for two reasons: OF has folders and groups and OF has sequential, parallel, and one-step projects. I have since learned to do without tags. I would however very much like to have them back as a way to meta-sort and catalog for reporting from OUTSIDE of OF. Indeed, I would like to be able to apply the OpenMeta tag paradigm and pull OF projects in to a collection with an app such as Leap. Otherwise, I have since realized that tags for sorting inside the GTD app only added another layer of distraction on actually getting something done.

My contexts are along the lines of ...

@ (location specific)
- Office
- Home
- Errands
☼ (outcome/energy specific)
- Eat
- Cook
- Fish
- Explore
- Play
➤ (delegated out)
- ☺ Family
- ☺ Colleague
- Waiting For

The very few location specific contexts I have apply only when the task absolutely cannot be done anywhere else (or is not delegated out). I agree in this regard with the posts and writings that dissuade the use of commonly touted contexts such as COMPUTER, PHONE, ON-LINE ... Anymore, such things are tools that will be brought to the job at hand as needed, not contexts that define where the job can only be done. I am currently testing the broader based, outcome/energy specific contexts in their place.


Thanks everyone for the ideas. Let me update about what I'm thinking now.

I discovered The Hit List and it's a great program. It seems that the project was largely dead for a while, but over the past few months they've got it going again and it looks promising. I was almost ready to call it a day and make The Hit List my final choice.

It's a rather elegant solution yet it's feature-rich. It has just about everything found in OF, and even has some advantages: for example, smart folders are just superior to perspectives, and THL allows multiple contexts/tags. There's too many other nice touches to list here, but I'll also mention that tabs and back/forward browsing are really nice.

Perhaps my biggest problem with OF is how, out of the box, it forces you into a fairly confined workflow and makes context so central to everything. It's rather ideal if you can benefit from contexts, but for many people (and I think this number is increasing as life gets more digital and integrated), context is of much less importance. Take the hypothetical case of someone who happens to be able to perform any task from anywhere: they will still benefit from a task management system based on GTD principles, even though they would have absolutely no use of context in the traditional GTD sense. If OF is primarily a "context task management system", then it's subpar for a lot of people who would otherwise want to use the most feature-rich and elegant product available. And this is not because they somehow just "don't get it" with regards to context; context is simply marginally useful at best for those people.

THL has a really cool and cute UI idea with the yellow notepads, but it does have its drawbacks. I like the feeling of manipulating discrete task/project "objects", and Things does this the best I feel. But OF also does it better than THL. I don't like idea of having piles of yellow note-pads being where my modern trusted organization system is located, with each task/project being little more than a scribble on a notepad.

Also, being able to fully trust your GTD system is of fundamental importance. THL is basically a one-man operation whereas OF is a much larger and established company with generally excellent responsiveness to customer issues. I think that in 5 years, I'd be much better served by the latest OF than the latest THL. For the sort of life investment it takes to get set up in a trusted GTD system, I want to pick one and stick with it. Also, at this point, THL does feel a little unpolished and even buggy; it's nothing major, but enough to affect your level of trust.

But I am rooting for THL. It's a wonderful product that is superior to Things and even OF in many ways. Things had a great program going in, but they have proven themselves a disaster with managing the product in to the future. It's amazing to think about how much they've lost in the way of potential profits.

I have now spent significant time dealing with the various programs, so I have a better feel for how OF should work and what it's capable of. My plan for today is to streamline OF and see if I can get along fine with it. This is a rather steep-learning curve for OF to require out of the box, but I'm going to try to see if I can get it to work. And I seem to feel differently every day about which product to chose, so this may not be the final choice, we will see; it's still a trade-off no matter which one you pick.

I'm hoping that OF 2.0 will come out fairly soon with enhanced features, an elegant UI, and less forcing people in to the flow of somebody with a strict multi-context occupation (while of course keeping that an important option for those who want it). Omni should make OF 2.0 such that potential customers don't feel like they are making a trade-off anymore! :)

Last edited by Danworld; 2011-08-24 at 07:53 PM..
Originally Posted by Brian View Post
Just in case it's helpful: a recent blog post from our UI/UX designer is about pretty much this exact situation. His approach:

More available in the full article - Slay the Leviathan Context
. Hope this helps!
Thanks a lot for the link. I see that I'm not alone with this "problem". I'm looking to integrate this as my way of context since I do find myself in very different states throughout the day and the kind of work I can do in each state is different. Differentiating between high-level-thinking tasks and brainless tasks could be very useful.

It's not as useful and straightforward as place context if you need that, but it could still work well.

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