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Here's something worth thinking about for the development team, drawn from reading through pretty much all the forum entries.

It's worth asking if the project is to produce software that's about "Getting Things Done™" or if it's about "getting things done." These aren't of course exclusive categories. But after trying desperately to understand the pull-downs (still bewildered) and trying to click on the column headings (name, due etc., that in every other cocoa and most mac applications sorts by the specified value), I wonder if, because I'm not a perfect GTD guy, this software isn't for me.

I'd like to be able to see JUST what I have to do today.
I'd like to be able to sort by DUE date, and, sometimes by START date
I'd like to be able to do these things in planning view AND in context view.

It may be that I haven't understood the documentation, or the significance of {} (whatever that means) but I'm not sure it should be this hard.

I also think that there should be display options so one can make red or italics or orange signify in a way that is meaningful to the user.

I grant that there will be some people who want OF to open a Keynote presentation, display the periodic table of the elements and play a random Abba song at precisely 7 minutes BEFORE the due time, because that makes sense to them.

I don't think my requests call under that category.
If Omni gave the application to a naive user, and recorded their fumblings, I believe they'd see that the pulldowns are mystifying and that lots of people want to sort by the criteria I do, and do it easily and intuitively.

After all that, I want to say that this is a very clever product with IMMENSE potential, and the Omni folks have been responsive and helpful and seem to have very much the right attitude. But there are some issues.

Have you looked at the "coming due" view? That sorts by due date, and ONLY shows things that are overdue or are in the "nearly due" (by default, 2 days) view.

It's in the context view.
I don't think OmniFocus is the kind of program you find on MacUpdate or VersionTracker and decide to play with. Generally I think you come into it with some knowledge or expectation of its behavior, either through experience with OmniOutliner, Kinkless GTD or some other GTD-enabling application.

It's also an application which takes some playing around with to get to know. That means tossing in a few actions and projects and seeing what the filters and such do.

This may not be a perfect analogy, but it's like Photoshop. Very powerful, lots of stuff you can do, and a learning curve. No where near as steep, of course, nor as costly.

Once documentation is available, things should be clearer. I consider OF a "usable" application, not an "intuitive" one, mostly because the concepts it's implementing aren't themselves intuitive.

Last edited by jasong; 2007-12-10 at 06:15 PM.. Reason: Its vs. it's. Duh.
Fulan, I use Perspectives for this - the pop-up menus you're talking about are not, as you mention, column sort headers. They're filtering options.

I have one Perspective that shows the available items organized by due date ("What's on my OMG must do now list?"), another that is organized by context ("I'm going to meet with Joe - what's our agenda?"), etc. I can flip between Perspectives at will, and get different views into my action items.
Originally Posted by jasong View Post
I don't think OmniFocus is the kind of program you find on MacUpdate or VersionTracker and decide to play with.
Sure it is.

I first heard about OmniFocus a couple weeks ago from a posting. I hadn't heard of GTD or OmniFocus until then, but the idea of software for "Getting Things Done" (even without the ™) appealed to me. So I watched the video, then downloaded OmniFocus and started playing with it. Then bought the book.

Granted, for 1.0, Omni can probably assume that most of their users are GTD/Kinkless/OmniFocus gurus, so they can focus the software on that audience initially. But once all those users have converted, you need to get new customers from somewhere. And if try-before-you-buy software is too hard to learn or too frustrating to use, people never move past the "try" stage.

Point is, usability matters, as does making it as intuitive as it can be. Dates are part of GTD (the 43 folders), so the date columns should be on by default, for example. And maybe built-in perspectives (on the Perspectives menu) for Coming Due and/or Starting Soon would help, too. (If not built-in, then maybe ship them as samples that we can modify or delete.) Contexts are great in some contexts, but some work simply is date-based, so we have to be able to see our actions/projects by date so we can make the resources we need available, instead of just hoping that Bob or Jane will walk into our office.

At any rate, I consider myself lucky that I am new to GTD so that I don't have to unlearn any previous software, and so that I've got time to play with OmniFocus and figure out how best to apply it to my life before I put it into production. And so I can wait for general release before I trust all my Stuff (again, ™ or not) to it.

... either through experience with OmniOutliner, Kinkless GTD or some other GTD-enabling application.
I guess the shorter version of this post would be that David Allen is still selling his book, so there will be plenty of new OmniFocus users who've never used other GTD software.
As a long time user of the alpha versions (since mid-May), I've lived with the growth of OmniFocus. There were many holes in the capabilities at the beginning. Each new release filled a gap in the feature set, and so I was eager to learn that one new feature. But over the course of those hundreds of releases, OF has grown to be quite complex. It might be helpful for new users to be able to experience that one-at-a-time exposure to the features. I anticipate that Ethan's planned video series will help with this, as will more robust documentation. Adding more canned perspectives is also a good idea. Tool tips when hovering over the View Bar buttons would also be useful.

Part of the challenge is that some users will come to OF armed with the ideas that Allen advocates, but little software expertise. Others will come with significant software expertise, but no knowledge of the GTD gospel. Still others will come with neither, but just knowing that they have things to get done. If the documentation and resources are predicated on a knowledge of GTD, then they'll miss the mark for the later two groups. It seems like the documentation should include something on the philosophy of OmniFocus and how it relates to GTD. Without that background, the projects-contexts split could be bewildering.

I would agree with Curt , I think OmniFocus has become quite complex [but I love the power ; ) and may very well be daunting to new users .

I could be wrong but I think OmniFocus has more filters, views and features than Omni Plan does , which is a very good project manager in it's own right .

Since I'm a GTD'er I really like this app, but I'm not quite sure what other " method " you could use it for ?? Franklin Covey would be hard to pull off with no priority settings and Mission Control demands a calendar . I think it's a GTD app , but that's an ever increasing user base anyway .
Well... I come to this as a form kGTD user and longtime practitioner of GTD so take my view with a grain of salt. I think OF is extremely usable and intuitive for someone who knows GTD. But if you don't know or only partially know GTD, it's probably a struggle.

A couple weeks ago I watched a demo of an app that downloads and organizes DNA info for certain types of reagents. Needless to say, I hadn't a clue how it worked or what it mean, but their users love it.

I think The Omni Group is right to focus on the GTD zealots for now, just as Apple focused on members of the Home Brew Computer Club before going to the larger market. There are many, many GTD practitioners out there who, if they love the product, will evangelize it to their friends.

Most every other GTD app I've seen to date is either incomplete, buggy (OUtlook plug-in) or a hack of one thing into another (kGTD). OF is a great leap forward from the status quo.
Originally Posted by Fulan View Post
If Omni gave the application to a naive user, and recorded their fumblings, I believe they'd see that the pulldowns are mystifying...
As a former Kinkless user, computer guru, etc., I agree 100%. As powerful as OmniFocus is, it is rather opaque to new users. I found it INCREDIBLY intimidating, and didn't even mess with the alpha versions for quite some time, since I just didn't feel like I had the energy to learn such a complex program.

For starters, OmniFocus has a very defined workflow built into it. (I have to disagree with "it's flexible enough to handle [non-GTD]" as it's extremely tightly married to GTD methodology.) This integrated workflow makes OF extremely jargon-heavy, with contexts and projects that mean VERY specific things, perspectives, review dates, two different kinds of repetition, "focusing", the view bar (which continues to convince people that they've lost data), buckets, completed vs. held vs. next vs. available, and more.

Some of its features are probably alien to novice users (quick entry, mail rules, even iCal synchronization), too. And none of this even includes the massive ability to customize the look of it, the options of folders vs. sub-projects vs. sub-contexts, etc.

So, what to do?

Well, firstly, this is without question a "power user" application, and one with a moderately steep learning curve. If you just want to check off items, you'll find lots of alternatives.

Secondly, it needs documentation, and probably two forms of documentation. A reference for all the features, and also a nice hand-holding guide through the methodology, jargon and features of OmniFocus. (Ethan's screencasts are a great step in this direction!)

Since it's in beta, documentation is pretty sparse. This will improve, as Omni has very high standards for documentation.

It also might be possible to generalize some of the jargon (OmniOutliner hardly requires you to understand outlining terms like ancestor, sibling, cousin, etc.), and I think the view bar needs some usability polish (although I couldn't begin to say how, only that it's a bit confusing). But, in the end, this program is ideal for folks who take the time to learn it. It's a very powerful tool, and the time spent getting up to speed pays off handsomely.

I'm sorry you found it so frustrating, but I hope you find some comfort in the fact that many of us found OF intimidating, but got used to it after a few days of monkeying around.
I've have also struggled with using OF as a general todo tracker. It has taken several weeks to understand that seems to be weighted around Start Dates more than Due Dates. OF doesn't seem to show you items in various sort modes unless there is a Context assigned.

Finally, the very, very strict ordering dependency on Actions in a project - regardless of Series or Parallel ordering baffles me. I simply hate having to move an item that has a Due Date from the bottom of my parallel list to the top in order to have it recognized as Next Action. Shouldn't the assigned Due Date take precedence over ordering in a Parallel project?

I'm sure all of this makes sense in the GTD world. I've ordered the book just to learn how to use this tool. That would raise a flag to me if I wasn't interested in learning what GTD proper is all about.

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