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Minimizing OmniFocus for iPhone's startup & sync time Thread Tools Search this Thread Display Modes
Combining a couple of pieces of information from previous posts into (hopefully) one easy-to-find location.

We occasionally hear from folks that are patiently (or not-so-patiently) waiting through startup or sync times on the iPhone app that are way longer than they need to be. Please accept our apologies for that; our intent is absolutely not to have that be the case.

At the time of this writing, I have just under 900 actions in my database; the phone app takes about five seconds to start up, and 20-30 seconds to sync with Apple's iDisk server. (I have a 1st generation iPhone, so I'm using EDGE.)

If you're regularly seeing substantially longer start/sync times, please try the tips below, and/or contact us so we can help. We're available at or by calling 1-800-315-6664. The tips here have helped a lot of customers; when they don't help, we're pretty successful at getting people back up and running via phone or email.

Again, we're really sorry for any frustration this has caused. Every time we can narrow down a problem that makes sync slow, we fix any problem in the code and ship it as soon as we can. We also try to post here on the forums to explain the best ways for everyone to make their syncs as fast as possible, if it's not something that a code fix will address.

In the cases where the ninjas are truly stumped, it means that we're working on a problem we haven't seen before. Gathering information about the problem means the dev team can work on fixing it so everyone can benefit from that fix in our next release.

We really wish folks didn't need to take the time to contact the support ninjas to accomplish that, but it really is the quickest and best way to get this taken care of. Thanks for the help.

Last edited by Brian; 2009-12-16 at 02:10 PM.. Reason: add contact info if folks want direct help
Pick one of your Macs, then use the "Archive Old Data..." command (it's under the File menu) on that machine once a month or so. I use a repeating action in OF to remind me to do this.

Archiving old data will move actions you completed before a date you specify into a separate non-syncing database on that Mac. This shrinks the database on your phone, which can in turn make for faster syncs.

If you've never used this command, every action you've ever completed is still in your database and being synced to your phone.

Last edited by Brian; 2009-05-12 at 01:15 PM.. Reason: add info on where the command lives, correct typo.
The single biggest thing that folks can do to speed up their syncs is make sure that all of their devices are syncing regularly - like once a week or so.

On one of your Macs, open up OmniFocus's sync preferences and press the "Show Clients" button. OmniFocus has kept all the individual changes you've made to your database since the oldest date you see in the "Latest Sync" column.

If the oldest date is very far in the past, you've likely got hundreds of transaction files built up, which can slow things down, especially on the phone. The iPhone is an amazing device, but even the faster phones Apple released recently are about 1/1000th as fast as a low-end desktop machine.

(Note: there should be exactly 1 entry for each Mac, iPhone, or iPod you're syncing - if you see duplicate entries for any of your devices, delete the least-recently-synced entry.)

In any case, if you unregister any machines you're not actually syncing any more, then make sure the remaining devices have all synced, you should start seeing faster syncs about an hour later. (For technical reasons, we keep the transactions around for an hour, then compact during a subsequent sync.)

I hear some folks saying "But I have a machine I only use once a month, but I need that machine! I don't want to un-register it!" You're welcome to do what works best for you, of course; just understand that all the other devices are going to sync more slowly when that device is that far out of sync.

What's worked well for us is to unregister the machines that are used occasionally when they drop out of sync, but make sure that a copy of the email that the "Send Settings" button in OmniFocus for Mac's Sync preferences generates is saved there. When you switch to that machine, click the link in that email; OmniFocus will sync back up and you're good to go.

This gives you fast syncs and the smallest possible database on your phone with a minimum of disruption to your workflow.

Last edited by Brian; 2009-12-16 at 02:11 PM.. Reason: correct typo
If you're syncing OmniFocus frequently on your various machines, but the Settings screen in your iPhone app is still telling you you have lots of zip files, you'll want to do the following.

On one of your Macs, open the Sync pane of OmniFocus' Preferences. Press the "Show Clients" button. You'll see a sheet slide out, listing the devices that your sync server knows about, as well as the most recent sync date for each of the devices.

Each device you're syncing should have exactly 1 entry in the list; if you see any duplicates, you'll want to delete the entry with the earlier "Last Synced" date. Additionally, you'll want to remove any entries for any Macs, iPhones, or iPod Touches that you're no longer syncing. (A device you've given away or sold, for example, may still have an entry in the list.)

Once you've removed any duplicates or stale entries, close the sheet and sync your Mac. Wait an hour, and sync the Mac again. If you sync your iPhone at this point, the database should have fewer zip files. (The one-hour wait is required to force OmniFocus to compact your database during the second sync.)

Last edited by derekr; 2012-02-13 at 08:16 AM.. Reason: OmniFocus for iPhone no longer has a setting for manual-only syncing.
A couple of releases back, we made the "new inbox item" button active even while we're loading the database. You don't need for that process to finish to enter something into OmniFocus.

I often use that to jot down something quickly. Bring app up, tap button, enter item. Since we haven't loaded the database, I can't assign a project or context, but if I capture the task title, I won't forget the action; that's the most important part.

Last edited by Brian; 2009-04-30 at 08:35 AM..
If none of the above tips get your database loading time down, the next thing to look at is how heavily you've been making use of the Clippings and Attachments features.

The database on your phone is the same as the database on your Mac, but the device you're using to process that data is much slower and has a lot less memory.

Any attached images, documents, or files included in the database on the Mac probably won't cause any delay there, but may very well do so on the phone. The file attachments may be a few big files (PDFs, pictures, or documents) or it could be a large number of small files (a couple hundred clipped emails with a graphic attachment that duplicates someone's signature).

Note: OmniFocus for Mac 1.7 added a new "Attachment List" item under the Window menu which can be useful here. It'll show you all the attachments in your database, when they were added, and how large they are. It'll also let you delete attachments you don't really need from the database. This reduces the size of the database being synced to the phone.

If the previous steps don't help enough, there's one more thing that can help.

Note: to avoid the possibility of losing data, you want to fully sync your devices before trying this!
  1. Open OmniFocus' Sync Preferences on one of your Macs. (All your devices are up to date, right?)
  2. Press the "Show Clients" button. A new sheet appears.
  3. You'll see a list in the middle of the new sheet: select each item, then press the Unregister button. Keep doing so until the list is completely empty; you even want to unregister the Mac you're doing this from.
  4. Once the clients list is empty, close the sheet.
  5. Finally, press the Sync Now button.

When you press the button, OmniFocus will compact your database as much as possible, then send the smallest possible database up to your server.

The next time you sync your other devices, they may ask if you want to use the Server database or their own. You want to say "Server" in all cases - this is why it's important to fully sync your devices before starting this process. You're setting aside the larger database on the device and using the smaller one on the server instead.

If at this point you still suspect that this issue is hurting performance on the iPhone, send an email to the support ninjas and we can help.

Last edited by Brian; 2010-09-08 at 12:11 PM.. Reason: Add info on the "unregister everything and re-sync" process.
Great tips!

Quick question: I never realized Clipping would affect synchronization time. Is it not just a link (like, text)?

Just curious - thanks!
If you select specific text and clip it, we only clip that text. If you use the clip-o-tron, everything in the message, including any attachments, is embedded into the database.

So, if you clip a database with a half-meg of attachments or something, that's going to be a relatively hefty sync operation. If you clip an email with a 20 MB PDF and sync over EDGE... :-)
Moved subsequent posts to another thread in order to keep this one as focused as possible.
Shouldn't this thread be a sticky?

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