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I've been reading a bunch of comparisons between OF, Things, and Hit List. Everyone seems to agree that OF is the most powerful of the three, but also the most cumbersome and, well, least "shiny." It definitely takes a lot of time to figure out all the things you can do with OF, and to figure out how to fit those features into your workflow. Once you've got that figured out, it's pretty hard to beat OF. But I wonder if there is something that can be done to make this process less tedious? It seems a pretty big hurdle to ask people to spend a few hours "getting used to" a program before they understand how beneficial it is for them.

I'm not sure how much you can "dumb down" such powerful software; it is possible that the complexity necessarily increases with the number of features. But I figured this might be a good place to start throwing around ideas for how to simplify the UI to make it more intuitive, and most importantly, to make it *enjoyable* to use. As The David says, "the system needs to be fun and easy... otherwise you'll unconsciously resist emptying your inbasket."

I must admit that although I very much rely on OF to keep my life under control, I don't exactly get excited about using it. It would be great if we could change that!
 
@erasure I'm wondering how much time you've spent using another GTD or task management application. Though I'm a new user of OF for just a month, I do get exceited about using it and all its features. I used another web-based GTD heavily (120+ projects and over 2,100 tasks) for an entire year and after reading and drooling over OF's features finally bought a Macbook and OF just so I could use OF at work. Its been pure heaven since then for lots of reasons, not the least of which is that I own the data locally and have no more monthly fees to pay. Of course the 30 or so hours converting from one app to another was arduous, but it helped me learn many of the shortcuts in the application quickly. The iPhone app is incredible compared to the competition. My thoughts anyway, John
 
I don't think it needs to be dumb down but just better laid out. It has some powerfull stuff, it just not easy to see it.
That's why Microsoft change the UI for Office 2007 to the ribbion. People kept asking for features that Office already had. So they needed to rethink the UI.
I'm not saying the UI for OF is great but it's far from terrible. I'll be honest I don't see OF needing so much a big UI change but more shiny, honestly. Alot of the tools are kinda clear.
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by erasure View Post
Everyone seems to agree that OF is the most powerful of the three, but also the most cumbersome and, well, least "shiny."
I agree that OmniFocus is more powerful and deeper than the competition. Because of that, you can spend more time "exploring." But you don't have to dig very deep to get significant benefit from the app. I was up and running with everything I needed to know in a couple days.

I haven't tried Hit List, but I've personally found Things far more cumbersome, especially when trying to manage over 2,200 actions and 180 projects. It was a mess.

But I'm sure there's room for improvement in OmniFocus. This has been discussed ad nauseam over the past year or two. And it's not a simple matter coming up with sweeping improvements to satisfy everyone. Take a look back through the archives to see what I mean.

What we have now is pretty damn good, IMHO. And the Omni Group has already stated that they plan to focus on a UI overhaul sometime in the near future. I'm not sure what that entails or if it'll come before a 2.0 release or if it will be targeted at Leopard only. I'm just not sure we need to hash this over again unless someone has something new to contribute.

-Dennis
 
Maybe the OmniFolks would be able to create pre-made templates that showed users how flexible it is?


I think it takes time for people to find their own personal setup... How would they like to set up their folders and projects? Maybe they'll use the Horizons of Focus (from the Runway to 50,000 feet). Maybe they'll set it up by Areas of Responsibilities (Family, Work, Professional Development, etc.). Or any number of set ups. I know I always find it interesting to see how some folks have set up their OF setup or even how they tweaked their iPhones. Whenever I meet someone new who happens to have any iPhone, we often compare different apps, different setups to see what we can learn from each other. I read the forums quite a bit to get ideas on how people have their OF setup.

So maybe providing some templates will give us an idea. I know that I will occassionally tweak something here or there in my OF setup that will make life easier for me....

I think I remembered that Things has an "Areas of Responsibility" frozen into their UI. That's an example of how some people like to use it. Some folks don't even use "Areas of Responsibility." Some do.
 
Speaking of the UI, reminded me of a question I meant to ask. Is there any way to sync perspectives across different machines? I use OF on my iMac at home and Macbook at work, and I would like to keep the same custom perspectives on each. Is there a way to save them with the db? John
 
There isn't a built-in mechanism to sync perspectives (or themes), but they implemented the feature in a way that makes it relatively easy to do it yourself. In your home directory, in the Library/Application Support/OmniFocus directory, you'll find a directory called Perspectives (and a corresponding one called Themes) that contains a file for each perspective (or theme) you have defined. You can simply copy those files to your other machine(s) with a USB thumb drive, Dropbox, MobileMe, or whatever preferred means you have for moving files from one machine to another. I think you might have to restart OmniFocus after installing or updating one to get the new version noticed.

There have been past requests for an automated sync facility of some sort to propagate such changes. If you want to add your voice to the chorus, use Help->Send Feedback or email omnifocus@omnigroup.com to request it.
 
Thanks for all the comments.

I have not spent extensive time using other apps (although I did use Mori and iGTD for a while) because I very quickly discover that they do not do what I need them to do.

I have been using OF since it was in beta, so maybe some of the shiny-ness has simply worn off for me.

Dennis, I did a quick search in the forums for UI discussions and came up empty. I'd love to look at some of what's been discussed in the past if you know where some of those threads are.

Templates might help. And, actually, I think Ethan Schoonover and Don MacAllister's videos are probably good starting points.

I guess I was just a little disheartened to see so many people turning away from OF because they thought it was too complicated. But after going back and looking at those reviews again, I think ultimately OF is for a different audience than apps like Things. A lot of the "fiddly" features in OF allow for a level of control that really appeals to some people, while completely overwhelming other people. I'm probably somewhere in between; I never use the "estimated time" field and the only time I touch the inspector window is when I'm setting something to repeat.

But I do think there is some truth to the statement "If OmniFocus were a Microsoft product, Things would be the Apple equivalent. Itís simple, itís easy to use, and itís pretty to look at." If you look at the two GUIs, Things is clearly the more streamlined and "pretty" application. And there are lots of little things that are less intuitive in OF, like cmd-N opening a new window rather than a new task (why?), or having to grab the little dot in front of an item in order to move it around. I think I would rather double-click to edit an item, and leave single click for grabbing and moving. And the only reason I know about grabbing the dot is because it was listed as a change in one of the beta releases. Not intuitive.

This is exactly the type of thing that Macs typically do better than Windows: Fewer and more intuitive steps to an action. I think erifneerg might have hit it on the head ó it's not extremely difficult to use, but it could use some sprucing up to make it pretty again and to clean up and simplify some of the things that have been added along the way. Here's hoping the upcoming overhaul will take care of that!
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by erasure View Post
But I do think there is some truth to the statement "If OmniFocus were a Microsoft product, Things would be the Apple equivalent. Itís simple, itís easy to use, and itís pretty to look at."
I think a better analogy would be: Things is to OmniFocus as GarageBand is to Logic Pro or iMovie is to Final Cut Pro.

On one hand, you've got a consumer-oriented app that's simple and "pretty" but lacks functionality. And on the other hand, you have a more sophisticated, pro-level app that is more robust and feature-rich but at the cost of greater complexity.

Both apps are well-designed, but they're targeted at different audiences. Some find a simpler app suffices, while others need something with more power.


Quote:
Originally Posted by erasure View Post
And there are lots of little things that are less intuitive in OF, like cmd-N opening a new window rather than a new task (why?)...
I don't agree at all. Using the Return key to create new items feels far more intuitive and perfectly natural. Leave the Command-N finger contortion for a less-frequently-used command like opening new windows.

Using OmniFocus feels almost like editing lines in a text document, like using your favorite word processor or text editor. It has all of the advantages of a database system under the hood but without the cumbersome, traditional database interface (i.e. having to create new records with Command-N, having to double-clicking fields for editing, inability to move the editing cursor directly between records, inability to delete lines with a simple backspace, etc). This is a huge selling point for OmniFocus.

Quote:
Originally Posted by erasure View Post
...or having to grab the little dot in front of an item in order to move it around. I think I would rather double-click to edit an item, and leave single click for grabbing and moving. And the only reason I know about grabbing the dot is because it was listed as a change in one of the beta releases. Not intuitive.
Double-clicking an item to edit brings us right back to that awkward database or file system style interface that's so slow and inefficient. You need to think of your OmniFocus window as a simple text file.

And you don't need to grab the dot to drag rows -- just click anywhere on the row and drag. The dot (a.k.a "row handle") is a covenient way to grab the row, but it's not the only way. BTW, you can also use Control-Command-up/down arrow to move selected rows.

-Dennis
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Toadling View Post
I think a better analogy would be: Things is to OmniFocus as GarageBand is to Logic Pro or iMovie is to Final Cut Pro.
Thanks, that's a big relief, Dennis! I was starting to feel really bad about liking a Microsoft application so much :-)
 
 


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