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Omnifocus 2 Projects and Contexts need to be sortable Thread Tools Search this Thread Display Modes
Hello,

Just wanting to put it on the record that the inability to sort actions in certain situations in Omnifocus 1 is a real downer and being able to do so in ANY place within Omnifocus 2 is a necessity.

And I mean custom sorting not just sorting by a predetermined set of fields.

Here's hoping.

Philip
 
That hope is probably going to go unfulfilled in OF 2.0. The place where you can't manually sort is context mode. All the sort options given to you are well-defined, and the computer can sort the data into that order every time. If you want a manual sort, that means that somehow your sort order needs to be stored, because a manual sort that doesn't persist (and doesn't get synced to other devices) isn't very useful. Unfortunately, to store and sync that information, the database format would have to be changed, and they've said that they have no intention of changing it for OF 2.0 in order to preserve sync compatibility with OF 1 and the iOS versions.
 
Yep that's the impression I have too.

I guess I will have to get used to the idea that putting contexts into the order in which you wish to do them - and after the whole idea of GTD is that you go to contexts to find the next items to do based on your current circumstances - is something that the Omnigroup doesn't think is important enough to be part of the product within several years of its existence. This is hard for me to comprehend.

Don't wish to be only negative though. The changes that are being made, especially the forecasting with the ability to selectively view dates is outstanding. Just wish that this issue could be fixed. I think that people who were mystified by Omnifocus 1 and its inflexibility will be surprised to find that contexts are still not manually sortable.

Last edited by usertech; 2013-02-13 at 07:28 PM..
 
I guess I don't find this to be a problem. If I'm in a situation where I can do things in contexts X, Y, and Z, I click on contexts X,Y, Z in the sidebar, and see only the actions from those contexts. If I need to mark some of them as having more urgency, I'll sort the view by due date, and/or use flags.
 
I think Omni very much understands that you go to the context lists to find your actions to do. They just haven't felt the need to provide you a way to manually sort the actions in a given context into an arbitrary order. The David, if I read him correctly, doesn't think you should be spending your time sorting lists, either. It's "look at your available contexts, pick the most appropriate action, do it, repeat."
 
It seems that 'The David' and his followers think that either the phone calls can be made in any order (so pick the top one if you like) or if they can't that its easy to think about which one should be made first by just looking at the items. I don't think that it always turns out that way. Read on.
Choosing which phone call to make first can be a very complex decision. Having made that complex decision the decision would in my opinion be better stored because the reasoning which led to the decision may not be able to be recalled in detail.
To give you a feeling, let's imagine a set of 4 phone calls:
1. You want to ask Bob to a party but you don't want to ask him unless you know that Jill is coming because Bob doesn't get on with your grandmother (more on her in a sec) and will need to have Jill to talk to. So you delay the call until Jill has replied.
2. You need to call up a caterer to ask for food and the amount of food you order depends on whether both Bob and Jill are coming.
3. You need to call your wife to tell her the final arrangements, including who is coming and how they (including the grandmother) are going to be getting to you.
4. You need to call up a taxi for your grandmother but she will only need one if Bob is not coming because if Bob is coming you won't need to call the taxi.

I have made these 4 phone calls off the top of my head but can you not see that real life requires some very complex sequencing decisions to be made and that the rationale that eventually governs the order can be difficult to recall? I therefore want my to do program to STORE the final decision regarding the order and I want to empty my head of the rationale that led to the sequencing decision until I decide that circumstances require it to be reexamined.
Yet a program like Omnifocus seems (and "The David"?) seem to fail to recognise that there are times when it's not so much about WHAT needs to be done (the tasks may be small and similar - all phone calls for example) but rather in WHAT ORDER to do things so that unnecessary complication (and even embarrassment - what if Jill doesn't come but you asked Bob before you knew? - awkward!) occurs.
To me this is the battle and challenge of my day. A to do program should help me to not only not drop the ball on areas of responsibility or aspiration (by having an effective review process) but also help me to carefully distill the results of decisions made relating to the SEQUENCE of various actions.

The situations can be much more complex than the one described above. What if the phone calls are to different time zones or what if you only have Bob's work number and his work day is about to end? Do I need to provide more real life complexity or are you getting it?

If I have failed to explain the need to STORE complex sequencing decisions when it comes to a phone call context, what about a project that might be in Omnifocus' own copy of Omnifocus - called "Releasing Omnifocus 2"? Surely making correct sequencing decisions in how to write the code for this new version would be the difference between agony and smooth workflow? And surely the final decided sequence would be so detailed and complex (like many life projects) that the sequence would be difficult to recall.
Of course the example above is really a project called "Dinner Party" and such a project is already sortable within Omnifocus. But if I had included a second complex project in my example there would have been a need to ensure that when completing actions within a phone context that the order of the items completed be as crucial as the one I have described above and therefore that the phone context need its own sorting.

Last edited by usertech; 2013-02-13 at 11:14 PM..
 
Sounds like you need another tool such as OmniPlan to handle complex projects with various contingencies, GANTT charts, decision flow charts, alternative paths, complicated dependencies, etc.

I don't recall many task managers that would have this kind of complexity. I don't see Things, Hit List, or Asana with projects capable of having variable branches. Maybe this will appear in the next generation of task managers. Someone will have to find a user-interface that can help streamline this. It may not be as easy as it may sound to create this type of feature.

Most of the time, we'll use a hammer. But sometimes, we'll need to break out the sledgehammer. Each tool has it particular role.

As much as I'd love OmniFocus to do all my thinking for me or plan my events, I don't think OmniFocus or any of the competitor's offerings will have that feature to help me foresee any and/or all possibilities.


I think that we can create a general outline or project of what actions need to be done. It is the list of actions and events that can be foreseen. I put notes and comments inside each task. I can always read the notes about the task I am about to perform. Then when i check off the task, I can re-arrange, delete or add tasks to my project based on the best information that I have available. my project is not set in stone. Adjust on the fly as needed.

And even if we were to have such a feature to handle complex decisions and projects, there will always be something called Life that will throw a monkey wrench into all of your perfectly laid plans. We won't be able to foresee every contingency.



As my favorite teacher once said "Humans can build an idiot-proof system but God will make a better idiot."

Last edited by wilsonng; 2013-02-14 at 12:19 AM..
 
In case I wasn't clear, I am arguing that, due to the complex issues associated with ordering actions, that we should be able to store the decisions we make about the order in which they should be done. I am not arguing that actions automatically change their order based on contingencies that you indicate to the software have happened. That would indeed be a level of complexity which I believe is certainly not wanted in a personal task manager.

I can see that mentioning the example of the project to complete the current version of Omnifocus was not helpful to my argument because it is really a project management task. But organising a dinner party is not.

Last edited by usertech; 2013-02-14 at 03:01 AM..
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by usertech View Post
It seems that 'The David' and his followers think that either the phone calls can be made in any order (so pick the top one if you like) or if they can't that its easy to think about which one should be made first by just looking at the items. I don't think that it always turns out that way. Read on.
Choosing which phone call to make first can be a very complex decision. Having made that complex decision the decision would in my opinion be better stored because the reasoning which led to the decision may not be able to be recalled in detail.
To give you a feeling, let's imagine a set of 4 phone calls:
1. You want to ask Bob to a party but you don't want to ask him unless you know that Jill is coming because Bob doesn't get on with your grandmother (more on her in a sec) and will need to have Jill to talk to. So you delay the call until Jill has replied.
2. You need to call up a caterer to ask for food and the amount of food you order depends on whether both Bob and Jill are coming.
3. You need to call your wife to tell her the final arrangements, including who is coming and how they (including the grandmother) are going to be getting to you.
4. You need to call up a taxi for your grandmother but she will only need one if Bob is not coming because if Bob is coming you won't need to call the taxi.
Project: Plan Party, type=sequential.

- Get attendance response from Jill.
- Invite Bob depending on Jill's response.
- Get attendance response from Bob.
- Finalize arrangments (action group, type=parallel)
-- Order food with caterer
-- Transportation (action group, type=sequential)
--- Call taxi for grandmother if necessary
--- Call wife to report party details

Limit context view to available actions.
 
The logic is stored in the project and should not draw your attention while working out of context mode. Catrijin gives a nice example. Most of those actions can have a context of Phone but "get attendance response from Jill" has a context of Waiting For. The phone context will only have the next available phone call you can make, or none if Jill has not responded, so you shouldn't have to be sorting in Context mode.
 
 


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