Tuesday , April 23 2024
Omnifocus for the iPad...a powerful and amazingly useful productivity tool.

Product Review: Omnifocus for the iPad by The Omni Group

For most of my life I have been able to do without anything having to do with “schedules,” “project timelines,” or “to-do lists.” To be quite honest I wish I could say that I have never and will never, but unfortunately as you gain proficiency in your 9-to-5 world, the things you are asked to do on a daily basis become more frequent and more urgent.

Even more so if your 9-to-5 life revolves around daily deadlines that aren’t arbitrary but are stamped in black and white as the press rolls out thousands of copies of a daily paper, as does mine.

Eventually, after attempting to tread water in the ever growing ocean of my daily tasks, I found myself looking for a lifeline. Hearing my simple cry for help, a kind soul offered up the name Omnifocus as a possible solution to my woes. Omnifocus is a program designed to, well, help you focus on everything. It’s built on the principles of David Allen’s “Getting Things Done” productivity ideal where you collect and process everything you need or want to do – whether work or personal – into one location where you regularly check and process each scrap of information and task into “Projects” that must be done and the “Actions” that are required to bring the project to completion. Omnifocus sets itself up to be the location you should choose if you want to leave pen and paper behind and use a bit of technology to help you “Get Things Done.”

Even though the price tag of $40 for the iPad version of the application made my wallet quiver, the jump was made and the software was front and center on my device and in my life. Up front I can tell you that I am glad that this is so, as even the minimum amount of use and proficiency I have achieved through using it has greatly reduced my worry about whether or not I will miss something that needs to get done.

Omnifocus has one of the cleanest interfaces of any sort of “productivity” application that you will ever see. If you want to do nothing more than install the software and begin to work straightaway by keeping track of basic jobs that must be done, it’s going to surprise you by how perfect it is at doing just that. If you are a person who needs to tinker with things on an OCD level and want to have Omnifocus help you track your projects across a blinding array of possible filters and formulas…it’s not only going to let you do that but it’s going to dare you to think of more and more ways to collate the information you plug into it…and it’s going to do this all without breaking a sweat.

It’s a beautiful thing. It’s simple and it’s frustratingly complex all at the same time.

Until I have another 900 hours to dive deep into all of those customization options, however, I keep my own settings sweet and simple. Omnifocus allow me to bridge the divide between work and home and all of the various things I need to get done between them. I create individual “projects” where I list out the steps I need to take, attach any materials/notes that will help me along the way, and tag them by context so that I can easily see “what” is for “when” and “where.”

At the moment it’s kept me straight on what goes where as I’m working on two magazine covers, a full layout on a health and wellness special section, tracking every individual ad that runs in multiple magazines and their state of preparedness, keeping track of each individual page as it is either exported to the printer or emailed to an outside printing firm, tracking progress on a grocery store circular for the approaching holiday, converting our monthly magazine into an online flipbook that…well, I’m sure you get the picture.

The fact that I know what the key things are in my workload, and I know their immediacy and (with a quick check of my materials) what shape each is in as regards to their completion is a lifesaver and is why i wholeheartedly think that Omnifocus has more than lived up to what I hoped to achieve with its help.

Gone are my hesitations over pricing and in their place is a sense of gratitude and a willingness to let everyone know that if you are looking for a way to bring an ever increasing work and responsibility load into focus…you could search for quite a while to find anything even close to the answer that Omnifocus was for me in that situation.

Omnifocus is also available as a desktop application as well as mobile applications for the iPhone. It also provides, via a proprietary sync option, access to their OmniSync server that allows you to tie your information all together and have everything at your fingertips as needed. One caveat to the entire system is that it is based to run in an Apple world…all of it. The desktop, mobile phone, and ipad apps are all geared towards running on apple’s OS and (as of yet) there doesn’t seem to be any plan to cross-platform it over to Windows.

Also, at $40 for the iPad, $75 for the desktop, and $20 for the iPhone version, to get the entire experience on all three fronts can be a bit expensive. I have found, though, that just the one platform has worked for me and I do not feel that I have limited myself by foregoing the other two. In time I may buck up and pay the price for the desktop application but for now the iPad is perfectly fine, as I can take it with me wherever my workload demands.

I would give Omnifocus for the iPad an 8/10. I would give Omnifocus in general a 5/10 as the price and the necessity for buying one thing three times might be a bit much, but that 5/10 is just based on economic stubborness. Seeing it all in motion on all fronts might override those concerns and match the 8/10 of the mobile platform I bought and have been using.

Omnifocus for the iPad is available on iTunes as well as through the product website.

About Michael Jones

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