omnifocus for iphone: early impressions

July 14, 2008

The arrival of iPhone 2.0 has changed how I use my iPhone more than I imagined it would. But I did anticipate one thing correctly: OmniFocus for iPhone has tripled the usefulness of OmniFocus for me.

Some have been unhappy that OmniFocus is charging $20, but I gladly paid it. And after a few days of use, I can see that it will be the best $20 I spent in the app store. (Don’t even get me started on Super Monkey Ball!) Here are a few impressions, positive and negative:

  • The most important feature for me is two way syncing which has worked like a champ. It does require the beta of OmniFocus 1.1 on your Mac, but after I installed that, I had no problems with syncing via MobileMe. The first day or so, it was painfully slow to update on my iPhone. But after archiving my old data in OmniFocus, it works great. I wish it were a little faster, but I assume that is going to be one of the limitations of using the Edge network.
  • Assigning a location to a context has a lot of potential. My Home context has my home address assigned, and the same could be done for work, errands, or any other. The locations do not need to be specific. Just to give it a test, I assigned one of my contexts with a location of movie theater. The location button showed me the nearest movie theater where the tasks could be completed. I’m realizing I will need to rethink some of my contexts to better use this feature. I will need to find the balance between making them more specific without overloading myself on contexts.
  • Due dates (and start dates) can be a little quirky. I don’t use times for my due dates, only days. By default, everything on my Mac has a default time of midnight, which means I basically only need to think in terms of days. On the iPhone, however, the due and start dates default to the current time of day when added, so some items due today might show as due soon if that time hasn’t passed yet, while others might show as overdue. I would prefer to have the ability to disable the times, or to have them default to midnight like the desktop version.
  • My biggest gripe right now is with the action view. When looking at a context, there is no way to sort by due date, or by anything, it seems. Any context that has a lot of items in it will require you to scroll up and down to see what is on the list. It’s not very Focused. But, on the brightside, it has motivated me to hammer a way at a few tasks to shorten those lists down.)

One of the downsides of the way the App Store is setup is that there is no way to test a program before buying. I hope these impressions can help others make a decision whether or not it is worthwhile for them. OmniGroup has posted a video preview which will give you a chance to see the program in action.

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