OmniFocus iPhone Review

Omni Iphone.png

This week I’m going to look at the OmniFocus iPhone application. Unless you fit in that narrow wedge of a Venn diagram including both iPhone owners and OmniFocus geeks, these comments will have absolutely no interest to you. So there you have it. You’ve been warned.

Since the first day I took my iPhone of the box a year ago, I’ve been waiting for iPhone OmniFocus to arrive. It was, and remains to be, remarkable to me that Apple still hasn’t created a native to-do list management system for the iPhone.

Well, with the opening of the applications store, and my willingness to part with $20, my wish has finally come true. I have OmniFocus on my iPhone. I have now been using it a few weeks and thought I’d share some of my initial impressions.

The most impressive feature of the iPhone OmniFocus application is the robust synchronization accomplished without use of a cute little white cord. That’s right, you can synchronize your task list database wirelessly. In order to perform this bit of black magic, you need to upgrade your OmniFocus license on your Mac to the sneaky peek 1.1 version. (You can read my MacOmniFocus Review here.) I know most sane people avoid beta software (I frequently install it with reckless abandon), but in this case it is well worth the trouble. The Mac version of OmniFocus 1.1 allows you to sync your data through your MobileMe or other Webdav account. Once you have trained your Mac application to put your data into your MobileMe account, your iPhone will look at the cloud version and update itself. No cord required.

The synchronization process isn’t perfect. It takes longer than a wired-based synchronization. Also, sometimes it runs into snags. In that case, OmniFocus will ask you whether it wants you to use the server or local version. The bottom line is that if you’re going to do this, you need to respect the syncing gods. There are couple ways to do this. First, you tell your Mac software to backup your data every time you close OmniFocus. That way, you have numerous backups of your OmniFocus data in case the gods become angry. Second, don’t tell everything to sync at once. Technically this is possible, but its really like when the Ghostbusters crossed the streams. Very bad things could happen.

With these precautions in place, syncing is great. The Omni people get a MacSparky thumbs up for the sheer moxy to pull it off. I am certain this process will get even easier and better over time but it is entirely workable right now so long as you take a few precautions.

OF iphone 1.png

So once I have the data on my iPhone, what do I do with it? This is where the current version of the OmniFocus iPhone software comes up a little short. The application allows you to manipulate the data in your iPhone and make changes to your tasks. Making changes is quite often, however, awkward. For instance, moving the start date on the iPhone requires several button taps and scroll wheels. Strangely, the process of changing the date also changes the start time and requires more steps to set right. Put simply, the interface needs work. The Omni engineers have to figure a way to make data manipulation just as easy on the iPhone as it is on the Mac without benefit of a mouse and keyboard. I don’t envy them. I think what they have is a good start. I hope they continue to refine it. I suspect they will.

OF iphone 2.png

The flashiest feature is the location aware function. OmniFocus on your iPhone can look where you’re at and provide you tasks available for nearby locations. This even works on 1st generation iPhones such as mine. For instance, when you are in front of a market, it can give you your grocery list. A lot of people are excited about this function. I get that this is really tricky, but I’ve yet to really find a use for it. When I want to buy my groceries, I go to the market. I don’t need my phone to tell me. Maybe as I use this more, I’ll find a better use for it. If anybody’s got any ideas, e-mail me. I’d love to hear them.

of location aware.png

So despite my gripes about the user interface, I have to say I can’t imagine living without OmniFocus on my iPhone now that I’ve had it a few weeks. Every morning, after I get my daily tasks set up, I sync everything to my iPhone and it is very satisfying knowing that I have that list in my pocket at all times. I can check items off and, with a little work, adjust them on my iPhone and it will integrate with my database on my Mac. I’m convinced this will become even more useful as the Omni gang continues to polish and enhance the application.

At $20, this is one of the more expensive iPhone applications. However, if you’ve made it this far in the review, you probably are an OmniFocus nerd so stop kidding yourself and just go buy it.

15 Comments OmniFocus iPhone Review

  1. posteanonyme@gmail.com

    Monsieur Sparky,

    Greatly enjoyed your review. Like you I am OmniFocus nerd and as soon as the iPhone version was available, I did not hesitate to download it. I have the following comments for you and the very hard working folks at OmniFocus (who have been doing almost daily updates to the desktop software and have released the first iPhone update):

    Like many people, my work is subject to a Windows environment. Prior to the release of the iPhone version of OmniFocus, I was using a MacBook Air to keep my tasks up to date. With the introduction of the iPhone version, I find that I am doing my updates to iPhone and having the sync thing happen. Although this is not instantaneous, on the whole, I have been very impressed with the quality of the sync. In fact, had: (i) the iPhone been available in Canada; (ii) OmniFocus iPhone been available – I may have passed on the Air (or not – it is just such a great piece of engineering).

    The location aspect of the software is very cool. However, because I am in Canada (a.k.a., the Great White North), this is not really an important feature for me.

    One aspect in the iPhone version that I find interesting is that it allows me to dictate as well as append a picture. Cool – but where does this end up on my desktop application? To date, I have not been able to see where this stuff is transferred to on Omnifocus; hopefully, I am missing something obvious (and it would not be the first time!).

    The addition of an action item on iPhone allows to specify the exact time that you will do something. Cool – but is this really necessary to have it to the minute – half hour would be fine (I hope my life never becomes a minute by minute thing – life is too short).

    When you add an activity to Omnifocus using the iPhone application, it does not appear possible to add a new context. The software intimates that you can; but, I have not seen it happen – maybe I am doing something wrong?

    Perhaps the initial iPhone version should just allow you to add to your inbox where you do your processing when you get to your main machine. This is not the ideal, but likely gets you 80% of where you want to be (the old 80/20 rule).

    Bottom line: Omnifocus for iPhone is a 1.5 application – looking forward to the update. Hopefully, it will be possible for the folks at OmniFocus to offer a bundled deal where folks that decide to use this software can acquire the desktop + iPphone version for a bundled price. Perhaps this can be accomplished by offering a promo code to those that purchase such that when they download the iPhone version, they do not have an additional amount to pay. Hopefully, this will be a feature in the Applications store in version 2.1 …

    Reply
  2. posteanonyme@gmail.com

    Monsieur Sparky,

    Greatly enjoyed your review. Like you I am OmniFocus nerd and as soon as the iPhone version was available, I did not hesitate to download it. I have the following comments for you and the very hard working folks at OmniFocus (who have been doing almost daily updates to the desktop software and have released the first iPhone update):

    Like many people, my work is subject to a Windows environment. Prior to the release of the iPhone version of OmniFocus, I was using a MacBook Air to keep my tasks up to date. With the introduction of the iPhone version, I find that I am doing my updates to iPhone and having the sync thing happen. Although this is not instantaneous, on the whole, I have been very impressed with the quality of the sync. In fact, had: (i) the iPhone been available in Canada; (ii) OmniFocus iPhone been available – I may have passed on the Air (or not – it is just such a great piece of engineering).

    The location aspect of the software is very cool. However, because I am in Canada (a.k.a., the Great White North), this is not really an important feature for me.

    One aspect in the iPhone version that I find interesting is that it allows me to dictate as well as append a picture. Cool – but where does this end up on my desktop application? To date, I have not been able to see where this stuff is transferred to on Omnifocus; hopefully, I am missing something obvious (and it would not be the first time!).

    The addition of an action item on iPhone allows to specify the exact time that you will do something. Cool – but is this really necessary to have it to the minute – half hour would be fine (I hope my life never becomes a minute by minute thing – life is too short).

    When you add an activity to Omnifocus using the iPhone application, it does not appear possible to add a new context. The software intimates that you can; but, I have not seen it happen – maybe I am doing something wrong?

    Perhaps the initial iPhone version should just allow you to add to your inbox where you do your processing when you get to your main machine. This is not the ideal, but likely gets you 80% of where you want to be (the old 80/20 rule).

    Bottom line: Omnifocus for iPhone is a 1.5 application – looking forward to the update. Hopefully, it will be possible for the folks at OmniFocus to offer a bundled deal where folks that decide to use this software can acquire the desktop + iPphone version for a bundled price. Perhaps this can be accomplished by offering a promo code to those that purchase such that when they download the iPhone version, they do not have an additional amount to pay. Hopefully, this will be a feature in the Applications store in version 2.1 …

    Reply
  3. posteanonyme@gmail.com

    Monsieur Sparky,

    Greatly enjoyed your review. Like you I am OmniFocus nerd and as soon as the iPhone version was available, I did not hesitate to download it. I have the following comments for you and the very hard working folks at OmniFocus (who have been doing almost daily updates to the desktop software and have released the first iPhone update):

    Like many people, my work is subject to a Windows environment. Prior to the release of the iPhone version of OmniFocus, I was using a MacBook Air to keep my tasks up to date. With the introduction of the iPhone version, I find that I am doing my updates to iPhone and having the sync thing happen. Although this is not instantaneous, on the whole, I have been very impressed with the quality of the sync. In fact, had: (i) the iPhone been available in Canada; (ii) OmniFocus iPhone been available – I may have passed on the Air (or not – it is just such a great piece of engineering).

    The location aspect of the software is very cool. However, because I am in Canada (a.k.a., the Great White North), this is not really an important feature for me.

    One aspect in the iPhone version that I find interesting is that it allows me to dictate as well as append a picture. Cool – but where does this end up on my desktop application? To date, I have not been able to see where this stuff is transferred to on Omnifocus; hopefully, I am missing something obvious (and it would not be the first time!).

    The addition of an action item on iPhone allows to specify the exact time that you will do something. Cool – but is this really necessary to have it to the minute – half hour would be fine (I hope my life never becomes a minute by minute thing – life is too short).

    When you add an activity to Omnifocus using the iPhone application, it does not appear possible to add a new context. The software intimates that you can; but, I have not seen it happen – maybe I am doing something wrong?

    Perhaps the initial iPhone version should just allow you to add to your inbox where you do your processing when you get to your main machine. This is not the ideal, but likely gets you 80% of where you want to be (the old 80/20 rule).

    Bottom line: Omnifocus for iPhone is a 1.5 application – looking forward to the update. Hopefully, it will be possible for the folks at OmniFocus to offer a bundled deal where folks that decide to use this software can acquire the desktop + iPphone version for a bundled price. Perhaps this can be accomplished by offering a promo code to those that purchase such that when they download the iPhone version, they do not have an additional amount to pay. Hopefully, this will be a feature in the Applications store in version 2.1 …

    Reply
  4. posteanonyme@gmail.com

    Monsieur Sparky,

    Greatly enjoyed your review. Like you I am OmniFocus nerd and as soon as the iPhone version was available, I did not hesitate to download it. I have the following comments for you and the very hard working folks at OmniFocus (who have been doing almost daily updates to the desktop software and have released the first iPhone update):

    Like many people, my work is subject to a Windows environment. Prior to the release of the iPhone version of OmniFocus, I was using a MacBook Air to keep my tasks up to date. With the introduction of the iPhone version, I find that I am doing my updates to iPhone and having the sync thing happen. Although this is not instantaneous, on the whole, I have been very impressed with the quality of the sync. In fact, had: (i) the iPhone been available in Canada; (ii) OmniFocus iPhone been available – I may have passed on the Air (or not – it is just such a great piece of engineering).

    The location aspect of the software is very cool. However, because I am in Canada (a.k.a., the Great White North), this is not really an important feature for me.

    One aspect in the iPhone version that I find interesting is that it allows me to dictate as well as append a picture. Cool – but where does this end up on my desktop application? To date, I have not been able to see where this stuff is transferred to on Omnifocus; hopefully, I am missing something obvious (and it would not be the first time!).

    The addition of an action item on iPhone allows to specify the exact time that you will do something. Cool – but is this really necessary to have it to the minute – half hour would be fine (I hope my life never becomes a minute by minute thing – life is too short).

    When you add an activity to Omnifocus using the iPhone application, it does not appear possible to add a new context. The software intimates that you can; but, I have not seen it happen – maybe I am doing something wrong?

    Perhaps the initial iPhone version should just allow you to add to your inbox where you do your processing when you get to your main machine. This is not the ideal, but likely gets you 80% of where you want to be (the old 80/20 rule).

    Bottom line: Omnifocus for iPhone is a 1.5 application – looking forward to the update. Hopefully, it will be possible for the folks at OmniFocus to offer a bundled deal where folks that decide to use this software can acquire the desktop + iPphone version for a bundled price. Perhaps this can be accomplished by offering a promo code to those that purchase such that when they download the iPhone version, they do not have an additional amount to pay. Hopefully, this will be a feature in the Applications store in version 2.1 …

    Reply
  5. posteanonyme@gmail.com

    Monsieur Sparky,

    Greatly enjoyed your review. Like you I am OmniFocus nerd and as soon as the iPhone version was available, I did not hesitate to download it. I have the following comments for you and the very hard working folks at OmniFocus (who have been doing almost daily updates to the desktop software and have released the first iPhone update):

    Like many people, my work is subject to a Windows environment. Prior to the release of the iPhone version of OmniFocus, I was using a MacBook Air to keep my tasks up to date. With the introduction of the iPhone version, I find that I am doing my updates to iPhone and having the sync thing happen. Although this is not instantaneous, on the whole, I have been very impressed with the quality of the sync. In fact, had: (i) the iPhone been available in Canada; (ii) OmniFocus iPhone been available – I may have passed on the Air (or not – it is just such a great piece of engineering).

    The location aspect of the software is very cool. However, because I am in Canada (a.k.a., the Great White North), this is not really an important feature for me.

    One aspect in the iPhone version that I find interesting is that it allows me to dictate as well as append a picture. Cool – but where does this end up on my desktop application? To date, I have not been able to see where this stuff is transferred to on Omnifocus; hopefully, I am missing something obvious (and it would not be the first time!).

    The addition of an action item on iPhone allows to specify the exact time that you will do something. Cool – but is this really necessary to have it to the minute – half hour would be fine (I hope my life never becomes a minute by minute thing – life is too short).

    When you add an activity to Omnifocus using the iPhone application, it does not appear possible to add a new context. The software intimates that you can; but, I have not seen it happen – maybe I am doing something wrong?

    Perhaps the initial iPhone version should just allow you to add to your inbox where you do your processing when you get to your main machine. This is not the ideal, but likely gets you 80% of where you want to be (the old 80/20 rule).

    Bottom line: Omnifocus for iPhone is a 1.5 application – looking forward to the update. Hopefully, it will be possible for the folks at OmniFocus to offer a bundled deal where folks that decide to use this software can acquire the desktop + iPphone version for a bundled price. Perhaps this can be accomplished by offering a promo code to those that purchase such that when they download the iPhone version, they do not have an additional amount to pay. Hopefully, this will be a feature in the Applications store in version 2.1 …

    Reply
  6. smith_michel@hotmail.com

    Hi, just a note on up to the minute tasks. It is very useful for me on delivering projects and tasks that do run up to the minute. Eg. I have a large OSDB migration to complete, which has touch points at certain exact times with project stakeholders besides synchronised tasks that must happen in conjuction with other stakeholder tasks & dependencies. The ability to add up to the minute tasks means that I can put an entire cut-over plan in the app and ensure that when these critical time points occur, I can be exactly on time with the task at hand, crucial for tight project delivery. Lovely stuff.

    Reply
  7. smith_michel@hotmail.com

    Hi, just a note on up to the minute tasks. It is very useful for me on delivering projects and tasks that do run up to the minute. Eg. I have a large OSDB migration to complete, which has touch points at certain exact times with project stakeholders besides synchronised tasks that must happen in conjuction with other stakeholder tasks & dependencies. The ability to add up to the minute tasks means that I can put an entire cut-over plan in the app and ensure that when these critical time points occur, I can be exactly on time with the task at hand, crucial for tight project delivery. Lovely stuff.

    Reply
  8. smith_michel@hotmail.com

    Hi, just a note on up to the minute tasks. It is very useful for me on delivering projects and tasks that do run up to the minute. Eg. I have a large OSDB migration to complete, which has touch points at certain exact times with project stakeholders besides synchronised tasks that must happen in conjuction with other stakeholder tasks & dependencies. The ability to add up to the minute tasks means that I can put an entire cut-over plan in the app and ensure that when these critical time points occur, I can be exactly on time with the task at hand, crucial for tight project delivery. Lovely stuff.

    Reply
  9. smith_michel@hotmail.com

    Hi, just a note on up to the minute tasks. It is very useful for me on delivering projects and tasks that do run up to the minute. Eg. I have a large OSDB migration to complete, which has touch points at certain exact times with project stakeholders besides synchronised tasks that must happen in conjuction with other stakeholder tasks & dependencies. The ability to add up to the minute tasks means that I can put an entire cut-over plan in the app and ensure that when these critical time points occur, I can be exactly on time with the task at hand, crucial for tight project delivery. Lovely stuff.

    Reply
  10. smith_michel@hotmail.com

    Hi, just a note on up to the minute tasks. It is very useful for me on delivering projects and tasks that do run up to the minute. Eg. I have a large OSDB migration to complete, which has touch points at certain exact times with project stakeholders besides synchronised tasks that must happen in conjuction with other stakeholder tasks & dependencies. The ability to add up to the minute tasks means that I can put an entire cut-over plan in the app and ensure that when these critical time points occur, I can be exactly on time with the task at hand, crucial for tight project delivery. Lovely stuff.

    Reply
  11. DavidCarr.JaxFL@gmail.com

    I’m transitioning from a Blackberry to the iPhone and frankly, it was the lack of a solid GTD application that has kept me from doing so earlier. I used todoMatrix for the Blackberry ($50 one-time fee, $18/annually for optional web interface) and feel it was the best application I’ve seen, including computer-only applications.

    I’ve looked at OmniFocus and even loaded a $25.00 gift card into iTunes so that I could purchase it, but now that I’m ready to do so, I find myself questioning the decision.

    I don’t really care about the location-based services and since I don’t own a Mac, the ability to synch wirelessly is the only other major feature that reviews such as yours seem to highlight as being value-adds.

    I also reviewed EasyTask (free) and it appears to do almost everything else, with the exception of adding dictated voice notes or photos. While those sound inticing to me, I’m not sure I would really use them.

    None of the iPhone applications that seem likely to support GTD include the ability to assign tasks to delegates, which is probably one of the best features I’ve seen on todoMatrix. I’ve read that some folks create custom contexts such as @waiting@Joe but that seems kind of silly. The context is @waiting and the delegate is Joe. They aren’t one in the same.

    I think for now, I’ll hold onto my $20 and try getting by with EasyTask. I think I would find substantially more value in OmniFocus if I used a Mac.

    Appreciate your review — very helpful!

    Reply
  12. DavidCarr.JaxFL@gmail.com

    I’m transitioning from a Blackberry to the iPhone and frankly, it was the lack of a solid GTD application that has kept me from doing so earlier. I used todoMatrix for the Blackberry ($50 one-time fee, $18/annually for optional web interface) and feel it was the best application I’ve seen, including computer-only applications.

    I’ve looked at OmniFocus and even loaded a $25.00 gift card into iTunes so that I could purchase it, but now that I’m ready to do so, I find myself questioning the decision.

    I don’t really care about the location-based services and since I don’t own a Mac, the ability to synch wirelessly is the only other major feature that reviews such as yours seem to highlight as being value-adds.

    I also reviewed EasyTask (free) and it appears to do almost everything else, with the exception of adding dictated voice notes or photos. While those sound inticing to me, I’m not sure I would really use them.

    None of the iPhone applications that seem likely to support GTD include the ability to assign tasks to delegates, which is probably one of the best features I’ve seen on todoMatrix. I’ve read that some folks create custom contexts such as @waiting@Joe but that seems kind of silly. The context is @waiting and the delegate is Joe. They aren’t one in the same.

    I think for now, I’ll hold onto my $20 and try getting by with EasyTask. I think I would find substantially more value in OmniFocus if I used a Mac.

    Appreciate your review — very helpful!

    Reply
  13. DavidCarr.JaxFL@gmail.com

    I’m transitioning from a Blackberry to the iPhone and frankly, it was the lack of a solid GTD application that has kept me from doing so earlier. I used todoMatrix for the Blackberry ($50 one-time fee, $18/annually for optional web interface) and feel it was the best application I’ve seen, including computer-only applications.

    I’ve looked at OmniFocus and even loaded a $25.00 gift card into iTunes so that I could purchase it, but now that I’m ready to do so, I find myself questioning the decision.

    I don’t really care about the location-based services and since I don’t own a Mac, the ability to synch wirelessly is the only other major feature that reviews such as yours seem to highlight as being value-adds.

    I also reviewed EasyTask (free) and it appears to do almost everything else, with the exception of adding dictated voice notes or photos. While those sound inticing to me, I’m not sure I would really use them.

    None of the iPhone applications that seem likely to support GTD include the ability to assign tasks to delegates, which is probably one of the best features I’ve seen on todoMatrix. I’ve read that some folks create custom contexts such as @waiting@Joe but that seems kind of silly. The context is @waiting and the delegate is Joe. They aren’t one in the same.

    I think for now, I’ll hold onto my $20 and try getting by with EasyTask. I think I would find substantially more value in OmniFocus if I used a Mac.

    Appreciate your review — very helpful!

    Reply
  14. DavidCarr.JaxFL@gmail.com

    I’m transitioning from a Blackberry to the iPhone and frankly, it was the lack of a solid GTD application that has kept me from doing so earlier. I used todoMatrix for the Blackberry ($50 one-time fee, $18/annually for optional web interface) and feel it was the best application I’ve seen, including computer-only applications.

    I’ve looked at OmniFocus and even loaded a $25.00 gift card into iTunes so that I could purchase it, but now that I’m ready to do so, I find myself questioning the decision.

    I don’t really care about the location-based services and since I don’t own a Mac, the ability to synch wirelessly is the only other major feature that reviews such as yours seem to highlight as being value-adds.

    I also reviewed EasyTask (free) and it appears to do almost everything else, with the exception of adding dictated voice notes or photos. While those sound inticing to me, I’m not sure I would really use them.

    None of the iPhone applications that seem likely to support GTD include the ability to assign tasks to delegates, which is probably one of the best features I’ve seen on todoMatrix. I’ve read that some folks create custom contexts such as @waiting@Joe but that seems kind of silly. The context is @waiting and the delegate is Joe. They aren’t one in the same.

    I think for now, I’ll hold onto my $20 and try getting by with EasyTask. I think I would find substantially more value in OmniFocus if I used a Mac.

    Appreciate your review — very helpful!

    Reply
  15. DavidCarr.JaxFL@gmail.com

    I’m transitioning from a Blackberry to the iPhone and frankly, it was the lack of a solid GTD application that has kept me from doing so earlier. I used todoMatrix for the Blackberry ($50 one-time fee, $18/annually for optional web interface) and feel it was the best application I’ve seen, including computer-only applications.

    I’ve looked at OmniFocus and even loaded a $25.00 gift card into iTunes so that I could purchase it, but now that I’m ready to do so, I find myself questioning the decision.

    I don’t really care about the location-based services and since I don’t own a Mac, the ability to synch wirelessly is the only other major feature that reviews such as yours seem to highlight as being value-adds.

    I also reviewed EasyTask (free) and it appears to do almost everything else, with the exception of adding dictated voice notes or photos. While those sound inticing to me, I’m not sure I would really use them.

    None of the iPhone applications that seem likely to support GTD include the ability to assign tasks to delegates, which is probably one of the best features I’ve seen on todoMatrix. I’ve read that some folks create custom contexts such as @waiting@Joe but that seems kind of silly. The context is @waiting and the delegate is Joe. They aren’t one in the same.

    I think for now, I’ll hold onto my $20 and try getting by with EasyTask. I think I would find substantially more value in OmniFocus if I used a Mac.

    Appreciate your review — very helpful!

    Reply

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