OmniFocus Talks Back


It wasn’t so long ago that there were no task management applications on the Mac worth a damn. What a difference a few years make! Now there are multiple quality applications from the lightweight Do It! to the 800 pound gorilla, OmniFocus. There are also several web based solutions, like Remember the Milk. I’ve made no mystery of my appreciation of OmniFocus (reviewed here). I know, however, that this Omni love is not universal.
A lot of users feel OmniFocus is just too much for them. Not quite intuitive enough and too ponderous to figure out. The word “bloat” hasn’t been used, but implied. I can appreciate these comments but having used OmniFocus since the alpha, I can’t help but think a lot of these complaints are a result of a lack of familiarity with the program which is, once you figure it out, very scaleable.
One of my favorite Mac writers is TidBITS’ Matt Neuburg who reviewed OmniFocus with several compliments and complaints. Matt has also done a few screencasts explaining his heartburn. This has prompted a response from OmniKing, Ken Case on the Omni blog. While I understand Matt’s criticisms, I think Ken’s response is spot on. OmniFocus just works for me. It is as much a part of my day as green tea and cranky lawyers (not me of course). The idea of OmniFocus Touch in a few weeks has me giddy as a sugar-saturated schoolgirl backstage with Hannah Montana.
I think that Omni’s challenge with OmniFocus is largely getting new users over the initial hump. Omni has a few screencasts but that is not enough. They need to go deeper so new users have an easy way to get running. I realize some users simply don’t need a task management system with the depth of OmniFocus, but for those who do, Omni needs to show the way. After all, reading the manual is so 90’s.

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iPhone OmniFocus: It Lives!


I was very pleased to see the blogosphere light up with news of OmniFocus for the iPhone. This is the one iPhone application I’ve been lusting after since … well … since the first OmniFocus beta. I’ve reported on it before and begged for it at MacWorld. Now it appears the folks at Omni have come through with a great looking application. Merlin Mann covered it here.
One feature I never would have guessed is location awareness. I *think* this means that I can open my “Grocery List” context and it will tell me where the nearest grocery store is. There simply isn’t enough information out yet to know more detail than that.
On the Omni blog, it is confirmed to run fine on 2g or 3g iPhones and the iPod touch. There is no official word yet on whether it will be a separate license (my guess is it will). Between push calendar and OmniFocus, my iPhone just became even more indispensable. If Omni now announces they also have OmniOutliner for the iPhone in the works, my head just might explode.

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A Lawyer’s Take on Macworld 2008


In addition to being an affirmed Mac geek, I am also a lawyer. So as I spent the last several days talking to developers and roaming the halls of Macworld, a few things in particular got me excited about practicing law with my Mac.

Macbook Air

Apple’s new machine is a real eye catcher. It is just three pounds and manages to keep a 13 inch monitor. While this would be really nice for the roadwarrior or running around in depositions and trial, the $1800 price tag makes me look twice. If you really need thin and are willing to sacrifice a bit of functionality (no ethernet or firewire) you may want to check it out. I’m sticking with my Macbook Pro for the time being.


For those of you former PC users who miss having DragonDictate in your toolbelt, fret no more. I was never a big fan of iListen, but the folks at at iListen recently acquired the license for the Dragon recognition engine for use on the Mac. Their new product, MacSpeech Dictate will be releasing next month and looks fantastic. I spent about an hour at their booth and am very impressed. I also watched David Pogue fawn over it as it produced very accurate and quick results.
I wasn’t alone in my opinion that this product will change things. It was one of the “Best of Show” award winners by several publications. Put this one at the top of your list for productivity boosters.


I’m a big fan of the Omni Group applications. I use OmniOutline, OmniPlan, and OmniGraffle to manage much of my caseload. I got in early on the beta of their OmniFocus task management application and it was just released as a 1.0. This application is fantastic for keeping all the plates in the air. I did an extended review of it at
I talked to the folks at Omni and they are going to do everything in their power to get these applications on the iPhone once the iPhone SDK releases.


For the small offices that don’t need the expense of a server but want to sync iCal calendars between multiple desks, there is a great little application called BusySync. For a cost of $20 per computer, you get seamless bonjour and net syncing between machines. They have a new version due out soon that will also allow for Google calendar syncing.


FileMaker is the best application for database intensive solutions. If you are running a small practice, FileMaker’s smaller application, Bento, looks really robust.

Billings and Daylite

Marketcircle continues its place at the top of small office management software. They had a nice booth and made regular presentations. I was unaware of some of their interesting add-on products like Daylite Delivery and the FileMaker connector. These guys fill a very particular niche.

Fujitsu ScanSnap

I love my Fujitsu ScanSnap. It is a reliable, fast scanner with a small footprint. Now they have a portable version, the S300M, that retails at $295 and looks perfect for those depositions on the other side of the country.

Smart Board

Smart Technologies has a very impressive device you install over your LCD television that allows you to create a virtual white board like you are John Madden. The price point is steep. I was told “around $5,000” but it sure is nice.

Storage – Drobo and TimeCapsule

While TimeCapsule is aimed as a consumer device, 1TB storage with a built in wireless “N” router is a pretty attractive product.
I was also impressed with the Drobo that allows you to drop up to four swappable drives in with no headache. Interestingly, if you pull out a drive while it is running (or if the drive dies), Drobo automatically moves the data around to protect its integrity. The Drobo device costs $500 without any drives.
For all of you Mac lawyers, I highly recommend visiting Macworld sometime when you get a chance. Not only will you find some great tools for your practice, you’ll probably have a good time while you are at it.

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Review – OmniFocus


Omnifocus is the Omni Group’s submission in the growing field of OS X task management programs. OmniFocus has been in development over a year. I was fortunate to get into the alpha test early and I’ve actually been using OmniFocus as my exclusive task management application since June.
I am a believer in keeping tasks lists. I would like to say this arises from some inherent sense of order and organization. In truth however, it arises from my very early realization that I am scatterbrained and often have the attention span of a goldfish. As a result, I write things down. I’m not just talking grocery lists here. If I can not do something immediately, I write it down. Since I do the legal work several companies and have other commitments with my family, my community, and macsparky, this list gets pretty long. So getting back to that part about being scatterbrained I am constantly throwing tasks into OmniFocus. When do I need to prepare for trial? When do I need to volunteer at my daughters’ school? When do I need to clean the air filter and rotate the tires? For someone like me, dumping these things into a system is liberating. Trying to track even a small percentage of these things without tools like OmniFocus could get really ugly, really fast.
So the Omni Group enlisted some very smart productivity folks and came up with OmniFocus, an application designed to hold all those tasks you are carrying around in your head and spit them out to you in small, bite sized, pieces.
The first part of any task system is input. That is, how do you get your tasks into the system? In OmniFocus, the best place for me to do this is the planning window. In it I can create folders and projects and load them up with tasks. You can customize this window to be as simple or complex as you need it. I use the fields for description, project, context, start, and due dates. OmniFocus helps you here anticipating your entries. For instance, I have a project for my fantasy football league, the Riddiculous Football League. If I type “RFL”, OmniFocus figures that out for me. It does the same thing for client projects. Likewise, OmniFocus is very smart on dates. I can list a due date by writing the month and date (like 1/15) or contextually like “4d” for three days or the monday in two weeks “2w Mon”.
Entering new projects and filling them with tasks is easy enough this way. However a lot of time I think of tasks when I’m not even in OmniFocus. For this, the application has a very handy quick entry panel. So I can be in Safari and be inspired to add a task to some project of mine. I’ve mapped a key combination that allows me to open the quick entry panel which also recognizes all of the project and date shortcuts you get inside OmniFocus. It takes just seconds to create.

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Another feature for task entry is clippings which allows you to select text inside your browser or mail program and with a simple key combination create a quick entry task item with the text attached. Speaking of mail you can also preface emails to yourself that OmniFocus will read as new tasks and input them automatically.

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Once the tasks are in you can add notes and attachments to them. I scan most important documents that come my way and drop them into OmniFocus as an attachment to their corresponding tasks so when it comes time to get to work, I don’t have to go searching for the related documents.
Once you’ve got your tasks inside OmniFocus, you can organize them by project or context. But that is really just the first step. OmniFocus has a series of filters you can apply to these modes to sort by folder, due date, start date, durations, flags, and several other criteria that you may, or may not, care to use. Once you have a set of filters set up just the way you like you can save that as a Perspective. You can save all of your favorite Perspectives and access them with just one click. I’ve set up several Perspectives on my system and jump between them as I go through my day.
The print dialogue also gives you several options if you want to make a hard copy which is nice if you are going to be away from your mac. Another trick I use is to print portions of my task list to pdf and then email the pdf to myself so I’ve got it on my iPhone.

omnifocus print dialogue.jpg

OmniFocus also has a robust syncing system with iCal. I used it for awhile but found iCal’s task management system so anemic that I just turned that feature off. Now I just manage tasks in OmniFocus and have no complaints.

omnifocus ical sync.jpg

Using all of these tools together is what makes OmniFocus really shine. I usually spend about 15 minutes every morning planning things out and prioritizing as necessary. I then spend the rest of the day checking off items and adding new items as projects and tasks present themselves. I’ve got a lot of plates in the air and OmniFocus has really helped me keep them from smashing to the floor.
OmniFocus was not developed as a “kitchen sink” application. By this I mean the developers had a clear idea of what they wanted and did not include every conceivable feature. For instance it does not support numerical prioritization like some task management applications do. I thought I would miss this feature but I haven’t. The application does allow you to “flag” certain items and that is enough for me.
OmniFocus also does not allow you to easily synchronize between multiple Macs. I read in the forums that some users accomplished this by keeping their data on a thumb drive but a .mac sync solution would be very nice. Likewise, a way to easily sync and amend this data on my iPhone would be great. Fortunately, this is just a 1.0 release and the Omni folks have stated their intention to tackle these problems with future updates after Apple releases the iPhone SDK.
OS X is very fortunate to have a variety and ever growing set of task management applications. Having tried a lot of them I find OmniFocus to be perfect for my particular needs. It is scaleable and can grow (or shrink) depending on how busy things get for you. A license will cost $79.95 which is not cheap, especially in light of the fact many competent alternatives are free. You can get $20 off if you already own an OmniOutliner Pro license. Regardless, if you spend as much time managing tasks and projects as I do, this investment is well worth it. The people at Omni Group just deliver. Every day I find myself using their products and being more productive, efficient, and just looking better to my clients. In that respect OmniFocus is entirely what I expected: reliable, efficient, and helpful. You can download a free trial at
You can listen to the above review on The MacReviewCast Episode 142.

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OmniFocus iPhone Dreams

Ethan Schoonover, one of the Omni folks writes …
For what it’s worth, we at Omni are all very interested in getting OmniFocus content on the iPhone (The Omni Group is pretty much 99% iPhone users, so we have a dog in this fight). Rest well assured that as soon as we have options for doing this in a way that allows reasonable functionality, we’ll be on it.
It just warms my heart. I’ve played with their sync system through Leopard Mail and some of the ingenious scripts that turn your Omnifocus list into a Safari bookmarklet that lets you see your tasks. Neither solution really blows my hair back though. Hopefully the Omni wizards will come up with something fantastic … soon.

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Holy Toledo! Another GTD Application

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Just when you thought it was safe to go back into the water . . .
So I spent my $30 and licensed OmniFocus over the weekend. Of course today the MacSparky radar picked up yet another task management application brewing for the Mac, Things. This application takes a different spin on task management abandoning the more traditional field approach of OmniFocus for a Tag focussed indexing system. There is a very good screencast demonstrating it right here. I’m intrigued by this different approach and I will be following up with this application to see how people use it. That being said, I really like OmniFocus. It is the first task application I have ever used that really tames my crazy lists of tasks. Whether it is writing a trial brief or cleaning the fish pond, OmniFocus is my master.

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OmniFocus Gets a Ship Date


I’ve written before about just how much I like the OmniGroup applications for my Mac. I’ve been participating in the “sneaky peak” alpha of their latest application, OmniFocus, since it first was released. I really like this application. It allows me to manage the big and small projects in my life without getting in the way. As Omni has gone through the development cycle the application has just got better and better. Anyway, Omni has announced it will be released as 1.0 on January 8, 2008. There is still time to give it a test run though. Head on over to the OmniFocus site and check it out. Ethan has also started a series of screencasts on their site that are excellent and really give you a handle on OmniFocus in no time at all.

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Moleskine Revisited


I’ve now been using the Moleskine for a few months. I wasn’t exactly sure how I would incorporate it into my life but knew I wanted an easy way to capture tasks on the run. Of course in the mean time, a few things have changed for me in terms of productivity. First, I bought an iPhone. That has had very little impact on the way I capture tasks. Why … do you ask? Because the iPhone doesn’t have a built in task list!? There is a bit of a hack but I’ll discuss that below. This post is supposed to be about Moleskines.
Anyway, I don’t keep a “journal” in my Moleskine and rarely draw a diagram. It is, primarily, a list. For instance, I’m on the phone with someone and he says, “Hey Dave … I got a new job making roadrunner traps. My new email address is”. I’ll write a line in my Moleskine “” As I go through the day I’ll accumulate these small entries and at some point I’ll sit down in front of my Mac and input these items. They can be OmniFocus entries, address book entries, or maybe a simple task that I’ll just do. Either way, very quickly they get processed and crossed off in the Moleskine. Like I said, nothing fancy but it gets the job done.
While I really like the pocket sized Moleskine it still is kind of bulky in my pocket so that one stays at my desk at work. I picked up a three pack of the thin softcover Moleskines that are perfect for putting in my pocket. I keep one in the car, one on me, and one in the briefcase and that works just fine. So at the end of the day I could have several Moleskine’s I am processing. It sounds confusing but actually it works quite well.
I’m thinking I may start taking meeting notes in a bigger one and process them the same way. We’ll see.
The iPhone Wrinkle
I have faith that Apple will eventually get around to putting a task list on the iPhone but I’m not all that certain I’d actually use it. If I had OmniFocus on it maybe. The current Omni solution that would require me to turn my laptop into a server is useless to me. But for now, such pipe dreams along with about ten bucks will buy you a cup of coffee. There is one slight hack. I have a “Ta-Da List” account which is great. I mainly keep shopping lists on it. For instance, I have a “Target” , “Grocery List” and a few other. I also put an “OmniFocus” list on it that allows me when not near a Moleskine, to put a task in there for later input.
I’m getting plenty of emails from readers with good ideas. Don’t be afraid to place comments with your tricks so everyone can benefit.

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Details of iGTD Pro Released


Bartek has released the details of his plans for upgraded versions of his excellent iGTD. Specifically there will continue to be the free version (basic) but he will be adding “iGTD Home and Office” that allows you to sync between Macs and “iGTD Pro” which allows you sync with the web. While I am continuing to use OmniFocus, iGTD is really tempting me. Since I have a windows box at the office it would be really nice to log in to my iGTD data from it. Omni has been quiet about syncing features but I do understand they are racing to finish the 1.0 version. If Omni could just get a reliable iPhone sync that doesn’t require me to turn my MacBook into a server, that would probably be enough for me. Still and all, I’ll have to keep my eye on iGTD.
You can read about the different versions of iGTD right here.

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OmniFocus Check In

OmniFocus 2

I’ve been using the Sneaky Peak of OmniFocus exclusively now for several weeks for task management and I’m very pleased with the progress Omni is making with this program. If you have any interest in it, get yourself over to the Omni Group web site and get your name on the list. It is “different” from what I was doing in iGTD, but generally better for my workflow with a few small (hopefully temporary) annoyances. It is still just Alpha after all.

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