15 Years of OmniFocus

Tim Stringer shared this thoughtful post about the 15-year anniversary of OmniFocus, and I felt like I had to weigh in. Like Tim, I had a long, complicated journey with task management on the Mac before OmniFocus showed up.

It’s easy to forget how lousy task management apps were on the Mac before OmniFocus. It was a wasteland. Indeed, it was so bad that most of us resorted to using OmniOutliner with Ethan Schoonover’s “Kinkless GTD” modifications.

We were all enthusiastic when word got out that the Omni Group was making a proper task manager. I started using it with the earliest public beta and still use it today. People ask why a guy like me, known for trying out every potential app on the market, keeps using the same task manager for all these years, and the answer is simple: There is nothing better.

I considered moving to an alternate task manager when I stopped practicing law. I spent time running my tasks out of the Reminders app, Obsidian, and several other popular task managers, both cloud-based and native apps. I even tried an all-paper system for a few months. None of them held up compared to OmniFocus. And the thing is that OmniFocus keeps extending its lead.

Most recently, with all of the work Sal Soghoian is doing, you can automate anything in OmniFocus and add your own features. Sal’s even figured out a way to allow you to control the entire application with your voice. (Here’s an interview I did with Sal in the MacSparky Labs on that topic.)

The software business is tricky. Keeping your app relevant and modern for 15 years is no easy task, so I tip my hat to all the hard-working folks at the Omni Group (past and present). OmniFocus has been a instrumental tool for me now for 15 years and I have them to thank.

The Omni Group Roadmap and A Few Thoughts on OmniFocus

The Omni Group has published its latest road map. As a fan of their software, I love reading these. They are committing to release OmniFocus 4 this year and they are also working on an update to OmniGraffle. I’ve heard from a lot of folks about the OmniFocus 4 release, and I’ve got a few thoughts:

  • Many readers tried the early betas and didn’t care for it. If that’s you, I’d encourage you to give the current, later betas, another look. A year ago, they were focused on features. They’ve done a ton of UI polish since then.
  • The Omni Group is the first company I’ve seen emerge from the morass of Swift UI with a high-end productivity app. I expect this will pay dividends going forward. Just like we’re now seeing Apple release major new features across all platforms at once, I expect we’ll see the same from the Omni Group.

I went into the wild over the last six months looking seriously at other task manager options including Reminders, Things, and some of the emerging online tools. I started that survey willing to move to another app, but ended up right back where I started. My takeaway is that OmniFocus is still the only option for me. (Perspectives are so powerful and you can link anything, anywhere.) While Reminders is a lot better, on a scale of 1 to 10 it goes to 7, whereas OmniFocus goes to 11.

Finally, now that I’ve finished my survey, I’ve committed three months to making an entirely new edition of the OmniFocus Field Guide once the new version ships.