For ages, I’ve been a devout OmniFocus user. Even more so after reading Kourosh Dini’s excellent book Creating Flow with OmniFocus. OmniFocus was an integral part of my productivity system. Most days, OmniFocus’ familiar interface was the first thing in the morning and the last in the evening on my computer screen. One could say, it was the most important app in my life.
However, sometimes it feels like a company is moving in a direction you don’t want to follow anymore. I had this feeling first when OmniFocus introduced its built-in automation engine. Yes, it is an incredible achievement from a technical standpoint. However – how many users need this on even a semiregular basis? It seems to me that this is only used by such a tiny fraction of the user base that it feels more like being developed for themselves and probably a handful of extreme automation power users. Don’t get me wrong, no offense against extreme automation power users. I just think that they have left an approach which is useful to most of their users. I am not certain if this is something that serves them well in the future.
The stroke that broke the camel’s back, though, was the ongoing beta for the new iPad/iPhone version. It is true that OmniFocus looks quite dated and that a new approach is urgently needed. And they delivered on this front: the new design looks way more modern than the old one. And yet, I really don’t like it. OmniFocus always had a busy interface, and I am fine with that. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have used it for years in the first place. Unfortunately, the new version tries to look modern, not be modern. It feels like they try to implement a modern interface by using Swift UI, while sticking to too much cruft from all those years.
Redundancy is not a good design principle
It also became more complicated than it has been before. In my eyes, the old design and way of handling things was way more intuitive. Instead of simplifying things, they added complexity and visual overload. For example, why do we need two inspector views, one inline and one as a separate pane? This does not just feel redundant, it is redundant. And except for safety concerns, redundancy is not a great design principle. Also, the new way of displaying Perspectives is not a good fit, in my opinion. I used to use a lot of them because Perspectives are one of the most useful features in OmniFocus. In the new version though, Perspectives are stuck to a scrollable strip, hiding a fair amount of them. Especially on the iPhone, where this strip is located horizontally at the bottom of the screen, most of my Perspectives are not instantly accessible. The list goes on, but I stop at this point.
I tried to force myself getting used to it and to like it for a couple of months, but to no avail. Finally, and with a heavy heart, I decided to quit OmniFocus. I considered several potential successors and landed on GoodTask, a highly customizable client for Apple’s Reminders app. I certainly will write about my experiences and use case at some point. Oh, and don’t get me wrong: I might return at some point, just as I have done with DevonThink. But for now, I have to leave my dear old friend OmniFocus behind. I wish them luck.