OmniFocus 2 for the iPhone – an opinion

Actually I wanted to write a review about OmniFocus 2 with screenshots everything. But there are already several of them, just to link to two.

So no screenshots, just my experiences from the last days. OmniFocus 1 was designed pragmatically and worked very well. You could input tasks fast, you could check them off fast, got an overview with the Forecast-feature. All in all it was a very good companion app to the OS X-application. Without it though it was a very good Todo-app since it has start and due dates, repetitive tasks, projects etc.

Its main weakness was it looks. It had a charming look reminding us how stock-iOS-apps look when there is nearly no custom design. And it synced but the sync always felt slow especially in comparison to one of the main competitors Things.

OmniFocus 2 worked on exactly those two weaknesses. It got completely redesigned. The overview-screen put Forecast into a more prominent place, which is great. You can immediately see how many tasks are up today in the coming week. The same applies to tasks that are flagged or in the inbox. You can easily get to Projects, Nearby and Contexts and everything in the nice look of iOS7. A very bright white and beautiful colors. I really like the new look of it. But we will see how it will hold up over the years. Since OF1 did not get so much design-love over the years, I do not expect that OF2 will get that much love over the time. But for now it is looking awesome. The first time that it looks better than Things.

The other weakness is syncing. OF2 has, thanks to iOS7, the ability to wake up from time to time and sync. Henceforth when you really use it as a companion-app and do not look all the time at the phone just to see if that icon-badge appears and if the data is there but do the stuff you are supposed to do, you will see that magically all your tasks are there when you look at it on a break or when you come to the tasks that have to sync over to it. The sync is not immediate but it just happens. I can’t say how fast but it is usually a couple of minutes but can also take half an hour in my experience. To be honest, that didn’t turn out yet as a problem. I wrote today my shopping list at home, and when I arrived at the supermarket the tasks where there. I noted some stuff down in OF, get going and when I was where I had to be to do the tasks, they were there. When I noted down tasks on the iPhone while out and returned home to my running computer the tasks where there. The sync is still not fast, but it works in the background and the tasks are usually there when you are happen to be in a place where you need your synced todo-items.

Another nice feature is when putting in a new task there is a „Save+“-button, which will add the task, you are noting down and you get immediately a new task to add.

So far, so good. What are the downsides? Right now there is no Textexpander-support because Textexpander needs a new framework and that didn’t get released in time for most devs for adding it to their apps. I guess it is the same for the people at Omni and it will return. The app doesn’t have landscape-support, but I actually do not care. There is still no review-functionality. That’s the one I miss the most because I could do it then when I am already lying in bed or when I am commuting. The app is really bright, so it is not so nice to be usable at night. I hope that gets fixed in the future. For starters you can put the Invert Colors-function in the Accessibility-settings onto the triple Home Button-click and you get a dark OF2 that looks really really good.

Putting in tasks got a bit weaker in this version. Number one is that in OF1 is that task-details that belonged to each other were visually grouped together (like start/due-dates). That isn’t the case anymore. They are sorted the same way but it is just line after line. The other thing I do not like is putting in a start/due-date. The dialer comes up and there are some shortcuts for +1 day/week/month/year present but you have to tap the line with „Due“ or „Defer until“ to return to the screen where you can put in other details. That is confusing and even so I entered already some tasks I can’t get accustomed to it and it doesn’t feel that this will happen so fast. A next-button or something would be nice.

The next thing I do not like is that the pretty much default gesture for moving back a view in iOS7, a swipe from left to right does not work unfortunately. From what I read it was either an oversight because you have to actively activate it again when you are adding a custom animation like Omni did, or it was a design-decision, which I would not like. I got really accustomed to moving back views via a swipe. And it is so omni-present in iOS7 (pun intended).

Last but not least the price. Imho the app is worth $10. But since I am using it daily for several years now and got free updates, it felt ok to pay the 20 bucks, even so it is a lot of money for me (in general not relative to other apps). When you are really looking at it, it is only a visual update with background syncing. Those are nice additions but not worth a complete re-purchase at a relative high price for an app that is mainly a companion app to a pricey but great todo-app. If you have the money, please support Omni, buy the upgrade and thus they will be able to put out other great applications. If you are short on money, save up for it. You can wait. The app doesn’t add any functionality, which justifies an immediate necessary update right now (like a review-functionality would for example). Support Omni when you have the money, but it can wait. OF1 still works in iOS7, thus you are not missing that much. And when you have the money, pay for it and be delighted by the new looks and the background-sync.

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