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OmniFocus 2: Stay on top of your task list with this top task manager

Stuart Gripman | Aug. 22, 2014
Rare and revered is the person who can mentally track everything that must be accomplished. Everybody else needs tools and techniques for staying atop our tasks. In crowded and diverse field of possibilities, OmniFocus (Mac App Store link) is an appealing option if you're willing to invest some time learning how it works.

Rare and revered is the person who can mentally track everything that must be accomplished. Everybody else needs tools and techniques for staying atop our tasks. In crowded and diverse field of possibilities, OmniFocus (Mac App Store link) is an appealing option if you're willing to invest some time learning how it works.

Ease of entry is crucial to any task manager--one simply can't track tasks that aren't in the system. OmniFocus offers up a standard array of options for feeding the beast. You can, of course, create new actions from within the application itself. A customizable system-wide keyboard shortcut will invoke a quick entry window for entering as many actions as you wish. The window persists until you save or cancel your entries--a welcome touch when copying/pasting multiple items. OmniFocus installs an OS X Service that can send the selected text and images from just about any application to the OmniFocus inbox as a new action. It's great when it works, but through no fault of the Omni Group, Services are not consistently supported among all applications. Finally, users of the free Omni Sync service can add items to their OmniFocus inbox via email. Upon request, an email address is generated for you and all messages sent there become actions in your OmniFocus inbox. The email subject line becomes the action's title and email body becomes the action's notes. It's a bit disappointing that there's no way to embed things like due dates and project names in the emails; metadata like these must be set manually after the action shows up in OmniFocus.

Each action in OmniFocus can be categorized in a number of ways. Here the Omni Group has been wisely selective in its offerings. An action may be assigned to one project, it may have one additional tag called a context, it can be flagged, and it can have a due date and a start date (called the defer date in Omni-speak). At a time when Apple Mail has seven different flag colors and even the humble Finder supports unlimited tagging, OmniFocus has taken the position that too much categorization becomes a hindrance to simply achieving the task. Individual temperaments and predilections weigh heavily here, but I feel OmniFocus strikes the right balance.

OmniFocus's new look makes heavy use of the single-window experience popularized on iOS. While everything in one window isn't a universally good idea, it is an apt design pattern for task management and well executed here. A sidebar on the left provides speedy access to various OmniFocus perspectives such as the inbox, project list, contexts, and flagged actions. But the most innovative sidebar perspectives are the forecast and review modes.

 

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