OmniFocus for iPad – Maybe My Ticket Out of Waiting on Things for Cloud Sync

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I’ve posted here a number of times about my frustration with waiting for Things, my favorite task management app, to offer cloud sync. It’s a feature that other rival apps have had for a long time, one that the developers of Things have said is top of their list for ages, and yet one that still has no ETA at all, and no guarantee from the developers that it will not be charged for.

As much as I love Things, my massive disappointment with them on this subject has lead me to search for replacement apps. I’ve been doing this for a while now, looking at numerous apps and all of them have fallen short for me. With some, their UI was just too inelegant and ineffective, coming from the clean, simple interface of Things. Some lacked features that are critical for me, e.g recurring tasks support. Others offered sync only with ugly web apps and not with a full Mac app, which is another must-have for me.

And now I’ve finally found a potential replacement in OmniFocus – or more specifically OmniFocus for iPad, Mac, and iPhone. I’ve been aware of OmniFocus for years. I even bought the iPhone version when it first appeared in the App Store, but had always considered it too heavy, too powerful and filled with too many features, just too much all-round for me.

I’ve been giving it a try again over recent days though. Using it on the Mac alongside Things, doubling up my efforts at managing tasks temporarily while I see whether I can get used to using OmniFocus and, more importantly, get comfortable with using it.

I rely very heavily on task lists. I’m continually updating and editing them, throughout the day and at night as well, whenever an idea comes along or I remember some crucial to-do item I’ve not yet got on a list. So being absolutely comfortable with using a tasks management app is a big deal for me.

It’s only been a few days with OmniFocus, but I’m finding it less intimidating than I did previously. I’m beginning to find ways to use it the way I want, ways to organize my tasks in the best way to help me get them done.

The desktop app is still more complicated – or just feature-rich – than I would ideally have it; and it puts some of the GTD (Getting Things Done) methodology more in my face than I would like – but this time round of using it, I think I’m finding ways to get past that. I like it enough that I even spent time last watching videos on how to use it more effectively and get more out of it.

And then there’s OmniFocus for iPad. Oh Boy. I really enjoy the iPad app. It has a much nicer UI than I expected and my early impressions of it are great. I only installed it last night, but I found the interface so nice and so effective that I got tons done in it right away.

Oh, and once I got sync setup, it was a joy to see automatic cloud sync in action of course.

It’s early days, and I’m still just on a trial version for the desktop version, but this the first time since I started using Things back in 2008 that I feel like I really may have a viable replacement for it.

Patrick Jordan

Founder and Editor in Chief of iPad Insight. Husband, father to a lovely daughter, Commander of the Armies of the North, dog lover (especially Labs), Austinite, former Londoner, IT consultant, huge sports nut, iPad and mobile tech blogger, mobile apps junkie.

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16 thoughts on “OmniFocus for iPad – Maybe My Ticket Out of Waiting on Things for Cloud Sync”

  1. Ominfocus for iPad is the best money I have spent in the App Store. We don’t have the desktop version, but we have a family business and my wife, father and I all use it and sync to each other on our iPads. It replaced a much more expensive online software that we had been using and it is very easy to use once you get the hang of it.

    1. Excellent. That’s great to hear. I need the desktop app too, as I’m split roughly 50/50 on task management between desktop and mobile devices. It’s pricy, but if it continues to work well for me it will be worth it, as I rely so much on task lists.

  2. same boat as you. loved things.. waited..waited and waited for sync. Been using omni focus on the ipad, iphone and mac for a year now… absolutely love it. I dont use any of the GTD stuff either. I can easily get in/out w/no effort. great app.. pricey.. but great.

  3. I went through the same process about 6 months ago. I had bought all 3 Things apps (Mac, iPhone, and iPad), and their kludgy sync solution (WiFi only) left me looking for an alternative. I had read so many positive reviews of OmniFocus, that I decided to try it out. I ended up shelling out the $$ and buying the desktop and iPad apps.

    It has a steep learning curve, and I agree that the GTD stuff is too in your face. However, their sync implementation works flawlessly, which makes a huge difference. Their browser bookmarklets (iOS and MacOS) and services (MacOS only) are nice too.

    I’m curious to hear more about your workarounds to OF’s excessive GTD-itis. Most of my tasks end up staying in the inbox or top-level project folders. I don’t mess with contexts, perspectives, etc. To me, the primary GTD benefit is to have a trusted system for getting tasks out of your mental RAM, and OF does that quite well. I don’t know how you could do this without solid sync services.

    Things has really screwed the pooch on their inexplicably delayed sync implementation. Their software was otherwise a better fit for my needs, but now I’m locked in to OF…

    1. Oh, my workarounds are about the same as yours so far. Just make use of Inbox, a ‘Today’ project, and mostly ignore contexts for now. I’m going to keep watching videos and learning on it though.

  4. Hey Patrick. Have you ever given Pocket Informant a try? It uses either Toodledo or Outlook for Sync, but it isn’t necessarily married to either one. It is also the only iOS task app that I am aware of that gives you the option to use the Franklin Covey task system, rather than GTD. You can also sync it to your Mac desktop using Appigo’s ToDo app, which also syncs back to Toodledo. Appigo also has a sync app for Mac that integrates to other programs. I personally don’t need a desktop tasks app, per se, so I am not familiar with the desktop options. I just use the Toodledo website to check my list from my laptop when necessary.

    I use both the iPhone and iPad versions of PI. I had some issues with keeping tasks between the two in sync for a while. The tasks synced over just fine, but alarms set in PI will not sync to Toodledo unless you have a $14.95/year Pro account. I usually use my iPhone to set up most of my tasks, since it is so portable and always with me. This meant that, whenever I would sync my iPad, the alarms that I set for tasks on my iPhone wouldn’t make it there.

    I recently went ahead and signed up for the Pro account, and I am glad that I did. Now my full task list, alarms included, stays in sync between both of my devices. With the Pro level, I can also make and sync subtasks under tasks now, which is very handy. Toodledo goes beyond the normal GTD options, and has support for action level, priorities, folders, contexts, and completion percentage. PI has implemented all of these options, as well. In fact, they were a year ahead of Apple with location-based Context task alarming.

    I would imagine that if Apple opens up the SDK to allow task app makers to sync tasks to iCloud, then PI will probably be on board quickly. Then, there is also the advantage of being able to see you tasks and calendar together in one app, which I am a huge fan of. So, if you still aren’t settled on a task solution, in would humbly suggest that you give PI a shot.

    1. Thanks for the thoughts James.

      I’ve tried PI on iOS. I was a big fan of it back in Windows Mobile days, but not so much now. I don’t need any of the calendar functions it offers, don’t need or have Outlook, and don’t like Toodledo (or any web app I’ve seen yet as a sync partner).

      For me, having a full-fledged Mac app is a must along with the iOS apps, and PI doesn’t offer one.

    1. I’ve tried Toodledo, and Remember the Milk, and a handful of other web-based to-do apps. As I said above, I’m hugely reliant on,and fond of, task lists – so I’ve been looking at all these sort of options since 2007 when I got the first iPhone.

  5. There is a great mac dashboard widget for OF. Pops up, you type something and it sticks it in the inbox. You don’t even need to see OF.

  6. Your approach in the desktop app be it GTD or not does make an impact on how you use the ipad version as in Focus vs Thing’s Today concept. The desktop app allows you to rapidly collate, edit and move around much larger volumes of lists. This is something I found much harder and time consuming on the iPad. Aside from ‘Quick Entry’ I couldn’t cope with the iPhone app. The Ipad is just so efficient to use as a working and new idea capture platform rather than the review and organisation tool which the desktop app excels at. Their recent Ninja tricks screencasts ( finally got me with a functional template. They helped simplify my folderitis and convinced me to restrict my due dates to only one or two a week.

    1. Cool. Just added that link to Instapaper and will definitely be checking out those screencasts. Thanks.

  7. I have never moved from a position of supporting a brand to a position of actively disliking a brand like Things – utterly arrogant in relation to their clients and unable to do what they say they’re going to do.

    Even if they brought out the most amazing new update, I’d never return to them out of principle – and I made the decision back in December 2010 to not wait around for their sync anymore. It amazes me to still see the same old conversations on their forums, thank god I left.

    The great news is that Omnifocus is awesome – once you get into it it is so much better than Things it hurts… It scales, you can customise it, and – contrary to what the Things crew suggest – their cloud syncworks brilliantly.

    Anyway, when I moved over I created a cheatsheet that might be a little out of date, but was how I got my Things data to OF and improved the OF look/feel a little, hope it is of help:

    Kind regards, Steve

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