OmniFocus

The OmniFocus "Switch" Button

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I've received several e-mails and comments concerning my discussion of the "Switch" button in OmniFocus during the task management episode of the Mac Power Users.

This button is among those available in the "Customize Toolbar" menu.

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Simply drag it on your toolbar and you are set. Here is my OmniFocus toolbar.

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The "Switch" button becomes useful when working through your list. I work most of the day in the context view. So, if I'm working through the phone context and perform a task like, "Call Rumpole regarding trial" and decide I need to add a task to that project after the call, I do not need to go digging through the project list for it. I simply press "Switch." Then, using some strange dark magic, OmniFocus drops me right into that specific project for me to fiddle with to my heart's content. When done, I simply press the "Context" button again and get back on my merry way.

OmniFocus GTD

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The links between the OmniGroup and the David Allen Company have been getting stronger. In a recent podcast interview, David Allen (a PC user) admitted to playing with a MacBook and OmniFocus. Regardless, for those of you who like both GTD and OmniFocus, there is a white paper for you.

Things Reviewed

I've been drinking the OmniFocus Kool-Aid since it was in Alpha. That application has become such a part of my daily routine that losing it would have a similar emotional reaction on me to burning a 3-year old's favorite blanky in front of him. Nevertheless, I've been hearing a lot of positive things about the new kid on the block, Things. Several readers have happily switched over to Things saying it is not as complicated as OmniFocus. I use the hell out of OmniFocus so I'm not sure I could give up those advanced features. Nevertheless, for those interested, there is an excellent review of Things right here. Thanks to reader Landya for the link.


A Lawyer's Take on Macworld

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In addition to my job at Macsparky (the business card really does say "Chief Slacker"), I have another job that actually pays money as a business attorney. So every year in addition to looking for things new and geeky at Macworld Expo, I also take a look for tools useful in the practice of law. Here is this year's take:

Daylite Touch



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Marketcircle's Daylite has become the “go to” applicaiton for running your law practice. This year they had a strong presence at Macworld including numerous demonstrations, presentations from the David Allen company, and previews of their soon to be released iPhone client. It supports full synching with your Daylite database. This is excellent news for Daylite users.

Livescribe Smartpen



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Livescribe’s Pulse Smartpen is coming to the Mac. This is, essentially, a computer in a pen. It records all pen strokes and then recreates the pages on your screen. It also records audio while you are taking notes and indexes it to your notes. You must use their paper (printed with the required microdots to give the computer context) but I could use this every day in my practice. This could also be a nice gift for any university students in your life.

FileMaker Pro 10



The new version 10 of FileMaker took several lessons from their consumer product, Bento. It still uses the same file format so the upgrade should be relatively painless. With features and improvements such as persistent sorting, dynamic summary reports, and editable table views, it is clear this upgrade is all about the user experience.

MacSpeech



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MacSpeech has now been with us a year and the software is showing its maturity through increased stability and additional features. Speaking with the developers I was most impressed with their sense of urgency. These guys are working hard to leverage the Dragon engine on your Mac. If you are practicing law without this tool, you are missing out. Give your fingers a break and check this one out. You can read my full review here.

OmniFocus



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The Mac software community has exploded with task management applications. I have been running my practice out of OmniFocus now for a year and a half and consider it the best tool for the job. It allows management of tasks by both project and context, allows for easy capture of new tasks from anywhere on your Mac, and includes a robust, syncing iPhone application. Furthermore, it is fully supported by a reputable Mac developer, the Omni Group. The cost for both a desktop and iPhone license is under $100 and while there are cheaper solutions, I've not seen anything better. You can read my full review here.

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Omni Booth at Macworld 2009

Microvision Projector



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One of the most notable new technologies was Microvision’s laser based projector. This tiny projector (about the size of an iPhone) easily fits in your pocket and projects at 10 lumens. Because it is laser based, it focuses at any viewing distance. It looks really sharp and you can get 2 hours of projection off the battery. The unit is expected to be available this summer in the $500 price range.

Timeline 3d



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While Timeline 3d has been out now a few months, BeeDocs' presence at Macworld should be noted. The developer continues to refine and polish this excellent timeline application that is extremely useful in presentation work. You can read my review here.

SMART Digital White Board



These digital white boards combine the benefits of your analogue whiteboard with the technology of your Mac. This could be useful both in the conference room and the courtroom.

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Who wrote that?

iWork 09



While a lot of people still refuse to look at iWork as a serious business tool, I continue to make other attorneys look bad using Keynote. It just about 10 years ahead of PowerPoint. The new improvements, particularly "Magic Move", will save me hours of fiddling. The increased mail merge hooks between Numbers and Pages will increase your ability to set up forms. I still must admit I do all of my serious writing in Scrivener (review here). Regardless, for me Keynote is worth the price of admission.

While Apple appears to keep focusing its energies toward the Mac as a consumer device, the third party developer community continues to develop excellent resources allowing you to get the edge in your practice with your Mac.

OmniFocus Tips - The Omniscient Start Date

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I've been promising an OmniFocus screencast for some time but it seems the world is conspiring against me lately. Nevertheless, I thought I would share one of my most valuable tips, the effective use of start dates.

If you're like me, you have a lot of tasks in your database. One of the primary goals of task management is to actually get things done and not be paralyzed with fear when you see a list of 784 items. The trick is to make OmniFocus only give you the tasks you want to see at that moment. In addition to using contexts, another way to accomplish this is through the effective use of the "start date" field. For instance, if you have a particular project for work that you want to start on Wednesday, the start date for the related tasks should be Wednesday. You do not want those items appearing on your task list on Monday or Tuesday. I have some tasks that are not scheduled to begin for over a year. I was reminded of this yesterday when OmniFocus told me it was time to sort out the Christmas card list.

Every morning I do a sort of triage to my task list. Several items appear that weren't there yesterday. I look at them and realistically determine which of those will get accomplished today. Those that won't, get rescheduled to appropriate new start date. It's not that I'm deleting these tasks, I'm rescheduling them. They will appear again and will get done.

OmniFocus makes this very easy. You simply tab over to the start date field and type in a new date. You can also mouse over the calendar and enter the date that way. By far the most efficient and nerdy way to do this is through OmniFocus's intelligent date system. For instance, if the start date lists as December 8, 2008 and I type in the field "2d", OmniFocus will automate reschedule it for 2 days, December 10, 2008. If I type "Wed" in the field, it would do the same. You can even combine these. If you type"3w Sat", it will reschedule the event for three weeks from Saturday. I find it extremely useful and I am quickly able to parse through my task list to show only those events I need to work on today.

If you really want to go nuts, you can also use times in your start date field. If I've already blocked time out to do a specific project in the afternoon for instance, I will set the start time to coincide. That way my task list during the morning is not stuffed with items I do not currently need. I also do this for home related tasks. As an example, tomorrow someone's coming to work on my home and I need to prepare. When I made the appointment last week, I set a task for today. When that task appeared this morning, I promptly rescheduled it to 7 p.m. It will show up tonight but I don't have to look at it all day. If I were a bit smarter, I would have scheduled the task to "mon 7pm" and then I wouldn't have seen it this morning. Using this technique, I am able to keep my task list to a manageable and appropriate size. Once I finish the triage in the morning, I click over to context mode and then I'm off to the races for the rest of the day. By the end of the day I've either finished everything on the list or advanced it to a new appropriate start date.

I know GTD purists would argue that in doing this, I'm tying my hands behind my back. Specifically, GTD canon holds that if you have free time, you should be able to pull up all of your outstanding phone call tasks and work through them quickly. For me, this just doesn't happen very often. I think more in terms of specific projects I want to focus on and I'm such a terrible multitasker that jumping around quite often leads to misery. However, if I do find myself with free time, like I did a few weeks ago when the Internet went down to my office, it is a simple matter in OmniFocus to change your filter to show all tasks "remaining" instead of just those "available" and I can see all of my telephone calls.

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So MacSparky Nation, are these productivity posts helpful? Every time I post one I get several complementary e-mails from readers and several not-so-complementary e-mails from people threatening to unsubscribe because I've gone off the Mac-centric focus of the site. Let me know.

Planning to Plan

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Without trying to shove David Allen's Getting Things Done philosophy down anyone's throat, one of the very good points he makes is that you should plan tasks, not projects. For instance, a task item called "clean garage" isn't nearly as good as a set of tasks like "clear off work bench", "bring old clothes in garage to charity", and "throw out old holiday decorations".

The trouble is you need to stop and make time to think out your projects. While this takes a little brain time up front, it can save you a lot of labor down the road. The trick is avoiding the convenience of cheating. I've caught myself doing it several times with entries like "increase involvement at kid's school" or "settle Jones case". These aren't tasks; they are projects. The trouble is, when the idea occurred to me to do these projects, I didn't have time to break them down in component parts so I just put a useless project name in my task list. When I run into such vague generalities while executing my task list, I just shrug my shoulders and push the project off to another day.

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Realizing this habit was getting me nowhere, a few months ago I began a new practice. I "plan to plan." So instead of listing the project as the task, I now make a task item to plan a project.

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While I may not have time to initially plan the project, I can task myself to do it later. When I have time, I plan the project out and get the satisfaction of ticking off the original "plan project" entry. This way, my task list is not cluttered with white noise but actual items I can accomplish.

An additional use for this hack is when you anticipate a fork in the road of a project. For instance, I often plan projects for my clients where I know steps 1 through 5, but step 6 is contingent upon what happen between steps 1 through 5. In that case, I enter a task as step 6 called "Plan project further." Again, when that task shows up I will have the information I need to plan further and can do so accordingly.

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For instance, in the above example, the other guy may simply accept my contract, have revisions, or tell me to pound sand. I don't know what will happen when I start the project, but I will know by the time that task shows up. Then I can plan further as required.

What are your ideas for tackling this problem? Drop me a note or leave a comment.

Manage Tasks Under Fire

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I write about personal productivity quite a bit. What I don’t do often enough is talk about how much I truly suck at it. The day job has been real busy lately. A looming jury trial and a colleague’s vacation have combined into a perfect storm of anarchy in my life. The last three days I’ve been putting out fires, and completely ignoring my OmniFocus data while watching the unread email multiply like rabbits.

Finally, this afternoon I shut the door, put the calls on hold, and did what I knew in my guts had to be done. I got caught up. I sorted and processed emails. I prioritized and adjusted projects. All in all, it took about an hour and a half. Several of my projects have been pushed back but at least they are done so under my terms. Of course in doing this I found several time bombs which I was able defuse in their last seconds. I am so much less stressed now that I have a handle on what I’m up against and amazed at how quickly things can descend into chaos when you don’t pay attention.

This whole exercise of falling off the wagon and getting back on reinforces something for me. When you have the least amount of time available for keeping track of your projects and tasks is precisely when you need to stop and do it the most. In other words, when the chips are down, you really need to suck it up.

OmniFocus iPhone Review

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This week I'm going to look at the OmniFocus iPhone application. Unless you fit in that narrow wedge of a Venn diagram including both iPhone owners and OmniFocus geeks, these comments will have absolutely no interest to you. So there you have it. You've been warned.

Since the first day I took my iPhone of the box a year ago, I've been waiting for iPhone OmniFocus to arrive. It was, and remains to be, remarkable to me that Apple still hasn't created a native to-do list management system for the iPhone.

Well, with the opening of the applications store, and my willingness to part with $20, my wish has finally come true. I have OmniFocus on my iPhone. I have now been using it a few weeks and thought I'd share some of my initial impressions.

The most impressive feature of the iPhone OmniFocus application is the robust synchronization accomplished without use of a cute little white cord. That's right, you can synchronize your task list database wirelessly. In order to perform this bit of black magic, you need to upgrade your OmniFocus license on your Mac to the sneaky peek 1.1 version. (You can read my MacOmniFocus Review here.) I know most sane people avoid beta software (I frequently install it with reckless abandon), but in this case it is well worth the trouble. The Mac version of OmniFocus 1.1 allows you to sync your data through your MobileMe or other Webdav account. Once you have trained your Mac application to put your data into your MobileMe account, your iPhone will look at the cloud version and update itself. No cord required.

The synchronization process isn't perfect. It takes longer than a wired-based synchronization. Also, sometimes it runs into snags. In that case, OmniFocus will ask you whether it wants you to use the server or local version. The bottom line is that if you're going to do this, you need to respect the syncing gods. There are couple ways to do this. First, you tell your Mac software to backup your data every time you close OmniFocus. That way, you have numerous backups of your OmniFocus data in case the gods become angry. Second, don't tell everything to sync at once. Technically this is possible, but its really like when the Ghostbusters crossed the streams. Very bad things could happen.

With these precautions in place, syncing is great. The Omni people get a MacSparky thumbs up for the sheer moxy to pull it off. I am certain this process will get even easier and better over time but it is entirely workable right now so long as you take a few precautions.

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So once I have the data on my iPhone, what do I do with it? This is where the current version of the OmniFocus iPhone software comes up a little short. The application allows you to manipulate the data in your iPhone and make changes to your tasks. Making changes is quite often, however, awkward. For instance, moving the start date on the iPhone requires several button taps and scroll wheels. Strangely, the process of changing the date also changes the start time and requires more steps to set right. Put simply, the interface needs work. The Omni engineers have to figure a way to make data manipulation just as easy on the iPhone as it is on the Mac without benefit of a mouse and keyboard. I don't envy them. I think what they have is a good start. I hope they continue to refine it. I suspect they will.

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The flashiest feature is the location aware function. OmniFocus on your iPhone can look where you're at and provide you tasks available for nearby locations. This even works on 1st generation iPhones such as mine. For instance, when you are in front of a market, it can give you your grocery list. A lot of people are excited about this function. I get that this is really tricky, but I've yet to really find a use for it. When I want to buy my groceries, I go to the market. I don't need my phone to tell me. Maybe as I use this more, I'll find a better use for it. If anybody's got any ideas, e-mail me. I'd love to hear them.

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So despite my gripes about the user interface, I have to say I can't imagine living without OmniFocus on my iPhone now that I've had it a few weeks. Every morning, after I get my daily tasks set up, I sync everything to my iPhone and it is very satisfying knowing that I have that list in my pocket at all times. I can check items off and, with a little work, adjust them on my iPhone and it will integrate with my database on my Mac. I'm convinced this will become even more useful as the Omni gang continues to polish and enhance the application.

At $20, this is one of the more expensive iPhone applications. However, if you've made it this far in the review, you probably are an OmniFocus nerd so stop kidding yourself and just go buy it.

OmniFocus Talks Back

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It wasn't so long ago that there were no task management applications on the Mac worth a damn. What a difference a few years make! Now there are multiple quality applications from the lightweight Do It! to the 800 pound gorilla, OmniFocus. There are also several web based solutions, like Remember the Milk. I've made no mystery of my appreciation of OmniFocus (reviewed here). I know, however, that this Omni love is not universal.

A lot of users feel OmniFocus is just too much for them. Not quite intuitive enough and too ponderous to figure out. The word "bloat" hasn't been used, but implied. I can appreciate these comments but having used OmniFocus since the alpha, I can't help but think a lot of these complaints are a result of a lack of familiarity with the program which is, once you figure it out, very scaleable.

One of my favorite Mac writers is TidBITS' Matt Neuburg who reviewed OmniFocus with several compliments and complaints. Matt has also done a few screencasts explaining his heartburn. This has prompted a response from OmniKing, Ken Case on the Omni blog. While I understand Matt's criticisms, I think Ken's response is spot on. OmniFocus just works for me. It is as much a part of my day as green tea and cranky lawyers (not me of course). The idea of OmniFocus Touch in a few weeks has me giddy as a sugar-saturated schoolgirl backstage with Hannah Montana.

I think that Omni's challenge with OmniFocus is largely getting new users over the initial hump. Omni has a few screencasts but that is not enough. They need to go deeper so new users have an easy way to get running. I realize some users simply don't need a task management system with the depth of OmniFocus, but for those who do, Omni needs to show the way. After all, reading the manual is so 90's.

iPhone OmniFocus: It Lives!

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I was very pleased to see the blogosphere light up with news of OmniFocus for the iPhone. This is the one iPhone application I've been lusting after since ... well ... since the first OmniFocus beta. I've reported on it before and begged for it at MacWorld. Now it appears the folks at Omni have come through with a great looking application. Merlin Mann covered it here.

One feature I never would have guessed is location awareness. I *think* this means that I can open my "Grocery List" context and it will tell me where the nearest grocery store is. There simply isn't enough information out yet to know more detail than that.

On the Omni blog, it is confirmed to run fine on 2g or 3g iPhones and the iPod touch. There is no official word yet on whether it will be a separate license (my guess is it will). Between push calendar and OmniFocus, my iPhone just became even more indispensable. If Omni now announces they also have OmniOutliner for the iPhone in the works, my head just might explode.

A Lawyer's Take on Macworld 2008

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In addition to being an affirmed Mac geek, I am also a lawyer. So as I spent the last several days talking to developers and roaming the halls of Macworld, a few things in particular got me excited about practicing law with my Mac.

Macbook Air



Apple's new machine is a real eye catcher. It is just three pounds and manages to keep a 13 inch monitor. While this would be really nice for the roadwarrior or running around in depositions and trial, the $1800 price tag makes me look twice. If you really need thin and are willing to sacrifice a bit of functionality (no ethernet or firewire) you may want to check it out. I'm sticking with my Macbook Pro for the time being.

MacSpeech



For those of you former PC users who miss having DragonDictate in your toolbelt, fret no more. I was never a big fan of iListen, but the folks at at iListen recently acquired the license for the Dragon recognition engine for use on the Mac. Their new product, MacSpeech Dictate will be releasing next month and looks fantastic. I spent about an hour at their booth and am very impressed. I also watched David Pogue fawn over it as it produced very accurate and quick results.

I wasn't alone in my opinion that this product will change things. It was one of the "Best of Show" award winners by several publications. Put this one at the top of your list for productivity boosters.

OmniFocus



I'm a big fan of the Omni Group applications. I use OmniOutline, OmniPlan, and OmniGraffle to manage much of my caseload. I got in early on the beta of their OmniFocus task management application and it was just released as a 1.0. This application is fantastic for keeping all the plates in the air. I did an extended review of it at Macsparky.com

I talked to the folks at Omni and they are going to do everything in their power to get these applications on the iPhone once the iPhone SDK releases.

BusySync



For the small offices that don't need the expense of a server but want to sync iCal calendars between multiple desks, there is a great little application called BusySync. For a cost of $20 per computer, you get seamless bonjour and net syncing between machines. They have a new version due out soon that will also allow for Google calendar syncing.

Bento



FileMaker is the best application for database intensive solutions. If you are running a small practice, FileMaker's smaller application, Bento, looks really robust.

Billings and Daylite



Marketcircle continues its place at the top of small office management software. They had a nice booth and made regular presentations. I was unaware of some of their interesting add-on products like Daylite Delivery and the FileMaker connector. These guys fill a very particular niche.

Fujitsu ScanSnap



I love my Fujitsu ScanSnap. It is a reliable, fast scanner with a small footprint. Now they have a portable version, the S300M, that retails at $295 and looks perfect for those depositions on the other side of the country.

Smart Board



Smart Technologies has a very impressive device you install over your LCD television that allows you to create a virtual white board like you are John Madden. The price point is steep. I was told "around $5,000" but it sure is nice.

Storage - Drobo and TimeCapsule



While TimeCapsule is aimed as a consumer device, 1TB storage with a built in wireless "N" router is a pretty attractive product.

I was also impressed with the Drobo that allows you to drop up to four swappable drives in with no headache. Interestingly, if you pull out a drive while it is running (or if the drive dies), Drobo automatically moves the data around to protect its integrity. The Drobo device costs $500 without any drives.

For all of you Mac lawyers, I highly recommend visiting Macworld sometime when you get a chance. Not only will you find some great tools for your practice, you'll probably have a good time while you are at it.

OmniFocus iPhone Update

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With all the excitement at Macworld one of the tidbits I failed to report was a conversation I had with the Omni folks. They were very enthusiastic about getting their hands on the iPhone SDK next month. They told me they would be working hard to figure out an iPhone application for OmniFocus. I also dropped several not so subtle hints about my wish for OmniOutline on the phone as well. Those of you who had a Newton may remember the nice outline module it had.

If I could get my OmniFocus tasks and OmniOutlines in my pocket, many things would be much easier for me. After talking to the Omni people, I'm convinced that if it is possible, they will pull it off.

Review - OmniFocus

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Omnifocus is the Omni Group’s submission in the growing field of OS X task management programs. OmniFocus has been in development over a year. I was fortunate to get into the alpha test early and I’ve actually been using OmniFocus as my exclusive task management application since June.
I am a believer in keeping tasks lists. I would like to say this arises from some inherent sense of order and organization. In truth however, it arises from my very early realization that I am scatterbrained and often have the attention span of a goldfish. As a result, I write things down. I’m not just talking grocery lists here. If I can not do something immediately, I write it down. Since I do the legal work several companies and have other commitments with my family, my community, and macsparky, this list gets pretty long. So getting back to that part about being scatterbrained I am constantly throwing tasks into OmniFocus. When do I need to prepare for trial? When do I need to volunteer at my daughters’ school? When do I need to clean the air filter and rotate the tires? For someone like me, dumping these things into a system is liberating. Trying to track even a small percentage of these things without tools like OmniFocus could get really ugly, really fast.
So the Omni Group enlisted some very smart productivity folks and came up with OmniFocus, an application designed to hold all those tasks you are carrying around in your head and spit them out to you in small, bite sized, pieces.

The first part of any task system is input. That is, how do you get your tasks into the system? In OmniFocus, the best place for me to do this is the planning window. In it I can create folders and projects and load them up with tasks. You can customize this window to be as simple or complex as you need it. I use the fields for description, project, context, start, and due dates. OmniFocus helps you here anticipating your entries. For instance, I have a project for my fantasy football league, the Riddiculous Football League. If I type “RFL”, OmniFocus figures that out for me. It does the same thing for client projects. Likewise, OmniFocus is very smart on dates. I can list a due date by writing the month and date (like 1/15) or contextually like “4d” for three days or the monday in two weeks “2w Mon”.

Entering new projects and filling them with tasks is easy enough this way. However a lot of time I think of tasks when I’m not even in OmniFocus. For this, the application has a very handy quick entry panel. So I can be in Safari and be inspired to add a task to some project of mine. I’ve mapped a key combination that allows me to open the quick entry panel which also recognizes all of the project and date shortcuts you get inside OmniFocus. It takes just seconds to create.

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Another feature for task entry is clippings which allows you to select text inside your browser or mail program and with a simple key combination create a quick entry task item with the text attached. Speaking of mail you can also preface emails to yourself that OmniFocus will read as new tasks and input them automatically.

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Once the tasks are in you can add notes and attachments to them. I scan most important documents that come my way and drop them into OmniFocus as an attachment to their corresponding tasks so when it comes time to get to work, I don’t have to go searching for the related documents.

Once you’ve got your tasks inside OmniFocus, you can organize them by project or context. But that is really just the first step. OmniFocus has a series of filters you can apply to these modes to sort by folder, due date, start date, durations, flags, and several other criteria that you may, or may not, care to use. Once you have a set of filters set up just the way you like you can save that as a Perspective. You can save all of your favorite Perspectives and access them with just one click. I’ve set up several Perspectives on my system and jump between them as I go through my day.

The print dialogue also gives you several options if you want to make a hard copy which is nice if you are going to be away from your mac. Another trick I use is to print portions of my task list to pdf and then email the pdf to myself so I’ve got it on my iPhone.

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OmniFocus also has a robust syncing system with iCal. I used it for awhile but found iCal’s task management system so anemic that I just turned that feature off. Now I just manage tasks in OmniFocus and have no complaints.

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Using all of these tools together is what makes OmniFocus really shine. I usually spend about 15 minutes every morning planning things out and prioritizing as necessary. I then spend the rest of the day checking off items and adding new items as projects and tasks present themselves. I’ve got a lot of plates in the air and OmniFocus has really helped me keep them from smashing to the floor.
OmniFocus was not developed as a "kitchen sink" application. By this I mean the developers had a clear idea of what they wanted and did not include every conceivable feature. For instance it does not support numerical prioritization like some task management applications do. I thought I would miss this feature but I haven’t. The application does allow you to "flag" certain items and that is enough for me.

OmniFocus also does not allow you to easily synchronize between multiple Macs. I read in the forums that some users accomplished this by keeping their data on a thumb drive but a .mac sync solution would be very nice. Likewise, a way to easily sync and amend this data on my iPhone would be great. Fortunately, this is just a 1.0 release and the Omni folks have stated their intention to tackle these problems with future updates after Apple releases the iPhone SDK.

OS X is very fortunate to have a variety and ever growing set of task management applications. Having tried a lot of them I find OmniFocus to be perfect for my particular needs. It is scaleable and can grow (or shrink) depending on how busy things get for you. A license will cost $79.95 which is not cheap, especially in light of the fact many competent alternatives are free. You can get $20 off if you already own an OmniOutliner Pro license. Regardless, if you spend as much time managing tasks and projects as I do, this investment is well worth it. The people at Omni Group just deliver. Every day I find myself using their products and being more productive, efficient, and just looking better to my clients. In that respect OmniFocus is entirely what I expected: reliable, efficient, and helpful. You can download a free trial at OmniGroup.com.

You can listen to the above review on The MacReviewCast Episode 142.




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OmniFocus iPhone Dreams

Ethan Schoonover, one of the Omni folks writes ...

For what it’s worth, we at Omni are all very interested in getting OmniFocus content on the iPhone (The Omni Group is pretty much 99% iPhone users, so we have a dog in this fight). Rest well assured that as soon as we have options for doing this in a way that allows reasonable functionality, we’ll be on it.

It just warms my heart. I've played with their sync system through Leopard Mail and some of the ingenious scripts that turn your Omnifocus list into a Safari bookmarklet that lets you see your tasks. Neither solution really blows my hair back though. Hopefully the Omni wizards will come up with something fantastic ... soon.

Holy Toledo! Another GTD Application

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Just when you thought it was safe to go back into the water . . .

So I spent my $30 and licensed OmniFocus over the weekend. Of course today the MacSparky radar picked up yet another task management application brewing for the Mac, Things. This application takes a different spin on task management abandoning the more traditional field approach of OmniFocus for a Tag focussed indexing system. There is a very good screencast demonstrating it right here. I'm intrigued by this different approach and I will be following up with this application to see how people use it. That being said, I really like OmniFocus. It is the first task application I have ever used that really tames my crazy lists of tasks. Whether it is writing a trial brief or cleaning the fish pond, OmniFocus is my master.

OmniFocus Gets a Ship Date

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I've written before about just how much I like the OmniGroup applications for my Mac. I've been participating in the "sneaky peak" alpha of their latest application, OmniFocus, since it first was released. I really like this application. It allows me to manage the big and small projects in my life without getting in the way. As Omni has gone through the development cycle the application has just got better and better. Anyway, Omni has announced it will be released as 1.0 on January 8, 2008. There is still time to give it a test run though. Head on over to the OmniFocus site and check it out. Ethan has also started a series of screencasts on their site that are excellent and really give you a handle on OmniFocus in no time at all.

Moleskine Revisited


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I've now been using the Moleskine for a few months. I wasn't exactly sure how I would incorporate it into my life but knew I wanted an easy way to capture tasks on the run. Of course in the mean time, a few things have changed for me in terms of productivity. First, I bought an iPhone. That has had very little impact on the way I capture tasks. Why ... do you ask? Because the iPhone doesn't have a built in task list!? There is a bit of a hack but I'll discuss that below. This post is supposed to be about Moleskines.

Anyway, I don't keep a "journal" in my Moleskine and rarely draw a diagram. It is, primarily, a list. For instance, I'm on the phone with someone and he says, "Hey Dave ... I got a new job making roadrunner traps. My new email address is Joe@ACME.com". I'll write a line in my Moleskine "Joe@ACME.com" As I go through the day I'll accumulate these small entries and at some point I'll sit down in front of my Mac and input these items. They can be OmniFocus entries, address book entries, or maybe a simple task that I'll just do. Either way, very quickly they get processed and crossed off in the Moleskine. Like I said, nothing fancy but it gets the job done.

While I really like the pocket sized Moleskine it still is kind of bulky in my pocket so that one stays at my desk at work. I picked up a three pack of the thin softcover Moleskines that are perfect for putting in my pocket. I keep one in the car, one on me, and one in the briefcase and that works just fine. So at the end of the day I could have several Moleskine's I am processing. It sounds confusing but actually it works quite well.

I'm thinking I may start taking meeting notes in a bigger one and process them the same way. We'll see.

The iPhone Wrinkle

I have faith that Apple will eventually get around to putting a task list on the iPhone but I'm not all that certain I'd actually use it. If I had OmniFocus on it maybe. The current Omni solution that would require me to turn my laptop into a server is useless to me. But for now, such pipe dreams along with about ten bucks will buy you a cup of coffee. There is one slight hack. I have a "Ta-Da List" account which is great. I mainly keep shopping lists on it. For instance, I have a "Target" , "Grocery List" and a few other. I also put an "OmniFocus" list on it that allows me when not near a Moleskine, to put a task in there for later input.

I'm getting plenty of emails from readers with good ideas. Don't be afraid to place comments with your tricks so everyone can benefit.

Details of iGTD Pro Released


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Bartek has released the details of his plans for upgraded versions of his excellent iGTD. Specifically there will continue to be the free version (basic) but he will be adding "iGTD Home and Office" that allows you to sync between Macs and "iGTD Pro" which allows you sync with the web. While I am continuing to use OmniFocus, iGTD is really tempting me. Since I have a windows box at the office it would be really nice to log in to my iGTD data from it. Omni has been quiet about syncing features but I do understand they are racing to finish the 1.0 version. If Omni could just get a reliable iPhone sync that doesn't require me to turn my MacBook into a server, that would probably be enough for me. Still and all, I'll have to keep my eye on iGTD.

You can read about the different versions of iGTD right here.