in iPad, Mac

Omni frustrates me

Annoyed to the _n_th degree by yet another Things sync issue last year, I migrated to Omnifocus, as it seemed at least to have working OTA sync. Which it does. It also has a very clear and well designed iPad client, and a basic but functional iPhone one. The highly expensive Mac desktop client, however, is still a dinosaur that has barely changed since I first tried a demo several years ago and thought “this is way too hard to use”.

“But they’ve just written this nice new iPad client,” thought I, “so, fingers crossed, the desktop one must surely be in for an update soon.”

Similarly, I tried OmniOutliner for the iPad when it was released and found it to be easily the best iPad outliner I’d seen. It really is a superb piece of work, and I use outliners a lot, so thought that it was a reasonable investment to buy the highly expensive Mac desktop client as well, given that surely it was going to be updated. The potential OmniFocus upgrade, after all, was just speculative on my part, but they were actively promising that OmniOutliner 4 would be released any day soon, and outlines aren’t much use if you can’t also access them on the desktop.

Neither of the above have happened and I can’t see why. OmniFocus for Mac, I’m sorry, is a pain to use, and remains a pain to use regardless of whether I use it every day, which I do. I still find myself adding blank items that I didn’t want, creating new top level projects by mistake, accidentally completing things which are then annoying to find again and so on. OmniOutliner 3 is even worse – I tried hard to get used to it and simply gave up. Both of them suffer from Flaky Mode Change disease, where the exact editing mode one is in is both inobvious and hard to switch. I could go on at length but what is the point? Neither seem to have any development work associated with them at all any more – it’s hardly going to make a difference what I say.

If I spent a large proportion of my working life on iOS devices then I would happily use OF and OO regularly. As it is, I don’t use OO since I can’t bear the desktop client, and I am looking at the Things cloud sync beta and thinking “you know, maybe I will switch back if this gets to live”. When you are being outpaced in development by Cultured Code you really should worry as a company. (Things cloud sync has been promised for years, and the lack has led a lot of people including me to migrate, but is at least actually testably happening now.)

  • Rhianon Jameson

    On OF, my experience matches yours exactly. Expensive Mac client, lousy experience, blank lines added by mistake, etc. And I’ve never figured out how to view what I wanted without fiddling for a long time. Great (and affordable) iPad client, and pretty good iPhone client. The lack of development on the Mac is a little odd, as adding tasks and seeing the big picture are both a lot easier on a multi-window, multi-tasking system. One would think the company would want to have tight integration between the Mac and iOS versions; not just great syncing, which they have, but an easy way of manipulating data on the desktop in order to view it on the go on the iOS versions. Let’s hope they haven’t forgotten about the Mac.

  • Pavig

    Annoyingly the omni roadmap goes like this: Focus ipad. Outliner iPad. Plan iPad and Mac. iPad attachments and sync. Focus and outliner Mac. This puts us 4 years into a development cycle to overhaul ui but only halfway to updating the ui on their most generally useful apps. It makes sense to refine the new ui in plan, their most complex app. But yes, the wait is getting very tedious.

  • ordinal

    I noticed an awful lot of stuff about OmniPlan on their blog, yes, which I found a bit odd considering that I’ve never heard anyone even mention it anywhere else.