Today’s post is part 2 of 5 in a series describing differences between OmniFocus clients and their subsequent learning curves.


In terms of portability, the iPhone wins, hands down. The iPad follows with the desktop/laptop version falling into last place. Walking around the house or office with a laptop vs an iPad clearly shows the utility of one versus the other.

The fact that one has an Inbox ready at any time is a fundamental aspect of GTD. One can even readily audio record thoughts into the iPhone or iPad versions of the program. While one can always have a pen and paper handy, one’s mobile phone may be as, if not more, available in today’s technological world.

General Layout

The iPad’s features and capabilities are very nicely laid out in plain view. Accessing contexts, projects, perspectives, and even a Forecast view are all readily reached with a touch of the finger. One can later learn to adjust the view of Next Actions, Available, Remaining, and All Actions from the menu across the top of the interface.

Delving further, one can touch a task and get easy access to many of the other characteristics which make OmniFocus powerful. Time tasks of start, due, and repeat are grouped meaningfully together. Notes, attachments, and the assignment of contexts, projects, sequential or parallel are readily made. Even further, one can jump to a project or context by selecting the arrows next to the present projects and contexts.

In addition, adjusting an individual task from context view can be more reliable on the iPad. The iPad version waits until you are done adjusting the task before it moves to its new location, whereas the desktop’s filters immediately work upon the task even as it is adjusted.

The iPhone presents many of the same features as the iPad, but the interface is generally less accessible chiefly due to the limited screen real estate. One can still access projects, contexts, and perspectives but must do so from a home screen. This extra step is not an insignificant one. (Addendum 2011-03-01: the iPhone update 1.9 has made significant improvements to menu accessibility of the availability filter and date adjustments.)

The desktop allows for all of these views and actions in addition to other characteristics such as time estimates. Their access is in general faster, though not as readily apparent. For example, one can move to a project from a task by either double-clicking the task handle, selecting “Show in Planning Mode” from the View menu, or typing Option-Command-R. In addition, an advantage is that the double-clicked task opens the project in a separate window where both the task in the project can be viewed as well as its resulting view in Context mode simultaneously.

Also, much of the detailed work one can do in the desktop client is consolidated in the Inspector window. The use of an inspector window, judging by the comments made, is a turn off for some users. However, once a user becomes facile with the key command to toggle it on and off (Shift-Command-i), the inspector becomes much more accessible and useful.

Single vs Multiple Window View

What may be an advantage to one situation may be a disadvantage in another. The desktop version allows multiple windows offering additional possibilities for adjustments and work. However, in some situations, the strength of the iPad and iPhone versions may be in the very limitation of focusing on a single window.

For example, when I sit down to do a review, I find that the review of individual projects themselves to be an easier task on the iPad. Each project is presented exclusively for its review, whereas on the desktop, I see multiple projects simultaneously. During this part of the review, having available only a project under review helps me to limit my attention to the project itself. This forced view allows for a better focus upon the project as it is squarely placed in front of me with no other projects contending for my attention.

Meanwhile, other parts of the review process such as modifications to the folder hierarchy, comparing and consolidating projects, archiving, etc, sit better on the desktop.

To Be Continued …

In our next episode, we will take on perspectives and project focus …