Review — OmniFocus (Mac) task management for students
OmniFocus is another one of those to-do-list-on-steroids productivity applications, but it’s definitely one of the most intuitive ones I’ve ever seen. If you’re a GTD fanatic, this is that missing piece you’ve been waiting for.
OmniFocus makes it easy to put together your to do list with about a million different ways to “write stuff down” — between the iPhone app, Quicksilver-esque hotkey entry, the iCal and Mail integration, no matter where you are, if you think of something that needs to get done, it’s easy to enter. But OmniFocus really shines when you need to start rattling through that to do list. You can easily sort every task by its most essential parameters: how long it will take, when it’s due, what project it belongs to, what resources are at your disposal and tons more.
Considering that the whole point of this application is to ultimately save time, the actual use of it is quite efficient as well. I’m really happy with how easy it is to enter things. Whether I type “in 24 hours,” “tomorrow,” “02/11 at noon” or just about any other combination of thoughts, OmniFocus figures out what I meant. I can leave fields blank and it won’t care (which means you can ignore functionality that you don’t need).
A super flashy part of the iPhone app includes a location-based action thingie. It’s kind of overkill but I still love it. Let’s say I’m near the library – since my phone knows where I am, it will only give me to-dos that I can complete in that area. So, I could write an email but maybe not send a document that’s on my laptop at home. Or, it would remind me to return a book while I’m here.
But the major efficiency killer is the learning curve. I’m a GTD veteran, but it still took me about a week to completely understand what OmniFocus can do. If you don’t know GTD, good luck. There are a lot of extraneous features and there isn’t a much easier way to get to know them besides screwing around – the help manual and their screencasts are long-winded and disorganized. Perhaps one day I’ll write up a tutorial for it.
OmniFocus is a big rip-off but I’m really happy that they’re student-aware enough to give us a discount. For students, the program itself is $49.95 (versus $79.95 for real people). Unfortunately, the iPhone application, which really completes the whole system, goes for $19.95 no matter how you cut it.
OmniFocus was definitely not created with the student in mind, but the application works just about as well with a student lifestyle as GTD does.
Projects can be filed into folders which is great for classes – there’s a folder for each class (or just one for all of your classes). That way, you can easily see what the next step in each class is. At the beginning of the semester, for classes with robust syllabuses, you can easily enter all of the assignments for the whole class so that you can always see what’s ahead of you. In some classes, I’m more on top of things than my teacher is.
The problem with GTD for students is always the fast turnaround assignments – something gets that’s assigned now and due tomorrow afternoon doesn’t always get processed by the GTD workflow quickly enough. The deadline integration on OmniFocus kind of solves the problem. Even if a task is poorly organized, as long as it’s entered and has a deadline soon, OmniFocus will make sure that you know about it.