Last night I attended the OmniFocus Debut event in San Francisco, where the Omni Group offered the first public look at the next Mac version of OmniFocus, their powerful task management system that’s based on David Allen’s Getting Things Done (GTD) methodology for personal productivity.
Making it Easier
Omni Group CEO Ken Case kicked off the presentation by sharing the high-level goals for OmniFocus 2. One of the challenges with OmniFocus 1 is that while it’s a powerful application, there’s a steep learning curve that can make it difficult for new users to get up and running into a productive state. Easier ramp-up time was a concern, and as Case noted, with OmniFocus 2 you’ll no longer need a degree in OmniFocus to use OmniFocus.
This easier ramp-up is facilitated primarily by two visible changes which became obvious as product manager Liz Marley demonstrated the working version of OmniFocus 2. The first is a refreshed look to the application. It’s hard to specify exactly what’s changed, but instead of the dated look of OmniFocus 1, the new version appears cleaner and more in line with current UI practices. The second big change is quite tangible: the separate Projects and Contexts sidebars are gone, replaced by a consolidated sidebar that features collapseable panels. In these panels you’ll find access to Projects, Contexts, your Inbox, Flagged items, as well as a couple new views/features…
Back to the Mac: Forecast
OmniFocus’ Forecast view was introduced with their iPad application, offering an easy look at what tasks are coming in the next week. It quickly became many users’ favorite way of interacting with the program, providing a relevant view at pending work without having to create a custom perspective.
OmniFocus 2 introduces a Forecast view to the Mac version of the software. The basic look is similar to that of the iPad Forecast view, integrating both upcoming tasks and calendar entries into a view of “soon to come” items.
In a nice enhancement beyond what’s available on the iPad, OmniFocus 2 doesn’t restrict Forecast view to only the next week. You can pop open a calendar view of the upcoming month and select an arbitrary range of dates to be included. If you’d like your forecast to just include three days, you select those three days. Want a 2-week view? Sure. And, in a feature that David Sparks said made him pee a little with excitement, you can also select days vertically on the calendar, meaning that, for example, you can take a look at your next few Saturdays.
Back to the Mac: Reviews
The other area in which the iPad version offered a better experience than OmniFocus 1 for the Mac was the interface used for task reviews. Getting Things Done advocates a weekly review, but OmniFocus also allows users to specify a different review period on a per-project basis.
The pre-release version of the software we saw last night didn’t yet have a functional Reviews component, but we were shown mockups of what is hoped to ship when the software is available. The Review interface is very similar to that of the iPad, which should make it much easier for OmniFocus users to keep on top of this important part of the GTD system. From the stage, Merlin Mann noted that the GTD review is where one is held accountable, and the improved Review feature will make it easier to see when you’ve been a slacker (which, in a positive light, might incentivize you to get back on track).
OmniFocus 2 is about what I expected, and that’s a good thing. The new Forecast and Review views will be a nice enhancement to the Mac OmniFocus experience, and I’m looking forward to a fresher UI in the application. OmniFocus 2 will be a nice evolution of the product that should provide a more pleasant experience when working on tasks. A couple speakers yesterday reminded us that the goal of software like OmniFocus is not to become good at OmniFocus, but rather to become good at finishing tasks and projects.
I’m sure I’ll have more to say once I start using the product.
Ken Case noted that everyone has two big questions: when and how much?
When: OmniFocus will enter a private beta soon; allegedly those of us in attendance last night will be the first private beta testers so I’ll share what I can, when I can. They also have over 9,000 folks who have registered to be part of their beta testing, so there won’t be any lack of “real world” field testing. After a private beta, there will be a public beta (expected to last about a month) and then release.
How Much: OmniFocus 2 will be released in two versions. A Standard version will include all of the basic user features (projects, contexts, forecast, review, etc) and will be priced at $39.99. A Pro version will add the power user abilities to create custom perspectives (workflow views) as well as AppleScript support. The Pro version will be priced the same as the previous version of OmniFocus: $79.99.
Current registered users of OmniFocus will be eligible to upgrade at a 50% discount.
Read more about OmniFocus 2 on the Omni Group’s blog.