A Journey Into The OmniFocus 3 TestFlight
The long-awaited OmniFocus 3 Public TestFlight has just been released. I was lucky enough to get inside and participate in the [OmniFocus 3 TestFlight]. OmniGroup will be adding more testers at set intervals to bring more test use cases into the fold.
WARNING: This is a public beta and the odd crash will happen here and there. There will definitely be parts of the app that will not be finished. For the most part, I haven’t lost any data due to crashes. As with any beta, use at your own risk. OmniGroup will not be responsible for any possible data loss. You can always create a new Omni Sync Server account and try it out. OmniFocus has a backup feature that allows you to retrieve a previous backup. Refer to the OmniFocus documentation for help in restoring your data.
OmniFocus 3 for iOS TestFlight is the first app up to bat. As the iOS TestFlight app progresses further in beta testing, a Mac TestFlight app will be coming out. You’ll need to sign up for the Mac TestFlight when OmniGroup announces it later this year.
The iOS TestFlight is generally focused on the iPad. The iPhone version will eventually get some tender loving care in the near future but is not the current focus early on. I’ll be focusing on the iPad version in this post. I explore the differences and highlight some interesting changes that occurred between version 2.0 and TestFlight version 3.0. Some features will be delayed for version 3.1 or beyond. Nothing is set in concrete and we’ll see the OmniFocus 3 feature set change over time. So let’s take a ride now!
The TestFlight images and videos shown here are not the final versions. Features may be subject to change upon completion of the TestFlight. This post is meant to be a preview of what has been released.
OmniFocus is a product of the OmniGroup. I am not an employee or affiliated in any way with OmniGroup.
The Email has arrived!
After signing up for the TestFlight, I eventually received the invitation in my inbox. Wooohooo!
I was instructed to download the Apple TestFlight app in the iOS App Store to redeem a code that will activate the OmniFocus 3 TestFlight.
I can easily import my OmniFocus 2 database with Omni Sync Server or create a new account in the Sync Settings screen.
Voilà! My projects and tasks have been imported.
Exploring the Settings
I took a look at the Settings screen to search for anything different.
The first change I see is Sounds and Alerts.
Sounds and Alerts
OmniFocus 3 gives me the opportunity to put default notification settings for Deferred, Latest Start, and Due dates. I can tap on Sounds to change some of the alerts for different triggers such as entering and exiting a location.
There is a new addition to Badges in OmniFocus 3 to Show Explanation in the Today Widget.
This setting affects the Today Widget when shortened. In this screenshot, I see a count below my first task showing 6 overdue tasks, 8 due soon tasks, and 28 other flagged tasks.
You can drag and drop perspective tiles with this button. This is the same as long tapping and dragging a perspective tile up and down the Home Screen. But now there is a button if long tapping isn’t an obvious action. This will be very useful for a beginner who doesn’t know about long tapping on buttons.
The inspector gets a cosmetic facelift. Contexts gets replaced by Tags. There is also a feature that lets you customize which fields you want to see by default.
Inspector - Tags
Tags has replaced the GTD-centric Contexts field. It operates in the same way as OmniFocus 2’s Contexts but it is entirely optional now. For example, I might be an IT manager who does most of his work on my computer. I can assign tags to a task or project if it makes sense. Some examples of tags include energy (high energy, brain dead), priority (urgent-not important, urgent-important, not urgent-important, not urgent-not important), locations (House, Office, Grocery Store), or tools (Mac, Internet, Car).
The newest version of OmniFocus for Mac version 2.12 can read tags but only the first tag will be assigned as the context. OmniFocus for Mac 3 will support the multiple tags when it gets released.
Project-oriented perspective settings (Use Project Hierarchy) remains the same. Context-oriented perspective settings (Don’t Use Project Hierarchy) changes just a little with Tags replacing Contexts. Otherwise, there is nothing new here.
A feature that has been missing in OmniFocus for iOS finally arrives! I always had to go to my Mac if I wanted to edit multiple items. Life gets easier now that I have it on my iOS devices.
We finally gain the ability to change field values, add or remove tags, and flag multiple tasks.
Custom repeats is a very welcome feature. I have a lot of repeating tasks such as house chores, weekly reports, and other administrative tasks. It is now possible to create a task for the 2nd Tuesday of the month or the last day of the month.
The ability to choose a date to end a task (Repeat until December 31, 2018) is not yet available. We’ll hopefully see this in a future update.
For the monthly repeats, I might have to come up with a workaround because a task can only have one monthly repeat. I have a situation where I take out the trash bin every Wednesday night and the recycle bin on the 2nd and 4th Wednesday night of the month. At this moment, I would have to create a repeating task to bring out the recycle bin to the curb on the 2nd Wednesday of the month and another repeating task set for the 4th Wednesday of the month.
Multiple notifications is a feature that might just replace the Due app on my iOS devices. We can set notification for the defer date, the due date, the latest due date (due date minus the estimated duration). We can also had fixed due dates. I’m not sure I want my iPhone dinging at me all the time so I’ll have to spend more time with this. But it is always a welcome feature.
Here’s what a few of the new notifications look like:
OmniFocus 3 dinged at me and told me that this task should start at 12 am. I think I need to set the real defer time to 6 am. When I wake up, this will be one of the first notifications I will see on my iPad. I used to set the deferred time to 12 am to indicate the start of the day. OmniFocus 3 will definitely change my use of defer times. The explanation at the bottom of the task title helps me immensely.
Here is the notification for latest start date (Due Date minus Estimated Duration)
This notification occurs if I assigned a Due Date and an Estimated Duration. if I estimated that this task will take 1 hour, this notification appears one hour before the actual due date.
This is the Due Notification.
I hope to finish this task by the assigned due date and time. Personally, I’ll set my due date/time to an earlier time to give me some buffer. I hate scrambling at the last minute.
OmniFocus 3 has a slightly different layout for the Forecast perspective
OmniFocus 2’s Forecast perspective has a GANTT chart showing the day’s schedule. Deferred/Due tasks are separated from calendar appointments.
OmniFocus 3 changes it up by deleting the GANTT chart and showing deferred/due tasks intermingled with appointments.
The Forecast perspective hasn’t really changed anything beyond the removal of the GANTT chart. Some users might be disappointed because they might want to live in the Forecast perspective and have the ability to tasks other then deferred or due tasks. This perspective is still in a state of flux. I’m sure many users will submit their feature request to have the calendar events available in other custom perspectives.
The Tags perspective has replaced the GTD-centric Contexts perspective. The Tags perspective operates the same way as the old Contexts perspective. Tags can be grouped under a master tag.
Errands > Grocery Store
Errands > Hardware Store
Errands > Apple Store
Errands > Clothing Store
I can visit the Tags perspective and see my tags. I can manually arrange my tags in any order. Custom perspectives have view settings that will override manual sort. That makes sense. But if I’m at the grocery store, I will go to the Tags perspective and arrange the grocery shopping list manually based on the aisle arrangement. I might walk to the canned goods aisle. Then move one row over to the wine aisle. Next up, I’ll visit the vegetable section. Finally, I hit the meat and seafood section. This will hopefully appease users who have been looking for manual sorting inside contexts/tags.
OmniFocus 3 TestFlight has gone a long way to bring the iOS experience up to par with the Mac app. Just a few things that I still can’t do on iOS includes:
- Archiving completed tasks
- Selecting a group of tasks and sort once by name, status, date added, date deferred, date due, date completed. The Mac app has this feature.
- Viewing project and task info such as date added, date changed, date last reviewed
- Multiple windows or tabs. This might get some love. There are rumors of iOS 12 giving apps that capability to have multiple tabs. I’ll have to hold judgement on this one for a little while longer.
- Import OmniOutliner document. I’m not sure this is available for OmniFocus 3 for iOS. But using TaskPaper, Drafts, and Workflow might solve this problem for me.
- Custom layouts will be a little harder to adapt into the smaller iPhone and iPad screens.
- Assigning keyboard shortcuts when using OmniFocus 3 for iOS and a bluetooth keyboard. This is one feature that I’d love to have. I miss using hot keys to quickly go from one perspective to another.
- Delegating tasks to another OmniFocus 3 user. This has been discussed publicly by the OmniFolks. It might not make it into version 3.0 but it feels like it will come a little later. Perhaps version 3.1?
- OmniFocus 3 location map. There is a screenshot of a private internal build of OmniFocus 3 that shows tags and locations nearby.
OmniFocus 3 feels like my old college roommate. We’ve known each other a long time and can almost read each other’s thoughts and actions. We’ve grown up and added a few more years and waist sizes but we’re still the same old blokes who love bad jokes and good beer.
I’m glad to see the evolution of OmniFocus 3. Other apps such as Things 3, 2Do, and Todoist have taken different approaches. It’s nice to see healthy competition because everybody works in different ways. Will it sway Things 3 users? Maybe. But for users who have been endlessly (and crazily) switching between apps, they might find something in OmniFocus 3 to keep them here.
Your OmniFocus 2 workflows should remain the same in OmniFocus 3. The new additions (manual tag sorting, multiple tags, custom notifications, custom repeats, and batch editing) will increase the number of things that can be done on your iOS device. In my own workflow, I have been starting to gear up to use the iPad for about 80% of my work on the iPad. OmniFocus 3 feels like a car. OmniFocus for iOS is my everyday driving vehicle of choice. But I still have my truck (my 13” MacBook Pro) in the garage when I need to do some serious hauling. Multiple tags is a feature that can be easily abused. I am patiently waiting it out to see if I really need it.
Hope to see you all when OmniFocus 3 TestFlight opens up to more users. This has been interesting journey and we’ll see what gets added on. OmniGroup has been a very active development group and we’re always looking forward to what comes out in the Golden Master and in the future.
I wonder what’s on your Omnifocus wishlist? I mean something other than “I wish OmniFocus was more like Things 3 or Todoist.”