OmniFocus was one of the few applications I was really looking forward to at the App Store’s launch. Because I’ve already taken the plunge and decided to let OmniFocus track all of my random to-do’s and projects, a companion app for my iPhone really excited me. To truly have a handle on my productivity, OmniFocus for the iPhone seemed extremely necessary.
At its most basic level, OmniFocus is an app for tracking to-do’s, but it’s so much more. The Omni Group built OmniFocus as a GTD app, based on the book “Getting Things Done” by David Allen. This means that OmniFocus manages actions, projects, and contexts.
What is GTD?: To truly understand OmniFocus, I’ll attempt to briefly describe how GTD is supposed to work. Let’s say that you have to clean the house. There are quite a few actions associated with cleaning the house, so “Clean the house” would become a project consisting of many actions which can be completed in a single step. These could include things such as taking out the trash and vacuuming the carpet. You can also set up sub-projects such as “have a garage sale,” which would consist of more actions.
Every action will also have a context associated with it. Contexts are places, people, or things which are needed to complete an action. For example, “vacuum the carpet” could have a context of “house” because you need to be at home to complete the action. Similarly, “invite Bob to dinner” could have the context of “Bob” or “phone,” whichever works best for your organization method.
Once you have everything organized in your “trusted system,” the idea is to work from contexts. If you’re home, look at the home context and complete all of the actions that you can while you’re there. The same applies when you go to the store or meet with someone. This way you can be as productive as possible wherever you are. You can also look at individual projects if you’re planning to focus on one particular thing. It just depends on how you’re planning to work.
Description of OmniFocus: When you first open OmniFocus, you’re presented with the option of starting a new OmniFocus database, or syncing data from OmniFocus on your Mac. On the “home” screen of the app, you have access to your inbox, projects, contexts, items which are due soon, overdue items, and flagged items. You can view actions according to any of these views.
Tapping the “inbox” icon from anywhere in the app will bring up the “new item” dialogue. From the “new item” dialogue, you can title the action, specify context, project, start and due dates, flag an item, take a photo, and even record audio. When specifying contexts or projects that already exist, you can use shorthand and have OmniFocus fill it in for you. For example, if you were to type “mbp” and “MacBook Pro” was a context, OmniFocus would be able to fill this out for you.
I should mention that OmniFocus for the iPhone does not require that you use OmniFocus on the Mac. It can be completely separate if you want it to be. However, all the fun comes from syncing it to the desktop version of OmniFocus. Syncs are all done wirelessly, using your choice of MobileMe, a local network (via Bonjour), or over a WebDAV server. Most people will use MobileMe sync, which works very well.