The Prompt and why I can’t use OmniFocus

On this week’s “The Prompt” on the mighty 5by5 podcast network, Federico Viticci and Mike Hurley discussed using URL schemes to make and use advanced workflows in iOS. It’s a great discussion, but what really got me thinking was Ticci pointing out that while Apple talks a big game about this being the “post-PC” era, they don’t really give a lot of visibility to people who really use an iOS device as their primary, even sole, computer.

I’ve been running into the same mindset with OmniGroup, a developer who has been making OS/X apps since OS/X was NeXTstep. They make a GTD-oriented task management app, OmniFocus, that’s widely considered to be the bee’s knees by all the productivity gurus.

The problem, though, is that while the iOS versions of OmniFocus are priced as premium iOS apps (I’ve paid $20 for the 1.x verison for iPhone, another $20 for the 2.x version for iPhone and $40 for the iPad version), they are missing crucial features (namely, the ability to create saved searches, or “perspectives”, something the iOS version of Evernote has done perfectly well for years) that you only get if you also have the Mac version (which I believe costs $80).

This isn’t about money, or at least not directly. I don’t have a problem paying for a tool I get a lot of use out of. But it seems to me that, like Apple, OmniGroup talks a big game about iOS but doesn’t really mean it. They’ve been coding for OS/X so long, they just assume you use a Mac. And their iOS apps are crippled because of that assumption.

As it turns out, I don’t use a Mac. And I have no intention of buying one just to run OmniFocus. I’ve already spent $80 on OmniFocus and I’m staring down another $40 when the iOS 7 redesign for iPad comes out. And for my $120, I get a watered down solution that doesn’t really work as advertised. Hell, you have to have the iPad version just to do a proper GTD weekly review; the iPhone version lacks that feature. And neither allow you to create perspectives, meaning switching “head spaces” is an arduous process where you have to set your view settings all over again every time you move on to something else.

I’ve asked OmniGroup about this and generally gotten the brush-off. They have no intention of fixing this feature gap between the same product on different platforms, and they tend to seem baffled as to why I don’t just use the Mac version.

And for as much as OmniFocus does well, so much better than the competition, I think I have to accept that they don’t write software for me, or others like me. They make iOS software, but they don’t really understand post-PC computing. I don’t want a Mac. I want to use my iPhone, or iPad, whichever seems better for the job at hand, without compromises if I choose the smaller, more portable screen.

Are developers out there listening?

2 thoughts on “The Prompt and why I can’t use OmniFocus”

    1. Sadly, no. In fact, I’m saving up to buy a 13" retina MacBook Pro. I’m telling myself it’s not just for OmniFocus, but also Day One, Scrivener, etc. But the fact is, iPhone-first development remains sorely ignored by the marquee developers.

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