OmniFocus: GTD for Mac

November 20, 2007  (Jeffrey Kabbe)

OmniFocusI did something I hadn’t planned on doing for a while – write an article about another application from The Omni Group.1 I have good reason, though. Over the weekend, The Omni Group announced a public beta2 of a task-management application called OmniFocus.

I have been using OmniFocus for several months now as part of the private beta program and have been quite impressed. My calendar needs are pretty simple, and iCal serves those needs well. The iCal To Do feature, though, hasn’t worked for keeping track of my tasks. The only way to categorize a task in iCal is to assign it to a calendar. That becomes quite cumbersome as the number of calendars grows because the primary way to distinguish one calendar from another is by color.

OmniFocus was inspired by David Allen’s Getting Things Done. OmniFocus isn’t the first Mac GTD application. But for me, at least, OmniFocus is the best of the bunch. I have listed the other Mac GTD applications that I know of at the end of article. If you know of any that aren’t listed, let me know and I will add them.

OmniFocus has the tools to make GTD work. OmniFocus lets me capture whatever I am thinking about as a task. I can annotate the task by writing notes or attaching file, so I can get rid of the email or piece of paper that got me thinking about the task. If I know right away that the task will be a big task, I can create the task as a separate project. If I discover later that a task is more complicated than I first thought, I can promote it from a task to a project at that time. In this way, OmniFocus lets me break down my tasks into discrete steps, so I always know what I have to do next.

Probably the best way to understand OmniFocus and how it can help you get organized is to see it in use. The Omni Group has a 15-minute video on their website about how to use OmniFocus and what it can do.

OmniFocus won’t replace your calendar application. But, if your task-management system involves pieces of physical paper or more than one application, you might want to take a look at OmniFocus.

1 I promise this will be the last one for a while. The Omni Group has several other applications, but I only use OmniWeb and OmniFocus regularly.

2 Beta software is pre-release software that the company allows people to use so the software can be tested as much as possible. It also happens to be great marketing by allowing people to use the software free for many months.


  1. How is this different from circusponies?

    By the way, I like the website. I’m going to get the updated feeds. Keep up the good work!

  2. Hi Gary. Thanks for your kind words.

    I haven’t actually seen Circus Ponies. I took a look at it, and it seems quite similar to OmniOutliner.

    Interestingly, OmniFocus was inspired by a third-party set of scripts, called Kinkless GTD (kgtd), that turned OmniOutliner into a GTD task tool. The kgtd developer collaborated on OmniFocus and now works at The Omni Group.

  3. I haven’t read enough of your site yet to know what kind of law you practice – though I’m enjoying what I see here and can hardly wait for the Daylite video! – but you might want to give OmniOutliner a look. It’s a fantastic tool to use to organize information, plan out written or oral presentations or examinations of witnesses. It’s easy and flexible and has great video tutorials at the OmniGroup web site.
    Circus Ponies Notebook is another app that I like a lot. It’s more for storage of information and snippets and ideas. It can hold information in all kinds of forms and automatically indexes whatever is in it, so that you can’t lose anything, no matter how hurried or disorganized you manage to be.
    As long as I’m singing the praises of software, let me add that I’m in the process of learning and switching to Nisus Writer Pro from Word. I love its speed and power and the learning curve, unless you need to get quite deep into it, is minimal. There’s a really helpful support forum at the Nisus web site and a free trial download if you want to give it a shot. I bought a license within a day or two of my download.
    Thanks for a wonderful site.
    Stephen (who doesn’t work for, own stock in, or have any hidden agenda concerning any of the above software companies)

  4. I haven’t actually mentioned what kind of law I practice because this blog is primarily about the work I have done (and continue to do) to set up my wife’s estate planning practice.

    I am also a fan of Nisus Writer Pro and OmniOutliner. I used Nisus Writer Express my last two years of law school. Word kept screwing up my outlines. Then, during a final, Word (v.X) told me that it couldn’t save because it was out of memory. Thankfully, I was able to cut-and-paste into another document and save it, but that was the last straw. I switched to NWE almost exclusively after that.

    OmniOutliner I am rather new to because I haven’t seen a need for it. I did just create a few outlines for trial with OO, and it seemed to work pretty well for that. I’ll try to see how else I can use it.

    Circus Ponies Notebook I know about. I am currently trying it out for a bit with an eye toward writing a review.

  5. Periodically I scrounge around looking for the perfect organizer. On the latest effort, I’ve ended up with a free application called Thinking Rock which pretty well perfectly implements the GTD methodology. It has the additional advantage, for those of us who inhabit a cross-platform world, of running (under Java) on most all operating systems. You might want to check it out:

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