Archive for the 'iPad' CategoryFebruary 19, 2011
Our firm has finally settled on a practice management application (more on that in a few days). That tool should cover our task tracking needs for client work. But we still need an application to make sure our marketing and practice-development projects stay on course.
Until recently, I had been using OmniFocus. My path to OmniFocus (via Things and other apps) has been a long and storied one. But I still wasn’t entirely sold on it. OmniFocus has some quirks, and it’s not the easiest application to use. Plus, OmniFocus just isn’t pretty (yes, I know that shouldn’t matter, but it does!).
And then I stumbled upon a new entry into the field, Firetask. What makes Firetask somewhat unique is that it started on iOS and migrated to Mac OS X after the success of its iPhone and iPad apps. The design of the desktop client was clearly inspired by the iPad app, both usable and attractive.
Firetask has a few interesting differences from other GTD apps. First, Firetask is (proudly, I might add), a project-oriented task manager. Every task belongs to a project (by default, tasks go into the Miscellaneous project). Unlike OmniFocus and Things, Firetask doesn’t distinguish between types of projects (ie. completable project vs. single action / area of responsibility). Second, Firetask has predefined categories. These are similar to the contexts in OmniFocus, but they include a handy visual icon indicator. The colorful indicator allows for easy identification of different types of tasks when scanning through a list. And like OmniFocus, Firetask allows users to define their own categories (although you’re limited to the set of 31 built-in icons).
Firetask has much to like:
- Attractive interface is quite user friendly, letting you get in and start working without a steep learning curve
- Category indicators allow me to quickly identify different types of tasks
But Firetask isn’t perfect:
- No apparent way to add long descriptions, links to email messages, or attachments to task description
- Needs to make better use of drag-and-drop (for example, the info palette seems to be the only way to change a task from Today to Someday)
- Using the calendar for entering a due date oddly requires users to click on a different task first
- Syncing is limited to wi-fi (no MobileMe syncing yet)
Firetask is definitely a contender. But as you can see, the list of negatives is longer than the list of positives. Of course, the same is true of OmniFocus and Things (which is what has made choosing a final direction so difficult!).
If you were anything like me, you were probably checking the Omni Group forums every few hours for the past week. So you would know by know that OmniFocus for iPad (iTunes link) was approved by Apple today. I have only had a chance to play around with it for about 30 minutes, but I figured I would never live it down if I didn’t share my initial thoughts today.
There are a handful of developers, and the Omni Group is one of them, that are really pushing the envelope on the iPad. I used Things for months on the desktop. And when the iPad was released, I took it for a spin for a few weeks there too. The iPad version was pretty much a well-executed port of the desktop version. Except for the placement of buttons and some eye candy, Things looks and works fairly similarly on the desktop and the iPad.
Not so with OmniFocus. The second you start up OmniFocus on your iPad and sync your data, you’ll see that the iPad application was designed from scratch with a smaller touchscreen in mind. It’s absolutely gorgeous (dare I say, lickable?). And from my limited use, I actually like it better than the desktop application. It’s like the Omni Group redesigned OmniFocus from the ground up based on how the interface should work, completely disregarding the desktop version.
Some of the new features are just delightful. I love the +1 day, +1 week, +1 month buttons on due dates. I love the Forecast screen, allowing you to see how many tasks are coming due each day. This was the one feature that I really started to feel like was missing from the desktop version as I transitioned to using OmniFocus for all of my task tracking.
And then there’s the new mapping feature. OmniFocus for iPad allows you to associate a map location with a context. I am sure someone will come up with an awesome way to use this feature (but right now it’s not coming to me).
The bottom line is that OmniFocus for iPad makes me want to use my iPad rather than my desktop when it’s time to sit down and plan my day or see what’s next.
EDIT: MacSpark already has an in-depth review up (but frankly, he cheated a little because he was a beta tester).
Via @kcase on twitter Wednesday:
OmniFocus for iPad has been submitted to the App Store! (Latest stats are that 85% of new apps are reviewed within 7 days.)
is it too much pressure to say that I am expecting OmniFocus for iPad to be a game changer in task managers?
Yesterday FileMaker released its iPad and iPhone versions of FileMaker Go ($39.99 and $19.99 respectively). FileMaker Go allows you to view, search, and edit FileMaker Pro records right from your iPad or iPhone. And if you won’t have internet access where you’re going, you can also copy the database to your device and run it from there. You can copy the database back to your desktop computer when you’re done, but it looks like an all-or-nothing proposition. There doesn’t seem to be syncing. You can also access a database from your DropBox account.
The release of FileMaker Go certainly muddies the decision between a standard “desktop” database and a website-driven database. I am still undecided on the technology that will serve as the foundation for our next-generation practice management tool. FileMaker Go certainly ups the ante on the desktop side of things.
The Omni Group recently confirmed that OmniFocus for iPad is probably technically on schedule. They had previously slated OmniFocus for a June release on the iPad. I am sure they think that all will be forgiven for missing their deadline just because they threw in a clever Star Wars reference. But I am having none of that!
You might be curious at the renewed interest in OmniFocus. After all, aren’t we using Things around here?
Well, yes, we had been using Things. But it just didn’t seem to be helping us get things done. It is simple to use and has a nice interface. But there seemed to be something missing. Something that I couldn’t put my finder on, keeping us from using it as our main task tracking system. So we used Things as a supplement to Bento and iCal.
As you can imagine, the results were quite unsatisfying.
We have been using OmniFocus for the better part of a month — for everything apart from scheduling. I have to say I am quite pleased.
I have found the following features particularly useful:
- Deep folder hierarchies makes organizing tasks by topic and client much easier
- Different views lets me easily see what I have to do from many different angles (home in on one project or see everything due within the next few days)
- Action groups lets me make mini projects for a client engagement (the lack of nested projects was a major limitation of Things)
- Syncing across multiple computers has enabled us to work on the road much more effectively
When I first took a look at OmniFocus, I thought it was too powerful for what I needed. But I think that was because I really didn’t understand what I needed. In a busy firm, living the philosophy that “if I don’t record a task, it’s not getting done” really takes a powerful tool.
We have decided that tool is OmniFocus. And so far it’s working out nicely.