I’ve recently felt that it was about time I got round to using some kind of computer-based task management system and, since I’ve found the To Do features in iCal and Apple Mail to be pretty useless, I began looking around for something more effective. I briefly used Remember the Milk, a web-based offering that makes a reasonable fist of the job (particularly given that it is a free service), but it wasn’t long before I felt that I needed something more powerful.
Having heard lots of good feedback about OmniFocus, particularly from David Sparks of the excellent Mac Power Users podcast, I thought I’d give it a go. After a couple of days playing with the trial version, and some time spent watching a couple of helpful screencasts, I was soon sold on this solution and I bought myself a licence.
Just a couple of days later I read a post on David Sparks’ blog that prompted me to check out a competitor to OmniFocus called Things. Things, it turns out, has a rather lovely user interface and it has to be said that it looks more elegant than OmniFocus. Being a sucker for things that look nice, I found myself feeling annoyed at myself for having so quickly committed myself to OmniFocus. More in hope than anticipation, I sent an email to the OmniGroup asking whether they would consider refunding my licence and explaining that I had only just stumbled upon Things. Rather surprisingly, given the fact that I mentioned how my head had been turned by the UI of Things, they agreed to do so and wished me luck in testing out the competitor. I immediately felt guilty for betraying the friendly OmniGroup people and wondered whether I had made the right decision.
Before getting a response from the OmniGroup I had fired off an email to Cultured Code (the developers of Things), explaining how I’d recently bought a licence for OmniFocus and that I’d since discovered Things. I told them of my love-at-first-sight experience of Things and brazenly asked whether they would consider giving me a discount on the purchase price (remember that at this point I hadn’t had a response from the OmniGroup). I received a very friendly reply, stating that they would be very glad to have me as a Things user, thanking me for my ‘kind words’ about their UI and offering me a 20% off coupon.
I now found myself feeling indebted to both the OmniGroup and Cultured Code, since they had both been so very friendly and accommodating. However I decided that I really needed to carry out a more thorough exploration of Things before finally making up my mind about which of the two task managers would actually meet my needs best.
Deep down I knew that I shouldn’t be too swayed by a glamourous UI as there is so much more to an application than the way it looks, and so I started to put Things through its paces. Before too long a glaring flaw became apparent. Whilst OmniFocus allowed me to easily sync my tasks between multiple computers (vital for me as I work from my home office iMac as well as my work-based counterpart), Things didn’t offer any such option. I sent another email to Cultured Code enquiring about this. They promptly replied and told me that “doing over-the-air (Internet) syncing” is a top priority for future releases. They even teased me with the promise that they intended to do it better than in competitor apps. This, I concluded was all well and good, but since I needed a solution that worked for me today, rather than one that might work even better but that I couldn’t have until sometime in the future, I decided to settle on OmniFocus and I sent off yet another email.
This time the email was addressed to the OmniGroup, asking them whether they would consider having me back, even though I had considered cheating on them. They, of course, welcomed me back with open arms and I am now an avid and very satisfied user of OmniFocus. Yes, it still rankles a little that Things has a nicer UI and a more seductive application icon, but ultimately I know that I’ve made the right choice.
Aside from the syncing issue, I also found that the Things approach to organising tasks was less intuitive (at least for me) and didn’t seem to conform so well to the Getting Things Done method which both apps are intended to accommodate. The various views and ‘perspectives’ offered by OmniFocus just seem to suit my way of organising tasks much better. I guess I will keep one eye on Things, just to see how it evolves (both apps are still in their first major release stage) but for now I remain an enthusiastic user of OmniFocus and would recommend it highly to anyone who needs something beyond a basic task manager.
If you want to learn more about either of the apps then I recommend that you check out the free screencasts listed below. More than anything this whole experience has confirmed for me what a nice bunch of folks these small Mac developers are – both Cultured Code and the OmniGroup made me feel like they cared about me as a customer and that is an experience that is increasingly rare.
Learn more about OmniFocus & Things with these screencasts:
OmniFocus Basics screencast at ScreenCastsOnline
Advanced OmniFocus & iPhone Client screencast at ScreenCastsOnline
Things – Part 1 screencast at ScreenCastsOnline
Things screencast from Cultured Code