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In-depth OmniFocus Review for the Mac OS X

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Omnifocus Review by Asian Efficiency

OmniFocus is a premium task manager for Mac OS X, developed by The Omni Group. We are often asked which task manager or to do list program we recommend, and we always say the same thing: get OmniFocus. OmniFocus has been around for years (The Omni Group has been around for 20+ years) and it is one of the most popular task managers available on the Mac. There are numerous compelling reasons to use this Mac app (sorry, no Windows version is available) because of its rich features and the ability to customize the program to your own needs.

Let’s take a look at some of its features and why we think OmniFocus is one of the best task managers available.

OmniFocus Premium PostsIf you are looking for a shortcut to use OmniFocus the right and effective way, check out OmniFocus Premium Posts. It’s our guide that is simple, practical and it has a lot of field-tested workflows and solutions to help you use OmniFocus the right way. Click here for more information.

Quick Summary

  • It’s the most popular Mac task manager and we personally use it every day. We can endorse this program and we would recommend it to anyone who is looking for the best task manager available.
  • If the price is holding you back, consider it as an investment. If a program saves you time and makes you more productive – it’s a no brainer. The hours you save and the hours you gain by being more effective makes the product worthwhile.
  • If you have an iPhone and/or iPad, you need a to do list that syncs across all devices. Omnifocus has this feature and the data syncs seamlessly. This feature alone will save you a lot of time and headaches.
  • The support of Omnigroup, the company behind OmniFocus, and the Omnifocus community is awesome. No question goes unanswered.
  • You can buy it through The Omni Group website or through the Mac Appstore. Our advice is to buy it through the Appstore.

Convinced yet how amazing OmniFocus is? You can grab a copy of OmniFocus here in the Mac Appstore.

If you are still on the fence, read on!

Why Omnifocus

It’s a common misconception that Omnifocus is only for people who follow the Getting Things Done (GTD) methodology by David Allen. This is simply not true. While the software is developed with that methodology in mind, the beauty of Omnifocus is that it allows you to really customize the application to your needs.

If you are a GTD practinioner, you will simply love the advanced to do list program functionality. Omnifocus really allows you to implement the GTD method. You have projects, contexts, single action lists, and many more features that mimic the Getting Things Done methodology.

However, if you are not a GTD fan, Omnifocus is still a great program for your task management. I’m not a pure GTD-er myself (I borrow a lot of ideas from other methodologies and have a hybrid system that works for me) and I use OmniFocus program on a daily basis. Aaron, the other AE blogger, uses the Agile Results productivity method (which is completely different from GTD) and he also uses Omnifocus as his de facto task manager.

Omnifocus startup screen

When you first launch Omnifocus, it looks something like this.

When you first launch OmniFocus, the first thing you will notice is the user interface (UI). Admittedly, it won’t win any major design prizes, but it is functional and friendly enough – though there is definitely room for improvement. Rumors are that the new UI in 2.0 will be a revamp but in the meantime, it works. While the UI is not its strength, it makes up for it in features – and what those features mean for your productivity. OmniFocus comes with so many features and benefits that I can’t cover them all, so I have listed some of them that I think are worthwhile mentioning:

  • GTD compatible (although you don’t have to use GTD)
  • iCal integration
  • Collecting and capturing is REALLY easy and convenient
  • Syncs via the cloud with your iPhone and/or iPad
  • Integrates well with email clients on the Mac
  • Lots of third-party scripts and extensions available
  • Perspectives are unique to OmniFocus – no other task manager has this amazing function
  • Great support from developers
  • The program has an active user community online and offline

I’ll cover some of the important features of OmniFocus below, but there are a lot more than we have space to look at here.


The capturing process is an important process no matter which system you follow. The act of storing your thoughts in a trusted system and place (OmniFocus inbox) is a good habit to have for anyone who wants to be more effective. It’s important to free up your psyche from lingering thoughts and with Omnifocus this is really easy. There are two primary ways of quickly capturing information: triggering the quick entry shortcut and using the built in clipper.

Instead of writing how awesome the capturing process is with OmniFocus, let me show it to you. Michael Schechter of A Better Mess made this great video where he shows you how he captures stuff using OmniFocus.

Capturing with OmniFocus is so simple and easy. You will never miss out on any thought or piece of information – just dump it in your inbox with the quick entry box or with help of the built in clipper.

If you’re convinced, grab a copy of Omnifocus here in the Mac Appstore.


In case you are wondering if you need two different programs for your work and personal life – no you don’t. With OmniFocus it is really easy to set up different projects for work and personal so you can use the same program whether you are at the office or at home. If you set it up correctly, you won’t see your personal tasks when you are at work. And vice versa. This makes the program very cost effective and a trustworthy system that can hold all your information.

As I said earlier, OmniFocus allows you to customize the program to your liking. Due to its many features you have a lot of control on how you want the program to work and how it manages your tasks. If you do a search for Omnifocus workflows on Google you will get tons of suggestions on how you can design your own workflow. There are lots of blog posts, podcasts and screencasts available that all show you how you can use OmniFocus. Heck, we have a 10-part series on how you can get the most out of this app.

omnifocus settings

There are a lot of settings you can tweak within Omnifocus.

Does that mean it’s a complicated program? Yes and no. There is a learning curve to the program. You have to be willing to put in a little bit of time to learn how the program works. If you aren’t willing to do that and you just want a very basic and simple to do list program, you should look elsewhere. However, when you invest some of your time to learn the program you will soon discover how powerful it is and you will understand why so many people love OmniFocus.

When you first launch the program, you will have to navigate around and set it up. It doesn’t work right out of the box because the program doesn’t have the one-size-fits-all approach, and that’s a good thing. You will have adjust some of the settings to fit your situation, populate the program with your projects, contexts and list of things to do, and you’re good to go.


One feature that OmniFocus has that other Mac task managers not have is the Perspectives feature. This is the killer feature that establishes OmniFocus as the premium task manager. Surprisingly, The Omni Group doesn’t really market this feature and I think it’s because it’s an advanced feature most people don’t (think) they need. However, I cannot honestly see how I would still be using OmniFocus if it wasn’t for the Perspectives feature.

Okay so you might be thinking, “Thanh, that sounds great but why is this awesome and why do I need it?”

To explain this feature, the analogy I like to give is of a personal assistant. One of the roles of a personal assistant is to provide you with the right information, at the right time, and to make your job easier to make important decisions. He or she will assist you in planning your day and your PA will let you know what the plans are for today, or the upcoming days. The personal assistant has all these things planned for you but he or she acts like a filter and will only tell you what you want and need to know.

Omnifocus Perspectives

OmniFocus perspectives can be your personal assistent. This is how it sort of works.

That’s kind of what Perspectives allow you to do. OmniFocus, in geek speak, is one big database with projects, contexts and tasks. It’s important that you can filter information because all of it won’t be useful. Imagine you have 50 projects running and over 200 tasks stored. You would get easily overwhelmed and paralyzed when you look at all of it at the same time.

The reality is, you don’t need to look at everything. Sometimes you need very specific information. In very simple terms, I can tell OmniFocus to filter out tasks and show the following things:

  • Give me all my available errands that I can do right now.
  • Show me all tasks that are blocking a project from moving forward.
  • Show me a list of people I can call.
  • Show me list of people I’m waiting to hear back from.
  • Only show me tasks that are related to my job.
  • The other way around works too – only show me tasks that are related to my personal life.

And many more. If you set up OmniFocus the right way, you can do all of the above and more depending on how you configure it. It’s really that awesome and we have written about how to setup perspectives here and here.

I haven’t seen any other task manager have this ability to filter out very specific information and tasks, and that’s why Omnifocus rocks. It helps you get right tasks, at the right time, in front of you so you can focus on the right things to do.

If you’re thinking of giving OmniFocus a spin, grab a copy of OmniFocus here in the Mac Appstore.

Cloud Syncing

If you have an iPod, iPhone and/or iPad, wouldn’t it be nice to manage your tasks from your iDevice? Fortunately, OmniFocus is also available on iOS and it syncs seamlessly via the cloud. You don’t necessarily have to be on the same WiFi network to sync and that’s the beauty of it. You can be on your iPhone at the grocery store and input some things to do, and when you get home it’s already there on your desktop ready to be completed.

This OTA (Over-The-Air) syncing is really important and useful if you have an iDevice. Not many task managers do this well but it’s one thing the Omni Group has spent a lot of time on and it’s paying off. It’s one of the main reasons why fewer people are using Things (by Cultured Code), because the OTA syncing feature doesn’t work properly and you need to be on the same WiFi network to sync. That’s so 1999.


There is one more case I want to make. Customer support is important with any major purchase you make. Whether that’s a 52” LED TV or a Mac task manager – sometimes you need support to help you out.

OmniFocus has a huge following and the official forum is active with OmniFocus developers and power users – all willing to help people with their questions. A lot of these users also have developed extra scripts and plugins to make Omnifocus even better.

In the past I’ve submitted several bugs and I have communicated with the OmniFocus developers on improving the program. They are really supportive and active, and they will help you with any troubleshooting. Heck, you can even bug Ken Case, the CEO of The Omni Group, on twitter for questions and sometimes he will help you out. Or just ask the official OmniFocus twitter account and you will usually get a quick response back. They are really dedicated to providing the best support possible.

Omnifocus support tweet

You even get support over twitter and people are loving it, and sharing it.

On top of that support you can find also lots of info from other people on how they use this app and you can learn some cool things from them as well. Lots of people who are passionate about productivity use OmniFocus as their task manager and frequently write about it. David Sparks, lawyer, blogger at Macsparky and writer for Macworld, writes frequently how he uses Omnifocus. Productivity blogger and podcaster Michael Schechter can’t live without it. Eddie Smith, another productivity enthusiast and contributor to Macworld, also uses OmniFocus as his trusted system. Brett Kelly, author of Evernote Essentials, uses OmniFocus in conjunction with popular note taking app Evernote. And there are many more established people who use this software.


After trying many task managers on OS X, I think that OmniFocus is one of the best task managers available. One thing worth mentioning is the price. Omnifocus is not cheap. Considering that you also have to also invest some time in learning the program, it comes with a price tag – in both money and time. However, when you use Omnifocus to manage your daily life and tasks, it will pay you back in more ways than you can count. I can’t tell you how many times I was overwhelmed with things to do but thanks to OmniFocus, I was able to focus and control of my time and the way I get things done. Consider the program as an investment to help you get organized, get ahead and get stuff done. If you really think about it, OmniFocus is actually not that expensive for what it delivers.

Whether you are a GTD-er or not, this program helps you get organized and it will aid you in getting stuff done. If you have an iPhone and/or iPad, you need a task manager that syncs across all platforms and OmniFocus allows you to do that – that way you have a unified system.

The best way to purchase OmniFocus is through the Mac Appstore. This will avoid any hassle with losing your license and it makes updating easy. Also, as a side benefit, if you want to use Omnifocus on multiple computers you can use the same license via the Mac Appstore.

You can buy OmniFocus in the Mac Appstore by clicking here.

Once you have purchased it, we highly recommend you check out our OmniFocus page to help you get started on using this program in the most effective way.

For any questions regarding OmniFocus, ask away in the comments below!

If you liked this post, you may like our OmniFocus Premium Posts – the simple guide to use OmniFocus the right and effective way. Click here for more information.

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Posted by Sean  | June 12, 2012 at 12:50AM | Reply

The biggest plus Omnifocus has going right now is the “Forecast” view, but it’s only available to the iOS versions. It’s incredibly helpful. I really wish Omnigroup would hire more engineers and bring feature parity to the desktop because the current version is very outdated lacking the aforementioned Forecast, the advanced Review techniques and other visual additions to boost discoverability and usability.

Posted by Thanh Pham  | June 12, 2012 at 11:10PM

Yes I agree – the Forecase feature is really good and I suspect they will bring it to the next desktop soon.

Posted by Sean  | July 2, 2012 at 12:25PM

Their tweets seem to indicate 2013 before V2.0 comes out which will included Forecast and tighter integration with Omniplan. 2013??

Posted by Victor  | July 21, 2012 at 5:32PM | Reply

I recently migrated to Mac and downloaded a trial version of Omni Fucus as I heard so much about it. However, I found 2 deal breakers for me to give up my current Windows application (MyLifeOrganized) for Omni Focus.

1. I can’t assign multiple parents to a context. e.g. I have a context called Laptop. Since it is accessible both at work and at home, I’d like to have Laptop included in both Home and Work.

2. I can’t hide items with no start dates in a perspective. I focus on start dates, and I have many tasks that do not have start dates. The “available” filter is great in perspectives, but I am missing a check box that says “hide items with no start dates” to remove distractions.

Am I missing something? Are there work-arounds?


Posted by Thanh Pham  | July 25, 2012 at 2:07AM

Hi Victor,

1. There are two ways to address this. First one is to create two parent contexts and each with a child context @Laptop. This is completely fine (yes it is somewhat duplicate but it works). Another one is to have one context @Laptop and by using the Focus/Show All feature of OmniFocus you can differentiate between work and personal stuff. This requires that you setup your Omnifocus a certain way where you have work and personal in separate folders. We talk about this a lot in our OF article series found here:

2. You can have project setup as sequential so at all times each project will only have 1 action available. Another solution is to change your workflow: assign start dates to tasks that you want to work on in the future and anything that has no start date is something you work on RIGHT NOW. So it’s the inverse of what you want to do but you get the same result: tasks you can work on.

I hope this helps!

Posted by Victor  | July 25, 2012 at 6:32PM

Hi, Thanh,

Thanks, I have been eagerly waiting for your answer! :) The workarounds seems to me counter intuitive and will require me to drastically change my workflow. This could be destructive to my current system so I will not take the risk just yet…

While waiting for your answer, I also tried out Things and some disappointments there led me to The Hot List (THL). After a few days of runnung, THL appears to fit in my system perfectly, at least from a Mac client point of view. The downside is their price: $49.99 for Mac, $9.99 for iPhone, and $19.99/year for Cloud sync!


Posted by Thanh Pham  | July 26, 2012 at 11:08PM

Yeah paying for sync is something that has rubbed me the wrong way. Especially when other apps do it for free.

Whichever program you end up using, as long it helps you get things done, that’s all that matters.

Posted by Rico  | September 21, 2012 at 8:43PM | Reply

Dude. I love you. It so happened that I did a Google search for reviews on Omnifocus, and I was delighted to see that one of those reviews was done by a much trusted source. Omnifocus is about to make another sale thanks to you.

Posted by Thanh Pham  | September 22, 2012 at 11:39AM

Haha thanks Rico! Glad you like it.

Posted by Lars  | December 1, 2012 at 7:31AM | Reply

Do you plan to do any other reviews? I’ve used OmniFocus for 2 years, but got stuck on their “1 context only” policy. Some tasks simply have several contexts or people involved and I never got around this with OmniFocus. I’ve switched to Organize:Pro from taskfabric now. It’s not perfect, but I can manage complex lists much better. Maybe you can do a comparison review?

Posted by cindy  | December 27, 2012 at 12:35PM | Reply

I am also looking at Organize:Pro. I have omnifocus on the ipad but I do not own a Mac laptop. In my research of these 2 systems I think I found a way to export to organize:pro to omni focus. I would also love a comparison review. Thanks for a great website!

Posted by Tomer Run  | May 4, 2013 at 10:21AM | Reply

I accidentally stumble upon this great in-depth review while searching for more info regarding Organize actually :) Since I’m in a windows situation I’d love to read your comparison review between Organize:Pro (or Me) and Omnifocus.

Posted by Jotinder Singh Sindhu  | January 7, 2014 at 5:20AM | Reply

I think Organize:Pro is a better tool
It is also available for iOS, Mac & Windows…plus there a Cloud based beta version
Yesterday, I purchased the iPad version and evaluating the versions on Mac, Windows (on my Samsung Slate) and iPhone
So far so good!

Posted by Geoff  | December 9, 2014 at 9:29AM | Reply

Also a fan of Organized Pro.
Multiple contexts is very handy.

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