OmniFocus

OmniFocus 2 and OmniPlan 3 are Now Free iOS Downloads

The folks over at the OmniGroup, which make several of my favorite Mac and iOS apps announced some exciting changes this past week to a few of their apps. OmniFocus 2 and OmniPlan 3 are now free apps you can download from the iOS App Store. Both apps are fully featured and fully functional upon download and stay that way for 2-weeks. After the 2-week free trial is up all of your data in these apps is read only unless you chose to make an In-App-Purchase for either the "Standard" or "Pro" version of these apps.

I own both of these apps and love them.

OmniFocus 2 is my task management app that keeps track of everything I want to do, need to do or want to do in the future at work and at home. I literally run my life with this application and having it on my iPhone, iPad and Apple Watch is critical for me. But all of the power and complexity of the OmniFocus app comes with some cost. First off, OmniFocus is a relatively expensive iOS app. I don't like calling iOS apps expensive because I believe developers deserve to get paid for their hard work. But that being said, $39.99 for the standard version of OmniFocus 2 and then another $29.99 on top of that to upgrade further to the "Pro" version is a lot of money for an iOS app. But it's totally worth it! (At least it is for me). Now, since the iOS app is free to download you can try out all the features of the app for 2-weeks before deciding if the app is for you. This makes it a lot easier for people who think a powerful task management app like OmniFocus might be a good fit for them, but they don't want to sink a bunch of money into it just to find out. 2-weeks is plenty of time to give the app a good run to see if its right for you.

OmniPlan 3 is a very different app from OmniFocus but it is just as powerful. OmniPlan is very similar to Microsoft Project, which is a super charged project planning, schedule and resource management app. This is the kind of app you use to schedule out a very complex and long duration project. When I was going to school for my Masters degree in Systems Engineering I used OmniPlan for several of my school projects. Most of my classmates were using PCs and they used Microsoft Project. But I was able to export and import my schedule with my teammates using Microsoft Project just fine while using OmniPlan. If you have ever used a complex scheduling app like Microsoft Project you wouldn't think it would be an app that would work well on a touch interface. Generally speaking this would be a correct assessment. But the folks at OmniGroup did a good job of designing the user interface of the iOS version of OmniPlan...so much so that I actually enjoyed using OmniPlan in iOS better than I did on the Mac. OmniPlan 3 is a $74.99 In-App-Purchase to unload the full "Pro" version after your 2-week free trial.

Even if you download one of these apps (or both) and decide to pull the trigger after 2-weeks and make an In-App-Purchase, remember that the OmniGroup has a 30-day guarantee on all of their apps. If you aren't happy with the app after 30-days just let them know and they will give you a full refund. Only a company that is confident in their applications can offer you that kind of guarantee.

My Apple Watch Complications

I've had my Apple Watch darn near a year at this point, but I am still changing the way I use this tiny little computer strapped to wrist. For me, the most used feature of the Apple Watch are the complications (the little customized icons on the watch face that give you information). I still change out the complications on my watch face from time to time, but I thought I would share what I am using right now.

Calendar:

Starting in the upper left corner I have the Calendar complication, which shows today's date. I know, big deal...watches have been doing that since almost the dawn of time. This one doesn't need the power of a computer on your wrist, but at least a couple of times a day I need to know what today's date is (writing checks or writing an email where I need to insert dates) and being able to quickly look at your watch face and have the date is just super convenient.

OmniFocus:

The complication in the center of my watch face is OmniFocus. Omnifocus is my "getting things done (GTD)" tool (see my GeekDad post on GTD here) where I keep all of the things I have to do (a really powerful to-do list of sorts). I use this complication a lot more on the weekends, because during the work week I am permanently attached to my work laptop which always has OmniFocus up and running. Being able to look down at my watch see my most recent item that needs to be done is really handy. In a way it is a subtle reminder that keeps me on track to complete the critical items for the day. I can also quickly tap the complication and it takes me to the Apple Watch version of OmniFocus where I can quickly check off the items I have completed, see the full list of things I need to do today, tomorrow or for any project or category I need to see. OmniFocus is in the center of my watch face for a reason, it is a killer app!

The main screen after tapping into OmniFocus

The main screen after tapping into OmniFocus

Drafts:

Drafts is the complication in the lower left hand corner of my watch face. Drafts is a very simple but incredibly handy app that acts just like a tiny little notebook always at the ready to capture a quick note or piece of information. The "0" on the icon means that I currently have zero notes in my Drafts inbox, which is good. Drafts is meant to capture information but not permanently hold it. Everything that goes into Drafts is meant to go somewhere else. For example, I'll use drafts to dictate a tweet and then I have an action that takes the text that was dictated and puts it out in a tweet. I'll also use Drafts to dictate a quick email, create the text for an OmniFocus entry or even create a calendar event (the text I dictate into draft can then be pushed directly to Fantastical which parses the text and creates the calendar event automatically. Check out this great piece by Joe Buhlig if you want to know more about the power of Drafts. What makes Draft so nice on the watch is that when you press the complication is opens the app instantly and starts dictating what you say. Very simple but extrememly useful.

Drafts...ready to dictate a note

Drafts...ready to dictate a note

MacID:

I wrote an article not long about this sweet little app. MacID is an iPhone app that lets you use TouchID to login to your computer. Since the Apple Watch is paired to my iPhone and I have to authenticate each time I put it on, I am able to unlock my computer when I am wearing the watch just by pressing the icon on the bottom/middle portion of my watch face. I use this all the time at home. My kids are always needing to get on our home computer and I can login and let them in all from the comfort of the couch. It also lets you lock the computer, which is nice too.

Temperature:

Another very simple but really useful one, the temperature complication in the lower right hand corner of my watch face. This one is actually powered by Dark Sky, so besides giving me the current temp it will also change the icon to alert me to a change in precipitation status (either starting soon or ending soon). I'm outside running or cycling a lot and I live in Florida. So knowing if it is going to rain in the next hour is unbelievably useful.

That is all the complications I could squeeze onto my watch face. I use the modular watch face because that gives me the most complications. Although I do change my watch face from time to time to something without complications. After all, there are times when using your watch just as a watch is enough.

You Get What You Pay For

In a world full of "free" games and applications, every once in a while you have to pause and think about just what it is you are "buying" when you download a free game or app. An issue I ran into with one of my applications yesterday made me do just that.

I've been using OmniFocus as my go-to task management tool for quite a few years now and have never had a lick of trouble with the application...until now. I won't go into all the details here, but I essentially lost a good portion of my data (all of my work Contexts were somehow lost). The good news is that OmniFocus has backups, so I could just revert back to a previous backup and recover what I had lost. Except reverting to the backup failed. I was now getting into the "complicated" fix territory. If OmniFocus were like most applications out there I would be stuck with having to email tech support back and forth. But not in this case. I was able to pick up the phone and immediately speak to someone in Tech Support within the OmniGroup (the company that developed OmniFocus). Within just a few minutes the wonderful tech support person at the OmniGroup had identified the problem (it was a bug with how their syncing worked) and figured out how to work around the bug. I was back up and running with my original data in just a few minutes.

Now this will really blow your mind. OmniFocus is an iOS app. How many iOS apps do you know of that have tech support that you can call? Not very many. But that's my point here. In a world full of apps that are "free", its nice to have a few apps that are really important to you personally that you actually pay REAL money for. That way, when things go to hell there is a REAL human you can call that can help pull you out of the fire. I'm not advocating that every application out there needs to go to a pricing model similar to what the OmniGroup uses (let's face it, they charge a premium for their applications). But they provide a premium service that I am more than happy to pay for.

OmniFocus isn't the only OmniGroup iOS app that I use on a regular basis. Here is the full list of OmniGroup apps I own:

So the next time you hesitate or just flat reject the idea of paying REAL money for an app, reconsider. You just might get your money's worth...

App Review Tue: OmniFocus Review

This isn't a review of the application OmniFocus, but it is a short post about how I use (or don't use in this case) the "review" feature of the app. 1st off, OmniFocus is a task management app. It's sole purpose is to keep track of all the little and big things that are going on in your life so you can focus on life and not sweat all the details. This is the essensce of the Getting Things Done (GTD) philisophy. The OmniFocus suite of apps is on all my devices (Mac, iPhone and iPad) and is how I am able to keep everything straight.

If you are familiar with OmniFocus then you know that one of the most important aspects of the Getting Things Done (GTD) philisophy is reviewing all of your projects on a regular basis. For the longest time I would use the built-in review function within the app to review my tasks, but this didn't work all that well for me. The automatic review function within the app would automatically re-schedule the review of a project based on the day you actually reviewed the project. So, for example, if I was supposed to be reviewing a project every week on Monday and I didn't get around to reviewing it until Wednesday the app would move my review of that project to a week from Wednesday. This would totally mess me up, because I spread out the review of my projects so that I would only have one or two per day. Now, because I missed my Monday review and OmniFocus moved it to Wednesday I have an extra project to review on Wednesdays. This is a problem because I try to do my review everyday 1st thing when I arrive at work and I only have a short amount of time to do this. So when my reviews start stacking up on a given day I don't have enough time to complete them. My solution to this was quite simple. Instead of using the review function built into the app I set up my own reminders within the app to review each project on my schedule. Now, if I miss reviewing a project for a few days I can still review it a few days late and I am reminded again on my normal day next week to review it again.

This may seem like a stupid simple little thing and maybe it is. But I wanted to point it out because it raises an important point. Just because an app has a really cool feature built into it doesn't mean that nifty little feature will work well for you. Sometimes going back to a simple manual solution is best.

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