First look: OmniFocus for iPad

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Copyright 2010 The Omni Group. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

With OmniFocus for iPad just now hitting the App Store, I haven't yet had as much time as I would like to use the application to its fullest potential. My initial interaction has, however, been positive. Costing a rather steep $39.99, OmniFocus for iPad brings another professionally priced tool for professionals into the App Store iPad arena.

OmniFocus offers a way to create to-do lists on steroids. You can brainstorm out ideas, then start organizing and classifying them into separate projects, tasks, and "contexts"; contexts allow you to make tasks relevant to where and when you are working on things. Items related to working at home will not intrude into your "Office" context, for example.
As you organize your to-do elements, your data can used locally, be synced to your local desktop, over the air to Mobile Me, and so forth. So if you're progressing with your work on multiple devices, your task completion and ideas can move with you. That means if you're used to working with OmniFocus on your personal computer or iPhone, that data can now integrate with your iPad using a native app that takes advantage of the iPad's extended geometry and native features.

As with the previous Omni products I've looked at, OmniFocus has really thought about the new user. Like Omni's other iPad apps, OmniFocus immediately draws you into the application and teaches you how to use it from the ground up. Their "Welcome to OmniFocus for iPad" series of Inbox items describes how to use their product and get help along the way. You'll quickly start adding new inbox items, assigning due dates, and attaching items to projects.

The GUI has been very well built. This really feels like a proper iPad application with an expansive workspace that doesn't need to cramp or fold itself to fit onto an iPhone screen. I had a few very minor quibbles with the design (for example, why does the "create new item" button look like it's a toggle that's paired with the Inbox, when it's not?) but for the most part everything seemed solidly laid out and, if you excuse the pun, focused on getting the job done.

OmniFocus is not going to be a tool for everyone, especially with its high price tag. It's clearly aimed at serious business users who need a fully-realized task management tool that allow you to build, manage, and visualize projects. Although I have not spent a lot of time using this application yet, my initial reaction is positive. Features like the calendar-driven Forecast screen where you can explore your due dates and the beautiful collapse and show grouping elements in the Projects and Contexts tables highlight how much work and thought has gone into this app. So, in a nutshell: expensive? Yes. Worth it? Very possibly, especially if you are Omni's core business user demographic.

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