updated 06:35 am EST, Tue November 20, 2007
OmniFocus First Look
Veteran Mac developers The Omni Group have been producing OS X software since its inception, initially creating OmniWeb and porting Bungie's Oni to the platform. Having since blossomed from its humble beginnings by introducing many different applications for home and business, The Omni Group has unveiled its latest product, OmniFocus - an application designed to help personal and small business users stay on top of their tasks and duties. By using a trim application window and Apple app integration, OmniFocus hopes to offer an easy-to-use, albeit powerful, experience.
OmniFocus consists of one window with multiple view modes, allowing users to examine their tasks by plan or by context. The planning view organizes all tasks that are associated with a given project, whereas the context view mode will organize tasks by category. For example, if a user was to start a home business, he would have to create a plan that would encompass getting all the correct paper work, registering the business, finding a locale for the business - these things are all tasks of a different sort but are united under the common goal of starting a business. A user might require business software in this case, and they might be interested in seeing Leopard at their local computer store, so any "Software" related headings can be grouped and the user will know that he has to do multiple things while they are at the store.
Projects can be organized in parallel or in series, the former allowing for multiple simultaneous tasks, the latter requiring events to be completed in order. This enables users to create task lists that cater to the project in question: watching a movie with a friend requires that a date be set in advance, then that the movie be rented; while a list of items for a party do not require a set order of purchase. Tasks can be flagged and annotated, which helps with keeping track of priority or specifics that are pertinent to the situation. If a user realizes a basic task is not so basic after all, OmniFocus has several ways to create a project from the task, and then further define the project with additional tasks.
OmniFocus has a few different tools that allow users to quickly find and change information, such as an info panel, a "Clean Up" button, and a few different search and filter methods. Along the top button bar are most of the controls for the application. The search dialogue is self explanatory, and the view button summons several filter lists that show information based on the criteria selected. The project inspector gives users more control over projects and tasks by supplying controls for the project, actions, repetition, relevant dates, and context options.
Project Inspector (click to see open)
The application features a number of different perks as well. iCal and Mail functionality have been woven into OmniFocus' code, allowing users to sync their calendars and automatically manage To-Dos, and Spotlight integration provides an OS-level search function for easy location of tasks and projects. The Omni Group uses a feature called SmartMatch to quickly provide access to a preset, but editable, list of contexts, allowing users to quickly find or add a context item just by typing a few letters of the category. A user might have a category called "Software I need to buy" and could search for it by typing "sof ne bu", and OmniFocus is intelligent enough to see that they are the beginnings of separate words, and will suggest the appropriate context. Tasks can also be added while working in another application, allowing users to call up an overlay window to quickly jot down their idea before they lose track of what they are doing or of the idea.
As a pre-release software title, OmniFocus does have a few bugs, and a comically incomplete manual, which the developer acknowledges and says will be complete by the time the app ships. OmniFocus has a release date or January 8th, 2008, and The Omni Group is offering special pre-order pricing of $40, with the application selling for $80 thereafter.