OmniFocus for the Web opens up the To Do app to more users
You've got to admire how well the Omni Group has brought its To Do app to the web. Whether it's useful to you or not is another question, though.
Even if you've never used OmniFocus, or if you have no interest in To Do apps at all, OmniFocus for the Web is still worth a look for what a remarkable piece of online work it is.
What could have been a simple web-based companion, is instead close to being a full-blown app. It is, literally, the Mac version being run over the Web.
It is still a companion in that you must have the Mac or iOS editions of OmniFocus. And this web version lacks certain key functions compared to those powerful, heavyweight versions. Yet this is unparalleled online software engineering.
And if you've been put off using OmniFocus because you couldn't run the To Do app on your PC at work, now you can take another look.
The entire purpose of OmniFocus for the Web is to help people who, for any reason, cannot use the Mac or iOS versions during the day or during their work shifts.
If you don't have access to your To Do app until you get home from work, you've got to remember the tasks all day — and you simply never will.
You're much more likely to use a second To Do app or to concoct a workflow where you, for example, email yourself notes.
The problem there is that you've then wrecked one of the key benefits of using a strong To Do app.
When you have one single app that you save your tasks, you have one single place to look for them, too. And when you trust your system, whichever app it is, then you can enter that new task and know that you can forget about it until later.
The very best To Do apps are also less about what you have to do, and more about what you can do next. When you find you've got an unexpected extra half hour wait at the airport, OmniFocus or its rivals, can all give you a list of the phone calls you've got left to make.
So even though you should not spend your day going in and out of your To Do app, you absolutely require the ability to do that at any moment.
Now you can open OmniFocus for the Web in a tab at work and that's sorted. You're still stuffed if you're, say, a farmer out in a field. But for a giant number of users, this Web version makes OmniFocus viable.
What you get
If you have the Mac or iOS editions of OmniFocus, then you already have a database of tasks. As soon as you subscribe to OmniFocus for the Web, that entire database is available to you wherever you can use a browser.
That means any task you've already got is right there, arranged in the same projects and folders that you've created on the Mac or iOS.
Every task has every detail, from starting and due dates, though to any notes or tags.
Then you can add a new task and include all this detail then or later.
Every bit of work you do with the web version is synced to the Mac and iOS ones. While we never got out a stopwatch to check, it was regularly the case that a task entered on, say, our iPhones, would show up on the web a minute before it did the Mac.
It's so complete and it looks so familiar online that, the more you know OmniFocus for Mac or iOS, the more startled you will be by how powerful the web version is.
That's certainly the case when you first use it. As you dig in more, you find out what it can't do, however, and some of that is significant.
What you don't get
There are small and large differences between OmniFocus for the Web and the Mac or iOS editions.
For instance, OmniFocus for the Mac and iOS has an extremely powerful range of options for repeating tasks. So you can say that after you've done this particularly thing, you should be reminded to do it two Tuesdays from now, for instance. The web version doesn't have this.
Then there are two key omissions and they are the Forecast and Review.
Forecast tells you all the tasks that you have to do today, tomorrow or so on. Review is a workflow that steps you through every one of your projects.
They're crucial. It's common to find that you spend most of your time in the Forecast view, for instance.
And Review is how you can trust your system. Quickly add a stray thought or a complete project and know that you won't forget about it, not even if you can't yet put any deadline date on it.
Since OmniFocus prompts you through regularly reviewing everything, you know you will see that project again.
When it matters and when it doesn't
If OmniFocus only existed on the Web, the lack of these two features and a good repeating task function would pull it down from being a heavyweight to a middleweight To Do app.
However, it doesn't only exist on the Web, and this is the point. While we long for that Forecast view to make it into the web version, we're fine waiting to use the Mac or iOS one for everything else.
Let those versions prompt us for our regular review. And when we are reviewing all our tasks on iOS or Mac, we can then add the repeating date information.
OmniFocus for the Web is a subscription service and it requires you to have either OmniFocus for Mac or for iOS. Those cost $49 each for a standard version, and there's a Pro edition which is $99 on the Mac or $74.99 on iOS.
If you already have those, or if you choose to buy one of them now, then you could add on a web subscription for five bucks a month or $50 for a year.
Alternatively, you could pay $10 per month or $99 per year and get the web version plus use of the full Mac and iOS ones as part of your subscription.
If your work or life means your needs are entirely covered by Apple's free Reminders, then just stick with that. When you're juggling more or you're overwhelmed with simply trying to stay on top of what you've got to do, get OmniFocus.
The best value is the Mac or iOS version, though, and as exceptional as the Web one is, it's solely worth it when you regularly have long periods away from your Apple devices.