List keepers and GTD (Getting Things Done) fans can relax. At long last there's an iPad version of my favourite project manager, OmniFocus. Following last year's iPhone version, the iPad app has been a long time in the making, so we've been expecting it daily for the past two months. Now it's here, though, it is something of a surprise. It appears to be a complete re-write of the iPhone version and, visually, is different to both that and the OS X program. The iPad iteration is a triumph of design, in my opinion, and looks every bit as good as its main competitor, Things. Moving from the iPad to the phone or to the Mac desktop is now like going back in time. I sincerely hope that this new look will filter down to the other versions sooner rather than later.
Planning and scheduling tasks and projects with the iPad OF is easier than with either the desktop or phone versions. There's a completely new Quick Entry box for capturing tasks and a very useful "Forecast" view which shows scheduled tasks day by day for the next week, plus a tab for all future scheduled tasks (with all tabs showing a number count of items). And, as with the iPhone version, it is now possible to view all customised perspectives you have created on the desktop application. Perspectives are a bit like smart folders where you can specify criteria for viewing tasks from many different aspects.
Whereas the iPhone application feels very much like a quick-entry version of OmniFocus, with lots of drilling down and multiple screens for simple changes, the iPad version is much easier and far more fun to use. In most respects, I now prefer planning the day and week on the iPad rather than on the Mac desktop version, mainly because the new application looks so good and works so well.
Apart from the functionality and breadth of abilities, OmniFocus impresses because of its automatic syncing over all platforms. By default, OF uses MobileMe for this; but with a little bit of adjustment you can also use Dropbox and other cloud computing solutions. When you rely on a system for planning and reminders it is absolutely essential to have over-air syncing on the fly. That's why OF's main competitor, Things, is not in the running. Wifi sync, which is offered by Things, is a very poor substitute and is gradually being displaced by web-based syncing.
OmniFocus can be as simple or as complex as you want it to be. But it isn't cheap and every different version is priced separately. The OS X program costs around £52 (or £77 for a five-licence family pack). The iPhone app costs £12 and the new iPad a whopping £24. So even if you choose the single Mac licence you are in for nearly £90 for a full suite – and if you adopt OF you will definitely want the full suite. If you don't need the project planning depth of OF, there are many cheap (or even free) applications out there that will do a passable job. But OmniFocus is the cream.
My blogging colleague David Sparks (Macsparky.com) has done an excellent review of the new iPad version and I would recommend anyone interested to read it in full here.