Task management in the Apple ecosystem: OmniFocus vs. Things

I’ve bounced back and forth between OmniFocus and Things several times now. They are very similar applications in many ways, but do have some significant differences.

Screenshot of Things on iPadOS

Here’s what I like and dislike about each:

OmniFocus

Pros:

  • End to end encryption.
  • Extremely flexible.
  • Web interface.

Cons:

  • The visual design of the app isn’t to my taste. This seems silly, but I find myself less willing to use an app I don’t like the look of.
  • Keyboard shortcuts on the Mac are not intuitive to me.
  • Extra complexity of defer + due dates for every task is an annoyance. The Things model of “plan for later” dates, with optional deadlines and additional reminders, works better with the way I work.
  • The downside of having an extremely flexible application is that it is necessary more complex. I do find OmniFocus’s flexibility helpful, but I’m left with just a bit more unhelpful (for me) complexity than I’d like.
  • Uses the clunky, default iOS date picker with no option for natural language parsing of dates/times.
  • The natural language date parsing on the Mac is a bit finicky. For example, sep 1 works but sept 1 does not for “September 1”.
  • Adding a new task on the watch with “hey Siri” requires tapping the watch after you finish dictating.

Things

Pros:

  • One of the best-looking apps of all time (not hyperbole, it’s really good).
  • User interface design and user experience is extremely well-conceived and we’ll-executed.
  • iPad keyboard support (arguably the best of any app of any category – again, not hyperbole).
  • Excellent natural language parsing for dates on the Mac, and a great custom date picker on iOS.
  • Headings inside projects.
  • The “today” and “this evening” lists map onto how my brain works.

Cons:

  • Can’t check off a repeating task before its due date (they are working on fixing this but it requires a revamp of their underlying data models so I don’t expect this to change anytime soon).
  • No ability to attach files to tasks.
  • No ability to use rich text in task notes.

Both are good at

  • Reliable, fast sync.
  • Very few, if any, crashes or bugs.
  • Made by reputable indie developers who have been around for a long time.
  • Quick task entry pop-up on the Mac, and draggable new task button on iOS (allows you to drop a new task exactly where you want it).
  • Integration with the system share sheet on iOS.

Both are missing

  • Any notion of shared task lists.
Max Masnick, PhD @max

© Max Masnick. Views expressed here are mine alone.