Farewell OmniFocus, welcome org-mode - Part 1

GTD on AmazonI have been sticking to the GTD methodology for quite some time; I read David Allen's book in 2006, and have been sold to the methodology almost immediately. At the time I was stuck with Windows at work (as I am today unfortunately), so I tried to implement the methodology using Outlook. Needless to mention, Outlook is as bad as a productivity tool as it is as an email application. After some time I managed to use my Mac at work, and I discovered Kinkless GTD (a.k.a. kGTD): kGTD was based on OmniOutliner, and is OmniFocus' predecessor. And it was really great.

I have been using OmniFocus since the very first version on the Mac, and I have started using it on the iPhone and iPad as soon as it came out. I loved it from the start: flexible, it does not get in your way, has all the features you could dream of, and has great and stunning UI and UX. There is only one problem: if you can't use a Mac, you are out of luck. There is no other desktop version: no Linux, no Windows, no web app (beside spootnik, which is particularly bad). I was planning to write my own web app, but emulating OmniFocus' UX using today's web technologies is no easy task.

No comparable tools out there

Finally, I took the decision to look for a replacement for OmniFocus, to be able to jump back on the GTD wagon entirely: one of the principles of the methodology is to have a single trusted system for everything (personal, work, etc.). Being stuck with Windows at work, I was using OmniFocus less and less, and I was finding it difficult to track my work effectively. I have tried pretty much all web apps out there, and then some:

  • Nozbe: missing important features, very poor support of keyboard shortcuts, desktop apps limited;
  • Nirvana: missing important features, no desktop apps, no attachments;
  • Remember the Milk: nice and simple, but a little too simple for my needs;
  • Producteev: again, missing important features;
  • Asana: nice support of the keyboard (although the behavior is not consistent between Mac and Windows), but I will never get around the interface, and it also misses important features;
  • Doit.im: quite limited.

These are just the names that come to mind, but I have gone through many others (including Things on the Mac, Toodledo, Wunderlist, and others). Coming from OmniFocus, all seemed too simplistic and limited, the main problems being:

  • The lack of a good implementation for start and due dates;
  • Support of time, in addition to dates;
  • Flexible support of recurring tasks (look at what OmniFocus can do in this area and you will see what I mean).

Some really good alternatives, at last

org-modeOnly in the past couple of weeks I started to look at more geeky tools, and I came across two great options: Taskwarrior, and emacs' org-mode. Taskwarrior seems already good enough, I really enjoy the ability to modify tasks using regular expressions, and all the tools around it (web interfaces, email to task, etc.). Org-mode is also great, probably the most flexible of them all (including OmniFocus this time), and based on plain text files. Org-mode has the added benefit of having a good mobile application, which is working great on iPhone and iPad: MobileOrg. There is also an Android version, which I have not tried, not having an Android device.

So, I have decided to give org-mode a try. I will stick with it for at least a month, and see if I manage to have it work my own way. This is not particularly easy for me, given that I am a hardcore vim user... Still, finally learning some advanced emacs is actually quite interesting (I have started looking into elisp as well, of course). If I manage to switch onto org-mode, and off OmniFocus, I will post here some more details (config files, how to implement GTD with it, etc.).

Link to Part 2