OmniFocus and Paid Upgrades


Old image of the Kinkless GTD logo

This evening Ken Case, the OmniGroup CEO, announced the company’s plan for OmniFocus and iOS 7, which seem to be simple: Paid upgrade.

There’s typically a good bit of complaining from the general nerd public when it comes to any major paid revision of iOS software. There is an expectation of free updates (blame Apple), and a wariness to invest more money in software when the App Store is 100% a buyer’s market. I do my best to not fret over such things: Developers need to be paid, and free updates don’t keep the lights on. I get it.

But I’m starting to feel a bit of discontent with OmniFocus, and this might be the moment I break away and try something else.

The backstory: I started using Kinkless GTD, the predecessor to OmniFocus, in 2005. I had just started graduate school and just read David Allen’s Getting Things Done, hoping to improve my organizational system beyond the paper-based planner that (barely) got me through undergrad. If I nerd this up, I thought, I can find a system that works. Kinkless required only OmniOutliner, so I bought into the system. Eight years later, long after the Omni Group has turned what was once Kinkless into a productivity success story, I continue to use the system.

When I consider what I’ve invested in the OmniFocus suite–$25 for OmniOutliner in 2005, $38 for OmniFocus in 2008, $20 for iPhone OmniFocus in 2011, and $40 for iPad OmniFocus in 2011–I’ve paid about $15/year to the OmniGroup. Not bad for essential software.

But OmniFocus is also beginning to show signs of age, of a piece of productivity software designed in 2005–when our work, and how we organized it, was much different. More and more I find that I am reorganizing my work to fit into the OmniFocus model rather than using OmniFocus to better organize the way that I work. I had hopes that the next major update to OmniFocus for the Mac, now delayed, would alleviate these problems. For the moment, at least, that doesn’t seem to be the case.

For years OmniFocus was the only major player in the productivity game. Today there are plenty of alternatives. And it’s difficult to drop another $20/40+ on the application when there are plenty of cheaper, more sync-friendly, collaboration-based, and platform-agnostic alternatives.

I hesitate to change my project management system after the semester’s start, but maybe this is Omni’s way of asking me to reconsider how I organize my work–and how I might be able to simplify that system.

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