Things, Omnifocus, and Postbox

Published on 04/03/10

I am planning on writing a more in-depth article on each of these at some point in the future, but my business is starting to get a little bit organized (Ingrid is working as my office manager and is a huge help to me (thanks, babe)), and the tools I use have been changing to help my workflow become smoother.

Things vs. Omnifocus

I had been using Things for task management ever since it was available as a public beta. I really liked it and was just getting to the point where it was really starting to work for me (rather than me working for it). I use both the iphone and mac osx versions of the app and was pretty happy with it overall, except for one thing…

Syncing between the iphone and the mac version was a pain, and worked inconsistently. There would be occasions where one of the copies would have todos without names or some similar problem. The point of a task manager like this is for me to put things down and not think about it until it is time to think about it. If I have to keep track of it and make sure that it is doing what it is supposed to be doing then it kind of defeats the purpose of the software.

The nail in Things’ coffin came when my wife started acting as my office manager and I started looking for a way for keep two mac copies synced together. I use Dropbox and read the posts about using that service to keep the same Things database on two different macs. But I have dealt with two people using the same file before and I absolutely did not want to go there. It might have worked with one person using two different computers, but not with two people who might have the document open at the same time and be making changes. Things just isn’t set up for that (I know they might eventually, there is much discussion about features that are coming, but I am busy now and I don’t have time to be messing with it).

I started looking at Omnifocus because of this and tried it out for a couple weeks. First off, let me say that there is no comparison between the user experience of Things vs. Omnifocus. You start using Things immediately and there is virtually no learning curve. As you use it, you learn more about it and start using parts of it that you left alone previously just because you didn’t know (or care) that you needed them.

Omnifocus is not that way. There is an hour long video tutorial called “Getting started with Omnifocus”. Do I need to say anything more about that? Omnifocus has more settings and options and whatever than you could possibly have any desire to figure out. But Omnifocus’ killer feature (for me) made me stick it out. I eventually found a way of using that would work really well for me and I knew that it was time to switch because—

Syncing between multiple macs and iphone with Omnifocus is flawless. I set up a webdav server on my old mac server (that makes my living room sound like a datacenter) using Apache2 (the Apache installation that came with osx 10.4 didn’t work quite right with webdav and omnifocus). Now syncing happens automatically and I don’t really have to think about it. There is a sync button on both the mac and iphone version, but if you enable autosyncing then you usually don’t even need to think about that. It just works. Also, Omnifocus for iphone lets you do a quick entry even if the app is syncing.

Also, the iphone version has much better functionality when compared to the iphone version of Things. It just feels much better integrated with the mac version. So I have switched. I might be able to switch back some day, but I don’t know if I really will want to. Once is enough.

Postbox

There isn’t a huge market for third-party email clients on OSX. Mail.app that comes standard is such a great client that there isn’t really any need for anything more.

The one thing I always wanted, though, is an easier way to manage emails. I usually set up folders for different jobs or clients, and keep the entire conversation in that folder. But when you have a bunch of email to go through it gets to be kind of a pain to drag all the messages to the folder they go in. I would much rather just be able to assign tags using the keyboard. Then I have the trouble that arrises when an email belongs in both the folder named “leads” when I am working on getting a job but also in the folder for a particular job because it has information about both situations on it.

So I google for “osx email client tags” and not much comes up. There is a plugin called “MailTags” for mail.app that is supposed to be pretty good, but I read about some problems with IMAP which is what I use exclusively. Every couple months I would try again to find something, but didn’t have any luck until yesterday.

Postbox does everything I want it to. I can set up “topics” which are just like tags. So when an email comes in, I can read it, hit “t” and assign any topics I want to it, and then hit “a” to archive it. I can get through my inbox pretty quickly and put things where I can find them when I need them, but out of my way.

It also has great integration with the Omnifocus service option so I can highlight some text and turn it into a todo item for my Omnifocus in-box (yes, Things will do the same thing). Pretty sweet.

Ok, this has turned into a long post. I might not need to do a longer article after all.

Comments

On 12/14/10 said:

I should point out that I have switched back to OmniFocus instead of Things. I've also posted an article explaining why.

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