Farewell OmniFocus, welcome org-mode - Part 2

Link to Part 1

A little more than a month went by since my last post on org-mode. By now my decision is made, I am not going to look back, although I still love OmniFocus: if you have advanced requirement for a GTD implementation, you should definitely consider it. Still, I will not switch back and will continue using org-mode.

What I like about org-mode

  • Everything is plain text
    • It works great with version control systems
    • You don't need org-mode nor Emacs to read your data, it is human-readable and you can open it with any text editor
  • It is totally free-form
    • You can stick to GTD, or change it to suit your way of working (multiple contexts, more states rather than simply TODO and DONE, etc.)
    • You can mix notes and TODO items, and that feels natural (with OmniFocus I did put in place several scripts while trying achieve a similar result, but ended up not using them as they got in my way)
    • You can add links to any type of files, emails, or whatever you want
  • There are keyboard shortcuts for everything, you can forget the mouse
  • I can use it at work, Emacs runs perfectly on Windows, and I can sync my files using git
  • It works on my iOS devices, thanks to MobileOrg
  • It can pretty much replace Excel for my use cases… Tables work great (including formulas) and again, it is all plain-text
  • It supports an arbitrary number of columns on any outline; it's like having the full power of OmniOutliner inside OmniFocus (something I missed since Kinkless GTD)
  • GTD's weekly review feels completely natural on a text file, and I really take the opportunity to review and reorganize my stuff every week

What I miss about OmniFocus

  • The UI polish and design; if you have seen OmniFocus 2 beta you will know exactly what I mean. Like all The Omni Group's products, it is simply gorgeous
  • The easy setup
  • The quality and power of the mobile apps

A month in

After a month, I am quite at ease with org-mode. I have started customizing it, created my own agenda views, compiled my own version of MobileOrg (you don't need to do this, it is readily available on the App Store). I have written a couple of VBA scripts (yes, I really mean Visual Basic for Applications…) to get links to messages in Outlook, and I can finally stop having to rely on the abysmal organization features in Outlook. To do the same thing (and quite some more) on the Mac, I rely on org-mac-link-grabber.

I am using the org-mode's advanced features much more than what I would have expected: tables, column view, all sort of recurring tasks, generic timestamps, and so many more.

One of the most important things is that I don't feel in a rush to learn everything straight away. It's all plain text, I don't think it can get more frictionless than this, and I can reorganize all my projects very quickly if I come up with a better way of doing things. Even if I do drastic changes, I can rely on git to resolve conflicts, and I am not afraid of data corruption during the synchronization between devices. OmniFocus' sync is rock solid, still I had a couple of issues with it in the past and I had to rely on backups.

Next steps

I am already more productive than before, especially since in the office I was stuck with using OmniFocus on my iPhone and iPad only, with no links to any documents or emails; that is very far from "frictionless". The main thing I plan to do from now on is to increase automation: this means learning some elisp, and write some macros to make my life easier. Also, I plan to sync my bug tracking systems (mainly github) with an org-mode file, possibly using org-sync.

If there is interest, I might write another follow-up in a couple of months.