Tag Archives: The Omni Group

It shouldn’t be so hard to fall in love. An expert’s review of the Apple Watch.

Apple_Watch_OmniFocus

Late last year I let one of my friends borrow my Apple Watch and take it for a test drive.

His wife was contemplating buying him one for his birthday, but he wasn’t quite sure he wanted her to drop that kind of cash for what I had already told him was an expensive toy.

The basic issue (beyond cost) was whether the utility of the Apple Watch justified being perpetually monitored.

For him, unless the Apple Watch did something materially better than the iPhone, he wasn’t interested in having Apple (or anyone for that matter) knowing exactly where he was at all times.

And he wasn’t one of those always-on-his-phone types, so I knew that not being tracked (or trackable) was not some conspiracy theorist type objection, but a very real objection he had to this always-on culture of today.

So it was not without a bit of excitement that I handed over my watch, knowing that dude was about to go in on the Apple Watch.

You see, I’m a casual user of my Apple Watch.

I’ve never been so impressed with it that I took a deep dive to uncover the little kernels of goodness that would covert me into a fan.

My initial critiques weren’t positive.

The watch face is small.

Navigation isn’t terribly intuitive.

Doesn’t have a heck of a whole lot of utility beyond glances.

And as a casual user, I felt that my perspective was uninformed.

But now I had someone who was willing to apply a very scientific approach and take the Apple Watch through it’s paces.

Mark Hines aka “Yoda” aka “He Who Sees the Future” aka “The Brain” was going to go completely desconstruct the Apple Watch and share his feedback with me.

A bit of background on his testing is in order.

There are three (3) primary apps Mark rocks on his iPhone in order of importance: OmniFocus, Remote and Wink.

OmniFocus (which I’ve written about before) is a personal task manager that lets you capture thoughts and ideas into lists which you can then parse and organize.

Remote is the iOS app which allows you to control you iOS devices via your iPhone.

Wink is a smart home app that lets you control connected home appliances from your iPhone.

Combined with apps like Shazam, these apps were the apps that factored significantly in Mark’s daily flow and the ones he wanted to test on the Apple Watch.

One month later, he felt he had arrived at a place where he could report back.

It was not good.

His initial impression was that as another iOS device, it should have been plug-and-play right out of the box.

But it was anything but that.

It was – inelegant.

He went into excruciating detail about the level of effort required to get OmniFocus to work on the Apple Watch (similar to how he had set it up on the iPhone) and the workflow hacks he needed to have Wink work in a more streamlined fashion than was possible out-the-box.

One of his biggest hurdles was having Siri send reminders not to the default To-Do list or calendar, but to OmniFocus instead, which involved working with the cats at Omni (big ups to The Omni Group) who took Mark’s feedback and incorporated them into subsequent builds, which enabled him to hit that ‘sweet spot’.

Besides the limitations of the Watch version os most apps, the one thing that drove Mark absolutely bonkers was the fact that if you were outside the range of your iPhone, the Apple Watch was rendered – essentially – useless.

Mind you, Mark lives in a modestly sized apartment.

So you can imagine his chagrin being in another room, less than 30 feet away from his iPhone, and finding that the watch was no longer connected.

Having to be cognizant of where the phone was, relative to the location of the watch, felt counterintuitive, especially considering the Apple Watch’s promise to free the user from their phones.

The reality is that you’ve still got an invisible tether, requiring you to stay close to your phone or lose functionality.

Sure, some things still work, but none of the basic things you’d probably want like messaging, Mail, the phone, Maps, Camera Remote, Weather, and Stocks.

These features rely on an active data connections or GPS signals, neither of which an Apple Watch can do without an iPhone.

Siri also won’t work as it requires a data connection to process commands.

I could give you a watered down version of his assessment, but I’ll just share his actual written report.

Report to Stephen:

I been keeping a journal. Really hated it the 1st week. Took DUMB troubleshooting and tech support to get OmniFocus working. Then further calibration to make it behave the way I wanted…Yesterday was the 1st full day having it actually do the things I envisioned.

I don’t hate it now, but need to exercise it. OmniFocus, Remote and Wink (home automation) are the sweet spot for me. Without those, I definitely wouldn’t care for this at all. With them, I may be on the brink of something special.

No, dude, I literally hated it.

I hit an ill stride today where I can spit into it and I’m catching OmniFocus gems I have lost many times before ‘cuz I was looking around for my phone and when I found it, I forgot what I was gonna put in.

Getting stuff in my head, out and into Omni, path of least resistance, is pure gold. I’ll know in like a week what’s really hood. I know they average cat ain’t jumping thru all these hoops I am so, the thing out the box is under impressive.

You gave a totally accurate review.

Omni’s support was solid but they didn’t have the solution. I created one and shared it back with them. I couldn’t even install that shit onto the watch till Tuesday.

I don’t think a nigga should have to try so hard to fall in love.

A nigga shouldn’t have to try so hard to fall in love.

Deep.

 

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Filed under Apple Watch, mobile, technology

OmniFocus + Basecamp + Spootnik = Perfect Productivity

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As a productivity whore I’ve extolled the virtues of OmniFocus and Basecamp in the past.

In my opinion, these two productivity products are tops in terms of project management, collaboration and milestone tracking.

For those of you unfamiliar with either of these applications, a brief introduction is in order.

OmniFocus (which I’ve written about before) is a personal task manager by The Omni Group built for the Mac OS and iOS devices.

The Omni Group’s website describes OmniFocus as an app “designed to quickly capture your thoughts and ideas to store, manage, and help you process them into actionable to-do items.”

I’ve been using OmniFocus for about three years and it really helps you to work smarter by giving you the tools you need to stay on top of all the things you need to do.

Basecamp (which I’ve also written about) is an online collaboration project management software.

Basecamp’s web-based platform offers to-do lists, wiki-style web-based text documents, calendars, milestone management, file sharing, time tracking, and a messaging system.

Combined, OmniFocus and Basecamp provide all the online tool you need to manage multiple projects.

OmniFocus offers a series of mobile applications, which extend the power and utility the software offers through its desktop application to mobile and tablet devices.

Through the Omnisync servers, activity conducted on one device syncs seamless with all of your connected devices.

Basecamp, which had traditionally focused solely on its web platform, has developed its own applications for mobile and tablet devices, also extending its project management and online collaboration tools to connected devices as well.

Having used the desktop, web and applications with great success, I swear by them.

Notwithstanding, its still challenging working with two platforms that possess independent calendar, time tracking and milestone components.

OmniFocus has a scheduling and forecast function, which lets you see past, present and future events, tasks and milestones.

It synchs with Calendar, and allows you to see your tasks alongside any event, task or to-do that you’ve got scheduled.

Basecamp also has a calendaring function, which lets you schedule events and milestones.

The subscribe feature gives you the ability to have your events show up in Calendar too.

It doesn’t seem like a big deal, but it definitely involves a bit of juggling.

Enter Spootnik.

What’s Spootnik?

Spootnik is an application that connects OmniFocus and Basecamp, allowing you to keep them in sync.

It was developed by Lars Steiger, who wanted to bring both his worlds of productivity together.

Spootnik pulls all of your Basecamp milestones, calendar events, and to-dos into OmniFocus, allowing you to see everything in one place.

It also allows you to make changes and updates to Basecamp items within OmniFocus, and have those updates sync automatically in Basecamp.

Having used Spootnik for over two months now, I am grateful that Lars was so inspired.

It’s put my productivity on ten and there’s no looking back.

If you’re using Basecamp and OmniFocus, I’d definitely advise getting a Spootnik account.

There’s a free 30 day trial, so you can test it out commitment free.

And thank me later.

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Filed under apps, iPhone, technology

My Top 5 (Productivity) iPad Apps

I’m frequently asked which apps I’ve got on my iPad by friends, colleagues and clients, alike.

Notice OutPost and OmniFocus in my dock.

But unlike most folks, who use their iPads for entertainment and have a gang of apps on their devices, from Angry Birds to HBO Go, and everything in between, I primarily use my iPad for work, and my apps are focused on productivity.

And while I’m sure you were ready for a juicy, fun, exciting or at least interesting “top 5 apps” list, this one will probably be very dry by comparison.

But among my six loyal readers, I’m certain that one of you will be rewarded with a salient or applicable take-away.

So without further ado, reader “X”, here are my Top 5 iPad Apps.

1.  OnmiOutliner

OmniOutliner is the ultimate outlining app.

For most of my clients, I am really a glorified project manager.  In this capacity, I’m routinely called upon to come up with creative ideas, and then figure out ways to design, develop, resource, implement, staff, deploy, track and report – essentially everything from ideation through execution.

I’ve found that being able to outline projects, from start to finish, and make adjustments on the fly is critical to managing all these moving parts effectively and efficiently.

OmniOutliner, by The Omni Group, is the perfect tool for creating, manipulating and sharing outlines.

OmniOutiner’s most appealing feature is it’s ease of use and malleability. I’ve created instruction manuals, proposals, schedules, equipment lists, budgets, you name it, with OmniOutliner.

From basic text/data entry, to hierarchical organization, lists, attachments, notes, reminders – I could go on and on – OmniOutliner is an organizational godsend.

2.  OmniGraffle

The perfect tool for mapping ish out!

If you’re a visual person or think in pictures, you probably find your notes peppered with sketches, diagrams, flow-charts and various other forms of doodles and drawings.

While your scrawling may appear to be scribbling and goofing-off to the casual observer, you know that these crude drawings are replete with meaning and value.

Your Moleskin notebooks are probably full of such drawings, which may (or may not) ever be referenced or used again, relegated to some dusty shelf of half-baked ideas.

OmniGraffle, also by the Omni Group, saves your (probably) good ideas from a life of obscurity, by making them useful and understandable by the common man, team member or just you.

OmniGraffle lets you create “graffles” (or drawings), maps, flow charts, organizational diagrams, wireframes, processes, or layouts, using stencils, lines, connectors and a host of useful tools.

Using the iPad screen as a canvas, OnmiGraffle can even take your hand-drawn sketch and turn it into something immediately useful.

3.  OmniFocus

OmniFocus helps you organize disparate thoughts.

Sometimes, you just want to jot down a thought, note, to-do or what-have-you because you don’t want to lose or forget the thought.

If the impulse to jot down a thought happens to you a lot, you’ve probably got a collection of scraps of paper, and/or fragments of ideas, notes and reminders, scattered about.

If you could assemble them in one place, you’d probably have a fully formed thought, idea or plan of action among those various disparate thoughts.

OmniFocus, by (once again) the Omni Group, helps to coral your random note-taking, thought-jotting, to-do-ing(?), and helps you, well, focus.

OmniFocus is all about task management, helping you to define, assign, prioritize, track and manage tasks.

With a simple-to-use interface, synching between multiple instances of OmniFocus, and integration with your calendar, it’s the perfect tool for staying organized.

4.  Outpost

Productivity personified.

As a Basecamp junkie (FYI Basecamp is a web-based project management and online collaboration tool developed by 37signals), being able to access my Basecamp account is critical to staying on top of my projects.

Sometimes, however, when wi-fi isn’t available and my 3G is spotty, accessing my account sometimes proves challenging.

OutPost, by Enormego, is an app that puts Basecamp on your iPad (and iPhone).

OutPost give you access to all of your accounts, projects, messages, assignments, contacts, calendars, milestones, writeboards and time-tracking.

It also synchronizes your activities, so that all your activities in Outpost seamlessly integrate with the Basecamp account.

OutPost is the ultimate in on-the-go productivity.

*Note: OutPost is one of the “buggier” apps that I use. It’s prone to frequent crashing. Can we work on this Enormego? Hello?

5.  SoundPaper (aka SoundNote)

Note-taking+audio recording. SoundPaper.

If you’re like me, whenever you take a meeting, you take meticulous notes.

I’ve always been really good about recalling the details of conversations – even when I wasn’t taking notes.

But sometimes, people talk fast, you mishear something or you get so caught up listening, that you stop writing.

Even the most meticulous note-taker missed an element or two, that for the life of them and despite their best efforts, they can’t recall.

SoundPaper, by David Estes, remedies that.

SoundPaper is a really handy app that combines a notepad with audio recording capabilities.

Simply click record and SoundPaper will automatically begin recording audio.

What’s especially cool about it, is that the recording is linked to your note-taking.

SoundPaper is really useful for lectures and other scenarios when your note-taking might not match the pace of the speaker.

So if you get caught up and can’t recall what was said, simply click on a word and SoundPaper takes you to the exact session and you can play back the audio you missed.

Three of the big five are in my "Productivity" tab: OmniGraffle, SoundPaper and OmniOutliner.

I’ve got a few other apps on my iPad, that I use from time-to-time, but these five are my “go-to” apps that keep me focused, organized and on-point.

If you’re looking to get yourself organized in 2012, and you’re planning on using your iPad to help you do it, then by all means, check out the apps I use!

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Filed under mobile, opinion, technology, work