Assuming you have been using OmniFocus for a while, here is a reason for setting default contexts for your projects. Notice, in the image above, that I have a bunch of “Media” projects where one is called “Books”. This is a catch-all for the various books I want to read. More often than not, I am reading a book when I’m at home. Therefor, my default context for my “Books” project should be the “Home” context as shown being set here:
With a default context set, any new actions that fill up in my “Inbox” will pick up the default context by using the Tab button as shown here:
(click to view)
NOTE: Using Tab completion with default contexts leaves the Inbox actions grey (as shown within the green rectangle). Those actions where I specifically selected a context will be black instead.
I often find myself stumbling across web sites, articles, and other online content while working. Usually, don’t have time to check the links out immediately so I just add them to OmniFocus for when I do have time. Initially, I was doing this via the QuickEntry window:
However, this is much better:
Notice the clickable hyperlink in the second screenshot. Later, when I have time, I can click the hyperlink and immediately see it load in my web browser without additional cutting and pasting.
This might seem like a lame tip but, hey, I overlooked this feature initially. Maybe you did too.
OmniFocus perspectives help resolve the repetitious clicking involved when switching between modes/views that require specific filters/focus. By configuring a perspective or multiple perspectives, as shown above, you can achieve what you want with the click of a mouse button or keyboard shortcut. Additionally, adding custom icons to each perspective gives a nice visual cue to each perspective rather than the default and non-distinct icon.
In my case, all of my perspectives keep me in context mode with different filters used for each. For example, here is a detailed breakdown:
- Next Action - Selection: My “Home” context, Mode: context, Focus: none, Filter: remaining, Grouping: project, Sorting: project, Action Filter: next action, Time Filter: any, Flag Filter: any.
- Due Soon - Selection: Contexts (the root of all contexts), Mode: context, Focus: none, Filter: remaining, Grouping: project, Sorting: project, Action Filter: due soon, Time Filter: any, Flag Filter: any.
- Shopping - Selection: My “Errands” context, Mode: context, Focus: none, Filter: remaining, Grouping: context, Sorting: project, Action Filter: available, Time Filter: any, Flag Filter: any.
- Work - Selection: My “Work” context, Mode: context, Focus: none, Filter: remaining, Grouping: project, Sorting: project, Action Filter: next action, Time Filter: any, Flag Filter: any.
You can also add custom perspectives to the main menu as shown here:
As for me, I tend to keep the Perspectives dialog open as I do with the Inspector dialog as shown here:
Perspectives ultimately make getting around in OmniFocus must faster but is power-user feature that only becomes obvious only after you find yourself configuring the same settings often.
I don’t know about you but the ability to synchronize OmniFocus with Apple iCal is not very useful. In my situation, I decided to setup my OmniFocus iCal Sychronization Preferences as follows (found via the OmniFocus main menu->Preferences->Sync):
Clicking on the “Sync with iCal” menu button as shown here:
…yields the following in my iCal application:
In the future, this synchronization ability might be worthwhile (especially if the ToDo list ended up on my iPhone). For now, I’ll just stick with keeping things in OmniFocus.
OmniFocus has a Mail rule that can be enabled for those road warriors that have an e-mail enabled portable device (i.e. iPhone). This feature comes in handy for those times you are away from the computer but still want to capture actions that you need to do.
Setup & Usage
You can enable the OmniFocus Mail Preferences by clicking OmniFocus->Preferences->Mail from the main menu as shown here:
Notice that I have configured OmniFocus to scan e-mails sent from me for subject lines that begin with “–”. Any text after the “–” will be turned into an action. For example, here are some e-mail subject lines and their corresponding OmniFocus actions:
- E-mail Subject: –Replace the lightbulb in the downstairs hallway
- OmniFocus Action: A new action called “Replace the lightbulb in the downstairs hallway” will appear in your OmniFocus Inbox.
- E-mail Subject: –Replace the lightbulb in the downstairs hallway::Repairs@Home
- OmniFocus Action: A new action called “Replace the lightbulb in the downstairs hallway” will appear in your “Repairs” project within the “Home” context.
You can also use ‘#’ and ‘$’ notation within the e-mail subject to set start/stop times for an action as well as duration. I won’t show examples as you can read more about it more via the OmniFocus Help documentation.
After you have enabled the OmniFocus Mail Preferences, you’ll want to double check that the Apple Mail application has the new rule set. This can be found via the Apple Mail main menu by clicking on Preferences->Rules as shown here:
Click the edit button of the “Send to OmniFocus” mail rule to see details as shown here:
There are some caveats to all this, however. One is that Mail rules don’t always fire in a timely fashion. This means that you could have a bunch of actions build up in your Mail Inbox. If that is the case, you can always manually force the rules to run by clicking on Message->Apply Rules from the main menu of the Mail application as shown here:
Another issue happens while you are using your mobile device. Lets say you haven’t left your desktop on while running the Mail application (this also assumes you have IMAP capabilities between your mobile device and your desktop). Your Inbox on your mobile device can fill up with e-mail messages to yourself. These messages won’t get turned into actions until the Mail rules get applied by turning your desktop computer back on again and launching the Mail application.
I have been using OmniFocus for the past month or so and can already see huge improvements versus my previous chewing gum solution (Ta-Da List + Stickies). I won’t deny that getting started with OmniFocus does take time. At least for me, it took a day to capture all tasks, thoughts, and ideas into OmniFocus and then a few more days to sort out all the details into proper projects, contexts, and actions while, at the same time, learning how to use OmniFocus. Despite the learning curve, the payoff is worthwhile as I am able to quickly capture and complete my actions faster than I could before.
The following illustrates how I have configured OmniFocus for my purposes.
I tend to keep my projects concise and streamlined. I also find having semi-generically named projects to be easier to remember and reuse than specifically named projects. I could, of course, could change my stance on this in the future.
As you can see, the same naming conventions are applied to contexts.
My Workspace (Context View)
As shown above, I like to leave my Inspector dialog open at all times for quick reference. I find that much more useful than maximizing OmniFocus to take up the entire desktop. I also tend to work out of “Context” view focused on my “Next Action” list. Although, I sometimes switch to a “Due Soon” view.
The quick entry window can be displayed at anytime, in any Leopard Space, via a simple keyboard shortcut when using OmniFocus:
I use this feature often to capture thoughts without being forced to toggle back to the OmniFocus application.