OmniFocus 3 Overview

 OmniFocus 3 for iOS is here, and there’s more than a few changes! If you want to see a video of my setup you can do so over on Learn OmniFocus, there’s also an article on how I’ve been using OF3 over on Inside OmniFocus. Finally you might want to check on my OmniFocus Sneak Peak – though that was back in March and more than a few things have changed since then!

Multi-Pane Mode

My favourite feature has to be the multi pane view, being able to see 3 columns at once makes me happy, and it works exceptionally well on the 12.9″ iPad Pro. You can choose to pin the sidebar and the inspector independently of one another or together, so you can have a 2 pane view if that’s what you need. The outline view is always shown on the iPad.

Tags

Tags, glorious tags. What used to be contexts has been renamed, and that opens up all sorts of possibilities. I’ve seen people experimenting with energy levels, I’m personally experimenting with “time of day” tags, and you can go as crazy as you like. Where tags are really paying off for me is being able to add both “waiting on” and “Person A” to a task – so whenever I check my agenda for “Person A” I see that I’m waiting on that task, as well as seeing it in my waiting on list.

Perspectives

Perspectives are where everything is different. All your perspectives have been migrated over from OmniFocus 2, and you can upgrade those to OmniFocus 3 perspectives which gives you the following options:

  • Status
    • Due Soon
    • Flagged
  • Availability
    • First Available
    • Available
    • Remaining
    • Completed
  • Has a due date
  • Has a defer date
  • Has an estimated duration
  • Has an estimated duration less than
    • 5 minutes
    • 15 minutes
    • 30 minutes
    • 60 minutes
  • Is untagged
  • Has a tag which
    • Is active
    • Is on hold
    • Is dropped
    • Is active and has available actions
    • Is active and has no available actions
  • Is tagged with any of
  • Is tagged with all of
  • Is not a project or group
  • Is in the inbox
  • Has a project which
    • Is active or on hold
    • Is on hold
    • Has been completed
    • Has been dropped
    • Is active and has available actions
    • Is active and has no available actions
    • Is active and has a future defer date
  • Is contained within a project or folder
  • Matches search terms
  • All of the following
  • Any of the following
  • None of the following

The best part of perspectives is being able to add as many rules as you like. The top level is always “All of the following”, and then you start adding rules within that. You can also add “Any of the following”, “None of the following” and “All of the following” and add rules inside of those – useful for requiring a group of rules (e.g. flagged and has Tag X), or setting optional groups. I have a “Now” perspective which changes all the time, and I tap the rule above my Work folder to change it to “All of the following” to “None of the following” depending on if I’m at work or not.

Batch Editing

Being able to edit more than one task at once is not a feature I need frequently, but it is one I really appreciate when I use it. You can enable it by tapping the “Edit” button in the top right, and then selecting multiple tasks. You can access the task inspector in the batch edit mode, and it will show you all of the properties which are the same, and a greyed out option where they’re different. If I selected two tasks, one had a due date of today and one with tomorrow, I could still set a new due date for both items at the same time though. You can also use CMD+A to select all the tasks in the current view if you have an external keyboard attached – very useful if your inbox was empty, you added a lot of tasks and then realised they should have been in a project instead!

Custom Repeats

I love repeating tasks, my problem is my repeating tasks aren’t all that regular (at least most of them), thankfully I can handle this in OmniFocus 3. You can set repeats with an hourly, daily, weekly or monthly interval, but you can also say “every Tuesday and Saturday”, or “the first Wednesday of every month”, or “the last day of every month”. This has made submitting my work timesheets much easier to remember.

Notifications

Some tasks are very important, so important you want flashing lights, sirens, and people in hazmat suits running around if the deadline gets too close. In the main settings you can specify notifications for due dates and defer dates globally, and these can also be enabled or removed on each task. You are also able to set two extra kinds of notifications – ones relative to the due date, and ones at a specific date and time. These reminders are a great help with those crucial tasks – if you need someone with a hazmat suit though you’re on your own.

Customisable Inspector

Some people love defer dates, some people hate them. Some people don’t want notifications or repeats, for others those are on every task. In OmniFocus 3 you can choose which properties you want to see by default in the inspector – just open up a task, tag or project and tap “Customize Inspector” at the bottom to move the items you want to where you want them to be.

Forecast

The forecast has changed a lot in OmniFocus 3, there are two major changes which I’ll look at here.

Interleaved Events & Due Items

Calendar events are interleaved with due items in your day. Instead of the gantt chart style event display in in OF2 (which at least for me wasn’t very helpful), they are nice big blocks which show which calendar they’re on, when they start and when they end. If you have a meeting 9am-10am, and then a due date at 10:30 that’s the order you’ll see your tasks in.

Forecast Tag

You can now choose a task to display in the forecast view, this is ideal for things like routine tasks, a sprint at work (a series of tasks or projects to be completed within a specific time period), or errands. You can choose different forecast tags per device, so on your iPhone you might choose calls or errands, but on your iPad it could be “secret nerdy tasks”.

There are a lot of big changes in OmniFocus 3, and based on the roadmap there will be a lot more to come, but first of all we have WWDC and the Mac app to look forward to!


Using Drafts 5 Taskpaper with OmniFocus


I have created an any action group for Drafts 5 which is meant to help you create Taskpaper formatted projects or tasks and then send it all along to OmniFocus afterwards.

The first thing you will want to do is to create a Draft with the Taskpaper format. This is the last but one action in the action group – the reasoning being you’re not likely to need it as often as some of the others! It simply opens a new Drafts with the format set to taskpaper – you can do this yourself by tapping the + icon if you’re in a Draft, and then using the Aa button to set the Syntax Highlighting of the current draft to Taskpaper.

The first action in the group is a tab, this is for iPhone users and iPad users without an external keyboard and it simply inserts a tab wherever the cursor currently is.

The next action is Placeholder, if you have text selected it will wrap the text in «» characters, and if no text is selected it will insert them. This is ideal for dates in templates you will want to update later.

The first Due action takes advantage of the natural language parsing that OmniFocus has available via URL Scheme. Again, if you have text selected it will wrap it in @due(), otherwise that will be inserted empty for you to fill in the brackets.

The Defer, Estimate, Tags, and Context actions work the same way as Due. Tags and context are both available so if you’re on the OmniFocus 3 beta or simply want to prepare your templates to work for both 2 and 3 you can already.

Tags (suggest) offers a list of tags for you to choose from, allows you to choose more than one of them, and inserts them inside @tag(). You will need to edit this script to make it work for you – the "one", "two", "three" is the part that needs changing. Bear in mind that a long list of tags will be annoying to look through most likely. If you want any tags to be pre-selected for you (e.g. you usually add the evening tag to tasks created via Drafts), you can put that into the [] after the tag list.

Autodone asks you if you want the task or project to be automatically completed when the tasks inside of it are completed and inserts @autodone(true) or @autodone(false)as per your choice.

The Repeat Method allows you to choose how the task should repeat, and inserts @repeat-method(fixed), or whichever the relevant choice is.

The Repeat Rule is very simple, but allows you to choose if a task should be repeated every X days, weeks, months, or years.

Parallel works the same way Autodone does, if the project should be parallel (actions able to be worked on at the same time) then @parallel(true) is inserted, if not @parallel(false) appears.

Flagged just inserts @flagged when it is run – which adds a flag to a task.

Due and Defer are here again – but this time with date and time pickers. This allows you to choose an exact date and time when your task or project is due. I’ve used European date formatting, but you can modify that to any other date formatting by replacing the "dd-MM-yyyy hh:mm" (for example in North America you might prefer "MM/dd/yyyy hh:mm").

Estimate makes another appearance, this time it asks you to choose how many minutes, hours, days or weeks something will take and fills in the @estimate() for you.

The final action in this set is Taskpaper to OF. This will ask you where you want to save your Draft (as a new project, a new project in a folder, as tasks in a specifc project, or the inbox), go through any «placeholders» you have and help you replace them (important cat is always going to be replaced with whatever you tell the script when it asks you about it, so make sure you to use unique placeholders where necessary!), and then send everything off to OmniFocus. Once you return if it did have placeholders to replace it offers to make a new Draft, update your current Draft, or do nothing.

This action group is set up as a keyboard group, which should make quick entry easier. You can get the action group from the Draft 5 Action Directory: OF Taskpaper


Drafts 5 Review

[TOC]

Intro

For those of you not familiar with Drafts, it’s designed as an app which lets you input text and then decide what to do with it. Why? Sometimes that message turns into an email, or maybe the quick idea turns into a mind map. Or maybe you just don’t know where the text is going to end up when you start writing. Drafts is designed to let you write and then process the text, removing the need to choose where the text should go first.

When you open Drafts you get a blank note – automatically. You can set the time out period so that when you return to Drafts you either see your last note or a new note – mine is set to the default of 60 seconds. You can also open the app with force touch which allows you to create a new blank note, create a note from the clipboard, dictate a note, search, or open any one of your 4 most recently edited Drafts. The first three of these options, plus the choice to import a file, appear when you force touch the + on an iPhone, or press and hold on an iPad. The great part about the dictation is that unlike regular Siri dictation there’s no timeout, that’s right – you can dictate for as long as you like. David Sparks made a great introduction to Drafts 5 which I highly recommend: Drafts 5 Overview

What Changed?

Some of you may have used Drafts before, in fact if you’re reading this it’s likely you have so what’s new? First of all the app has been completely rewritten, this means everything is new and shiny – and 100% up to date. There’s also lots of new features.

First things first, you can import all of your notes to Drafts and most of your actions. Make sure you’re running the latest version of Drafts 4, and then in the settings of Drafts 5, tap “Migrate from Drafts 4”. You can choose to import your Drafts, and/or Actions and Keys. You can also export from Drafts 4 into Drafts 5 – there’s a special Send to Drafts 5 for drafts, and inside each action in Drafts 4 you can choose to migrate the action, or add it as a callback so when the action is executed it is done so in Drafts 4 and then returns you to Drafts 5. Not every action which was available in Drafts 4 is available yet in Drafts 5, but Drafts 5 will make a list of the actions that couldn’t be imported so you can handle those manually.

Themes

Drafts 4 had three theme choices – white, cream and black – and the ability to automatically switch to the black theme at a certain brightness threshold. Drafts 5 has several more colour theme options, and you can specify a day theme and a night theme to work with, which will switch at the brightness level you prefer. Choose the theme is a pro feature, and I’ve really enjoyed using the dark Solarized theme during the day with black at night.

Custom Icons

Choosing app icons is definitely a nice way to make your device yours, and Drafts now offers the ability to choose your app icon. There’s a mix of flat images and ones with gradients – I personally picked the purple as that’s my favourite colour.

Tagging and Flagging

Tagging allows you to optionally file your note in multiple places – and helps you to group together notes on a particular topic as well. Tags are shown under a draft in the list of drafts. When adding a tag to a draft you can see a list of your current tags in the keyboard bar, if the one you are looking for doesn’t exist then you can type to create it. Tags are lower case – you can type capitals when creating them but they will be formatted for you. This is really useful as it allows you to avoid having Groceries and groceries by accident.
Flagging is simple – a draft is flagged, or it is not flagged. You can use it however makes the most sense to you.

Filtering

Now we have filters we need to be able to work with them. Filtering allows us to choose combinations of tags to see or not as we want. By tapping the name of a tag in the filter section we add it to include, and by tapping the (ban) icon we can add the tag to the omitted list. This means you could include the tags cat and dog, but disallow spider. These tags are combined with an AND, so only drafts with all of the included tags and none of the omitted tags will show up.
Tags are not the only settings however, you can also set how much of a draft you want to see in the list, the sort order, if flagged items should be included or not, specific text to search for and more.

 

The full documentation for filtering in Drafts is well worth reading.

Workspaces

Workspaces can be created in two ways, from a filter you are currently using, or from scratch. They have the same set up as filters, but as you can name them and set the colour and icon to represent they are easy to keep track of. You can set the order that you would like to view your Workspaces in, and optionally show them, with or without their name, at the bottom of the list of Drafts. Workspaces are ideal for filters you make frequently, or which are more complex to construct.

Focus

By default Drafts will open to a new draft after a set period of time – which can be adjusted by you. Focus mode allows you to do that by focusing on one particular draft, this means that whenever you open the app – even if that’s next month – you’ll be back at the draft you had open last. You can enable focus mode in two ways, by tapping the eye icon in the bottom left hand side of the editor when you’re not editing a draft, or by opening the Settings and enabling it.

SiriKit Integration

Hey Siri, make a note in Drafts to investigate buying the llama farm

You can now create new Drafts using Siri, it’s simple but effective. You can also dictate notes, but that’s not new – what’s very useful though is that the dictation will not end as it does usually when dictating elsewhere on iOS.

Editor Options

In Drafts you can now control a lot of settings with regards to how the editor appears, from paragraph numbers to syntax highlighting, and even whether or not the toolbar or the status bar should show you have plenty of choices.


Here are some of the options you can choose to set for the editor by tapping the Aa button:

  • Syntax highlighting
    • Plain text
    • Markdown
    • Simple List
    • Taskpaper
    • JavaScript
  • Font
    • Choose from any of the fonts pre-installed on iOS, or ones you have installed yourself.
    • Select a particular font to use for Monospaced text.
  • Line height
  • Paragraph spacing
  • Margins
  • Paragraph numbers
  • You can enable or disable
    • Autocorrect
    • Spell check
    • Smart punctuation
      • Quotes
      • Dashes
    • Capitalisation
      • None or sentences
  • Portrait, landscape, or any (only on iPhone)

Draft 5 also has an improved arrange mode, Drafts 4 just allowed you to rearrange lines, Drafts 5 lets you edit blocks (separated by two line breaks) or lines, edit sections, and delete or remove them. You can also trigger the arrange mode via the URL scheme.

There is also a pre-installed Tasks action, which is shown on your keyboard by default. This is very clever, it makes the line that you’re on or the text you have selected into a simple bullet checklist by adding - [ ] at the beginning of the line. By tapping on the [ ] you can mark a task as done [x].

 Actions and Keyboard Groups

For those of you familiar with Workflow, actions are very similar in some ways. An action can contain any number of steps, a number of which are provided for you to use as is. Drafts does not arrive empty, it comes with 5 example action groups, 4 of which are available as keyboard groups for you – you can do what you like with these actions, including delete them. But if you’re not familiar with Drafts and it’s actions I recommend you swipe across the action from left to write, tap edit, and have a look.
One important change between Drafts 4 and Drafts 5 is there is no longer an app wide default as to what to do once an action has been executed, you now set this per action group. This is very useful so if you have a group of “share” actions for example, designed to get the text out of Drafts, you could immediately have the draft the action was executed on archived or trashed as you prefer.
You can choose to enable an action group on the keyboard, Draft has a row of buttons above the keyboard, and if you have multiple groups of keyboard actions you can swipe up and down on this row to switch between them. As you can assign keyboard shortcuts to actions as well this becomes very powerful very quickly.

Scripting in Drafts

The most powerful part of Drafts actions is the Script action, this is what it sounds like – you write a script which does things. Drafts uses JavaScript, if you use OmniGroup products they are introducing JavaScript for automation in those too – so learning the language could definitely pay off in the long run.
There is a wiki about Drafts scripting, which is definitely worth reading if you intend to use them.
My favourite functions that can be included in Scripting is the Prompt – so if you want to ask the user “cats or dogs”, you could create a prompt which shows “cats” and “dogs” as buttons, and then depending on which they choose your script would react accordingly. A prompt can have any of the following options

  • Title
  • Message
  • Text Fields
  • Date and or Time Fields
  • Selects – single or multiple choice
  • Buttons

Here’s the script to create that prompt:

var p = Prompt.create();

p.title = "Title";
p.message = "Message";

p.addTextField("myTextField", "Text Field", "");
p.addDatePicker("myDate", "Date Field", new Date(), {
  "mode": "date"
});
p.addDatePicker("myTime", "Time Field", new Date(), {
  "mode": "time"
});
p.addDatePicker("myDateTime", "Date & Time Field", new Date(), {
  "mode": "dateAndTime"
});
p.addSelect("mySingleSelect", "Single Select Field", ["Cat", "Dog", "Llama"], [], false);
p.addSelect("myMultipleSelect", "Multiple Select Field", ["Cat", "Dog", "Llama"], [], true);
p.addButton("Button");

p.show();

The cancel button is in a prompt by default, but you can hide it if you wish. The prompt will definitely make an appearance in actions you import from the action directory – if only because it’s a great way to get credentials from you which can be used in an action.

Credentials

If you want to Tweet with Drafts, save something to Evernote, or add tasks to Todoist, there are two ways to do that. Passing the data to the app on your device and telling it what to do – which is not possible with every app – or by using the API of the service to complete the action. The difficulty with an API is you need a token to access it – similar to needing a username and password to log in. Drafts 5 has a clever way to store these, so that scripts can access them without needing to save the access key in the script itself – so there’s no worry that by sharing your Todoist action people can start adding things to your Todoist, unless you explicitly want them to do so and share your credential! You can change the credentials saved in Drafts by tapping on the Settings wheel in the bottom right of the editor, and opening Credentials. By choosing the “forget” option the credential is deleted, and you can input a new one the next time you run an action that needs it. This system is especially useful as you can share one credential with many scripts – so it doesn’t matter if you have 1 or 100 Todoist scripts, they can all access the same key, and you are in charge of it. The documentation for credentials in scripts is definitely worth reading if you want to access APIs, and the general documentation is also very helpful – especially if you have multiple accounts you want to interact with.

 Price

Drafts 5 is free. Yes, you read that correctly. For the basic functionality you can get the app for free. If you want to create and edit your own actions, choose your theme(s) and custom icon, use Workspaces, have access to enhanced URL automation and support development you can do so for $1.99 a month, or $19.99 a year. If you’re not sure which you need then there is a 7 day trial to let you play with the pro features.

David Sparks (MacSparky) made a second video for Agile Tortoise showing what’s new in version 5: Drafts 5: What’s New

Upgraded and Awesome Things

That’s a brief overview of the new things, now onto everything else!

Widgets

Drafts 4 had a widget, which allowed quick entry by default and if you enabled “Show More” (on the top right) allowed you to see the most recent Drafts. Drafts 5 has 3 widgets – one for quick entry, one for your recent items, and one for your workspaces. This allows you to enable and disable the ones you want on different devices, and with the workspaces go straight to the collection of Drafts you need.



Backup and Export

Your data is important, and there are backup options in Drafts which allow you to backup your drafts themselves, and/or your actions. These options were there before, but are now unified onto one screen. You can also export your drafts with the option to add a filter – so you could export all of your Drafts with the tag “cake recipe” if you wanted – for example to send them to me.


Reminders Import

Reminders import was present in version 4 too, but now you can add a tag when the reminders are imported – which is very helpful for filtering for them later.

After Action Success

This setting used to be global which could be overridden on a per action basis. You can now set this option for each action group, and you can still override it for an action if you wish. This is extremely helpful for the keyboard action groups as you’re unlikely to want most of those actions to archive or trash your Draft when use them.

Drafts Forums

Agile Tortoise have set up forums where Drafts users can talk to one another, help each other create actions, request features, and more – I’ve already signed up and am checking it regularly to see what I can learn from everywhere else.

Drafts Forums

Conclusion

I’ve been using Drafts 5 instead of Drafts 4 for quite some time now, and I’m very happy with it. It has been my go to “text starts here” application ever since I bought it after hearing it mentioned on an episode of the Mac Power Users at some point – and it has become more than that over time. With the scripts and actions I can now write entire blog posts in Drafts, and could even upload them to the server and post them immediately if I wanted. This app has more than earnt it’s position in my dock and will be there for the foreseeable future.

Other Reviews

Get The App

Drafts 5 is available in the App Store from today.


I’m Going to Be on Learn OmniFocus May 23rd

I’m very honoured to have been invited to present my OmniFocus workflows on Learn OmniFocus with Tim Stringer. The session will be live on May 23rd, and you can sign up for it now. As well as showing how I use OmniFocus I’ll also be demonstrating some of my Workflow workflows and automation that I use every day.

For those of you not familiar with Learn OmniFocus, it’s a great site with articles, videos and more which will help you learn about OmniFocus. You can see some examples from previous workflow guests if you want to get an idea of what my session will be like. If you’re a member there’s plenty of extra goodies too like AppleScripts – including the ability to watch my session live and chat with everyone before and after but the chat sessions won’t be included.

I hope to see some of you there!


Omnifocus 3 Sneak Peak


I’m fortunate enough to have been let into the very early OmniFocus 3 Beta. The app isn’t finished yet, but here are some of the features which you might enjoy. To make things clear, I have the dark theme on OF3, and the light theme in OF2 – and I’ve tried to do screenshots to let you compare the two easily.

Multi Pane Views

You can now have a multipane view, this means you can have the traditional Home Screen on the left, tasks in the middle, and the inspector (detailed view of a task, project or tag) on the right – or you can have any combination of these three.



Forecast View

There have been some changes to the Forecast view as well – primarily the interleaving of tasks and calendar events. This is purely based on the due time of a task and the time of the calendar event.

A new feature is the ability to have a tag displayed in the forecast view. This might be very handy if you have lots of #waiting on tasks which you need to be on top of, or if there’s a particular area you need to focus on. Of course, if you want multiple tags that’s what perspectives are for.

The Inspector


The inspector for tasks, tags, and projects has received some updates. You can set what you want to see and hide by default – so if you never use locations in tags (or contexts as they are in OF2) you can hide them.

The Project Inspector

The Tag Inspector

The Task Inspector

And of course these changes are present on the iPad as well.

Search

Search can now happen from any view, just by pulling down on the tasks list. Previously it was in the bar at the top.


Location Based Notifications

The notifications have had some changes made to them as well. Here on the top you see OmniFocus 3, and below it you see OmniFocus 2. Omnifocus 2 shows you the name of the context, the first task, and the number of other tasks available. OmniFocus 3 shows you the name of the tag, and how many tasks are available to you.

The watch notifications are exactly the same. At first glance this seems like it is less information – but force touching or 3D touching the notification (depending on which device you’re on) gives us a lot more choice.

OmniFocus 3 here lets me View Location, or View Actions. OmniFocus 2 lets me dismiss the notification.

Notifications

Notifications have had an overhaul – gone are the days where you get pinged as something goes from “hell being about to break loose” to “apocalypse”, you can now set up a series of notifications for a task. If your task has a due date you can set reminders to happen X amount of time before it becomes due by adding minutes, hours, or days. Whether or not your task has a due date you can set a custom or fixed notification which will happen at the date and time you specify – very helpful. These notifications are one off, but the customisability is definitely something I’ll be using frequently.

Flagging

A task or project is flagged or isn’t flagged. A task can inherit a tag from the project or task it belongs to – and none of this has changed in OmniFocus 3. What has changed is how you tag things. You can simply swipe from left to right on a task or project, and tap to flag it.

You can also see very easily when a task is flagged because its parent is flagged which is very nice.

Quick Editing

So swiping from left to right lets you flag or unflag, swiping in the other direction allows you to delete the task, or if you tap more you can schedule it – for today or tomorrow.


Batch Task Editing

It’s now possible to edit multiple tasks at once as well – this is hard to explain in screenshots so I’ve created a very short video for you.

To summarise, I absolutely love the beta of OmniFocus 3. There are things planned for this iOS app which haven’t yet arrived, and many exciting new possibilities. I’m going to really have to dig into tags to see mysq

A quick note about the icon: