Workflow: OmniFocus University Course

I was asked to talk through my thought process behind a Workflow by powderizedbookworm in the OmniFocus Slack, so this post will go into more detail than usual.

The purpose of this Workflow is to add my syllabus to my OmniFocus project for that class. The project will already exist as I have to register for the course, and potentially order course materials or communicate with the course professors before I get the syllabus. Each of my courses is separated into action groups – sometimes the courses divide their materials into weekly blocks, and sometimes they’re divided into blocks based on assessments. I always put assessments in their own blocks, because they are broken into sub sections as well.

This workflow should add each section of work or assessment to OmniFocus as an action group, deferred and due as is appropriate. As such the first thing it does after I input the project name (which is the class name) is to ask me how many sections there are in the course. We then go through every section inputting the name of it. If I know that the course is split into weeks then I modify this action in advance to just use “Week Repeat Index” as the name of the section. I use the start and end dates to set due and defer dates, and then select if this section is to study something or to submit something (study or assignment). This is a menu which allows me to use different actions based on which option is selected.

In the study section, I input the tasks and format them as taskpaper. In the assignment section I input the name of the assignment and the number of questions it has which generates subtasks for me.

This whole Workflow generates TaskPaper and adds it to OmniFocus for me.

Steps:

  • Ask for Input: The course name (which is the project name in OmniFocus)
  • Ask for Input: How many sections or blocks does the course have?
  • Repeat: Going through every section/block
    • Ask for Input: The name of the section
    • Ask for Input: The start date
    • Ask for Input: The end date
    • Choose from Menu: Is this a study or assignment section/block
    • Study
      • Ask for Input: Input the tasks which need to be completed.
      • Split Text: Break up the lines of tasks
      • Repeat with Each: For every task
        • Text: Format it with a tab indent and the - used to indicate a task in TaskPaper
      • Combine Text: Put these tasks back together with line breaks between them,
      • Text: Format the action group here, with the defer and due dates (these are inherited), followed by the tasks which were input and formatted.
    • Assignment
      • Ask for Input:
      • Ask for Input:
      • Repeat with Each: For every task
        • Text: Format it with a tab indent and the - used to indicate a task in TaskPaper
      • Combine Text: Put these tasks back together with line breaks between them,
      • Text: Format the action group here, with the name of the assignment, defer date and due date and the questions as subtasks.
  • Add TaskPaper to OmniFocus: Put everything we’ve generated above into OmniFocus.

You can get the workflow here: OmniFocus University Course


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!


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: