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OmniFocus Tips

When Omni Group announced OmniFocus I was really excited. Being a GTD fan for several years I tried most of the Mac and web applications based on this methodology, but was never fully satisfied. After some time I came up with own system based on Yojimbo, but it wasn’t good enough — after all these apps were built for different purposes. So, after several days playing with OmniFocus beta version during the New Year holidays I decided that it is what I was looking for.

OmniFocus is task management app for both personal and professional needs. It has a set of powerful features like clippings, integration with Spotlight and Mail, syncing with iCal and advanced printing. Omni provides a great screencast showing basic usage and I higly recommend watching it before starting to work with the application. I know that most people hate reading help sections and manuals, so I decided to write about more advanced tips and tricks which can help you achieve “mind like water” state.

Single-Action List

This is a great place for one step actions, like “Get a haircut” or “Buy new DVD player”. You can create multiple lists in File → Add Single-Action List. I keep one work related list and several for personal tasks (“Car”, “Housekeeping” and “Misc tasks”). You may want to create lists for books you want to read, DVDs you want to purchase or even for grocery store shopping.

Attaching files and notes to actions

You can use the notes area of an action to keep additional information — just drag and drop documents or images here or choose Edit → Attach File. OmniFocus creates links to the files you attach, so the link will break if you move files somewhere from their original place. You can copy files into your library by holding the Control key as you drop files or selecting “Embed the file in the document” in the “Attach File” dialog.

Action groups

In complex projects it’s really helpful to organize some actions into groups. Select all of the actions you want to group and choose Structure → Group. Another way to do this is select the action you want to be the parent of the group and choose Structure → Add Child or press Command + ].

Time and date

OmniFocus supports the “human way” to enter dates — just write something like today, tomorrow or next week in Start or Due fields inside Inspector. The same works for time — +1h, now, 4p, etc. I don’t know how, but OmniFocus almost always understand what I mean.


You may want to turn a web page, email or IM conversation into an action. The easiest way to do this is with the clippings service — just select text and press Command+Shift+Option+Period (this is default shortcut and it may be changed in Preferences). A new item, with the selected content as it’s note, lands in the Quick Entry window.

This is short list of features I use and enjoy every day. You can find a comprehensive description of all this and much more in the OmniFocus manual (PDF, 0.7 MB).

To finish this post, I want to write down my two pet peeves.

  1. I really really want a “Rejected” status for actions. “On Hold” status can easily be replaced with “Waiting” context, but after deleting an action I can’t keep track of it in project history.
  2. I sync OmniFocus with iCal and then with my Nokia E61, but I’m not satisfied with the results — a lightweight and good looking web application would be much better choice for me. I plan to review web applications with iCal syncing and a strong mobile version to find solution and write follow up to this post.