I love OmniFocus. It’s an essential part of my trusted system. One of the critical factors in building the trust - because you know it’ll be there- is how frictionless it is to get something into it.
OmniFocus has a variety of ways of getting things in, probably more than you realise. I recently came across another way that I can use to get some stuff in so I thought I’d round up all the ways you can get things in on the Mac version.
OmniFocus has a built-in quick-entry box. This is probably the most apparent and well-known way to get tasks into OmniFocus quickly.
First, you need to set up a keyboard shortcut to trigger it so you can use it anywhere, at any time. You’ll find this on the General sheet in Preferences. When you pop it up, you don’t need to use the pointer at all, it’s possible to use only the keyboard to enter information into each field. Tab will get you around each area of information and of course, the projects and tabs will auto-complete, but there are a few special things worth knowing. When you’ve tabbed and got focus on the little note icon, you can press Space to allow you to start typing notes for the task too. Use the Up and Down arrow keys to navigate back and forth between the notes and the task fields.
Don’t forget that the date fields can take natural language queries like Tomorrow, 2 weeks and so on.
Finally, you can add multiple tasks. Make sure you’re not in the notes section, then press Shift-Enter, to end entering information on the task. Then press Enter to create a new task entry, and repeat. You can also use the Up and Down arrow keys to navigate between tasks until you’re ready to submit them all. (Note these shortcuts assume you’re using the Modern outlining mode, if you’re still using Classic then they are different)
You can get information from other applications into OmniFocus by using the Clippings service. All you need to do is highlight the text and images that you want to get into OmniFocus then go into the Services menu and choose OmniFocus: Send to Inbox. You can get to Services via the Application menu, and often from a right-click context menu.
Or, if you have set a keyboard shortcut for it, you can use that to fire the service action directly.
The highlighted information will appear in the Quick Entry window ready to amend before saving.
If you use the Omni Sync Service to keep your databases on each device synced together, then you can also take advantage of their Mail Drop service. You’ll get a unique email address that you can send things to, which will appear in your OmniFocus Inbox. The subject line becomes the task name, and the body of the email becomes the note. Any attachments in the email are also attached.
Sign in with your account at https://manage.sync.omnigroup.com/manage/ and scroll down to Mail Drop to Inbox and add an address.
I’d sort of forgotten that OmniFocus supports a URL scheme much like Bear. I realised then that it’s simple to create bookmarklets in Safari for getting information from web pages into OmniFocus. I have a debilitating illness known as “Tab-itis”. The primary symptom, continually opening too many tabs and never closing them (until the computer runs out of memory). In my quest to keep them manageable and hang onto those I’m still planning to use, I’ve created a bookmarklet which stores the link and page title straight into an Interesting Tabs project which I can then quickly review each week using the review function in OmniFocus.
Paste the following into a new Bookmark in Safari and add it to your Favourites Bar.
Replace the text in angled brackets with your own project and context or tags. This should work in both OmniFocus 2 and 3. If your projects or context/tags have spaces in them you’ll need to use the
%20 encoded element. As an example, mine looks like this:
A more recent addition to MacOS that’s made its way from iOS is Share Extensions. If an application supports the share extension (there’s usually a button with an icon of a square with an arrow pointing upward out of it), you can generally send information from that application into OmniFocus. When you use this option, it’ll pop up with an area you can add text to. Usually, the information you’re sharing will be added as a note. When you hit Post it’ll appear in your OmniFocus inbox. If you’re not seeing this anywhere, you might need to make sure it’s enabled. Check Extensions in System Preferences.
I have ended up using the iOS Shortcuts (née Workflows) far more often to build workflows using the TaskPaper syntax for creating tasks in OmniFocus. Perhaps I’ll cover that in more detail in a future article.