geekery, drawing and then some

Posts about omnifocus

Creating subtasks in OmniFocus on iPhone

And now, for some total geekery!

I don’t know if this always existed or if this feature appeared during some update. However, you can create subtask in OmniFocus on your iPhone. I didn’t know this at first and it frustrated me that I couldn’t, and then I figured it out.

imgDepending on how you start out, you have to do different things. For this example I’ll start in the ‘Projects’ list and in my ‘health’ folder. I have no current projects there.
imgTap the plus in the lower right corner and create a new project if you need to.

imgFor my example, I’ll create a project called ‘Make medical file’ (which I did, recently)

Tap on your newly created project (you might already have a project you want to change / add things in, if so, go there through the main screen and then ‘projects’, and skip all these previous steps ;) )

imgI have no actions yet, so I create one by taping the plus on the lower right side.

imgI want to start by making a list of my current medication, so I make an action of that.

Fill in the desired values, I’ve left most empty because I just want to make an example.

By going to the project list from the mainscreen you prevent things from disappearing on you, plus, you actually want to edit the project, so going through the project-list makes more sense.

imgI create a few more actions. To make my medication list I need to check my pill bottles for the exact name and dosage. I add these actions to the list.

The last two actions need to become subtask of ‘Make list of medication’ so I tap ‘Check bottle of pills #2’


And now, the magic happens!

Tap on that folder-icon on the bottomright.

imgYou get a screen with the actions in your project, select your main task (‘Make list of medications’)

Repeat for all the tasks you need as subtasks.

imgYou have subtasks.

Snoozing, deferring and other things in OmniFocus

A while back I wrote about snoozing and deferring tasks in OmniFocus and Dan’s scripts. He has since added two more scripts, to move tasks to today and tomorrow quickly. Sometimes I don’t check my task-list for a few days (for whatever reason) and then I may ==cough== have tons of overdue items. These two scripts easily let me put them on the right day, either today or tomorrow, and helps me clean up fast.

I’ve set up the same shortcut keys in Fastscripts.

Today I’ve also edited my task-list. I had too many things on them and felt overwhelmed. After listening to one of Michael Nobbs’ audioboo in which he mentioned his three things to do list and the twenty minute trick (I go for fifteen), and also mentioned that once something becomes a habit he just does it and doesn’t add it to the list anymore, I decided to remove a few items that I know I do anyway. It looks much smaller and much easier to manage.

I might actually go and do something today…

Create a new task in a project

For completion sake, I decided to post the bit to create a new task in a new or existing project in OmniFocus through AppleScript. I have this in my script that creates tasks from my mail.

If you know a bit of AppleScript, this should help out. If I have the energy, I might post the entire script later and explain the parts.

In this case, it took longest to figure out the following part:

tell MyProject set theTask to make new task with properties¬
{name:MyTaskTopic, context:MyContext, note:ThisNote} end tell

Apparently, when creating a new task you have to tell the project. If you want to set the context, you instead tell the task to set its context property to something.

This does make sense, in the way that you always tell the containing item to do something.

The part I use in my script:

if MyContext is equal to "NONE" and MyProject is equal to "NONE" then
set theTask to make new inbox task ¬
with properties {name:MyTaskTopic, note:ThisNote} set ProjectString to "INBOX"

if MyContext is equal to "NONE" and ¬
MyProject is not equal to "NONE" then
tell MyProject
set theTask to make new task ¬
with properties {name:MyTaskTopic, note:ThisNote}
end tell

if MyProject is equal to "NONE" and ¬
MyContext is not equal to "NONE" then set theTask to make new inbox task ¬
with properties {name:MyTaskTopic, context:MyContext, note:ThisNote}
set ProjectString to "INBOX"

tell MyProject set theTask to make new task ¬
with properties {name:MyTaskTopic, context:MyContext, note:ThisNote}
end tell
end if

try set Datum to setDueDate
set due date of theTask to setDueDate
on error
set due date of theTask to ((current date) + 604800)
end try

tell theTask
set note to return & return
tell note
set theURL to "message://< " & message_id & ">"
set linkText to theURL insert linkText at before first character
set value of attribute "link" of style of paragraph 1 to theURL insert message_content at before last character
end tell
end tell

which works like a charm.

Applescripts for OmniFocus: change the context or project of selected tasks.

I use OmniFocus a lot, and have recently tweaked some more AppleScripts to make my workflow even more smooth. I can add any mail to OmniFocus for replies, add confirmation of orders from mail to OmniFocus which will automatically go into my project-shoebox for orders, with a ‘waiting for’ context and a due date set to 1 week into the future, unless I’ve changed or added MailTags with a project, a keyword and a due date. In that case it’ll take the project, the first keyword and the due date and use them to set up the OmniFocus task. I have a few more scripts:

  • in OmniWeb I can take and add a URL for later reading, it’ll go into my inbox by default
  • in OmniWeb I can take and add a URL to my ‘wish-list’ project (with a start date for at 2 weeks in the future)
  • in OmniFocus I have scripts to easily change the context or the project of selected tasks
  • in Mail I can press a key and have the selected e-mail(s) sent to OmniFocus with a ‘Respond to: ‘ before the subject line, sorting into either a default project or the one specified in MailTags, with the context set to ‘mail’ and the message URL in the note-field
  • in OmniFocus I can select such a task, press a key to run a script that will open the message and immediately create a reply (I have a separate one for just opening, in case I have to read it thoroughly first)

All these scripts make the integration between all these programs very easy. That and FastScripts. I found useful scripts over at Curtis Clifton’s site. His scripts use Growl notification so if you have Growl installed you get a small notification.

I had some trouble putting my own scripts together, so I decided to paste the info here, just in case I need it later on, or someone else runs into similar issues. I found it quite hard to figure out how to add a task to an existing project or to move it from inbox / other project. In the end, it only took a few lines.

First, when I started my script, I wanted a default project or context (I’ll use ‘project’ from now on, but it also applies to the context-script). To do this I created a ‘property’ at the beginning of the script:

property defaultProject : "Miscellaneous" property alertItemNum : ""

I used the alterItemNum for my alerts through this very simple routine:

on notify(alertName, alertTitle, alertText) display dialog alertText as string with icon 1 end notify

That went at the end of my script.

I started by addressing OmniFocus and ‘talking’ to the open document:

tell application "OmniFocus" tell front document tell (first document window whose index is 1)

Then, I checked to see if that document had anything selected, and if not, give an error-dialogue:

            set theSelectedItems to selected trees of content
            set numItems to (count items of theSelectedItems)
            if numItems is 0 then
                set alertName to "Error"
                set alertTitle to "Script failure"
                set alertText to "No valid task(s) selected"
                my notify(alertName, alertTitle, alertText)
            end if

If I have no items selected, the script will call the alert routine from above ( my notify(alertName, alertTitle, alertText) ). Because I created a separate routine, I can use this anywhere in the script.

Next, display a dialogue asking for the project: ` display dialog “Change to what Project? ” default answer defaultProject buttons {“Cancel”, “OK”} default button 2

set theProject to (the text returned of the result) ` The variable ‘theProject’ will now contain the name of the (new) project to move the tasks too.

Next, the loop to go through all the items and move them:

            set selectNum to numItems
            set successTot to 0
            repeat while selectNum > 0
                set selectedItem to value of item selectNum of theSelectedItems
                set succeeded to my ChangeProject(selectedItem, theProject)
                if succeeded then set successTot to successTot + 1
                set selectNum to selectNum - 1
            end repeat

This loop will end as soon as the variable ‘selectNum’ (= numItems which I set to the count of the items in the variable SelectedItems) reaches 0. It calls the routine ‘ChangeProject’ which I’ll get to in a bit, but I first want to wrap up this part. Let me also explain the ‘if succeeded then set successTot to successTot + 1’ line. The line before sets ‘succeeded’ to the result of the ChangeProject routine. This result can mean anything, numbers, letters, whatever. In this case we use it to return a ‘true’ or ‘false’. That way, we only need to use ‘if succeeded’ (which will either be ‘true’ or ‘false’) as a condition. We don’t need to check the actual content of the variable. This can come in handy for various checks, and it took me a while to catch on to that, so I figured I’d mention it here.

To end this main routine, I used:

            set alertName to "General" set alertTitle to "Script complete"
            if successTot > 1 then set alertItemNum to "s"
            set alertText to successTot & " item" & alertItemNum & " changed to Project " & theProject
        end tell
    end tell
    my notify(alertName, alertTitle, alertText)
end tell

Basically, this tells the dialogue box to say the script ran successfully and displays the number of items successfully moved and only to use the ‘s’ after ‘item’ if the count of successful moves is higher than 1.

That wraps up the main part.

The routine to actually move the task to the other project only took 21 lines:

on ChangeProject(selectedItem, theProject)
    set success to false
    tell application "OmniFocus" to tell default document
        if (theProject is not "") then
            set MyProjectArray to null
            set MyProjectArray to complete theProject as project maximum matches 1
                set MyProjectID to id of first item of MyProjectArray
                set theNewProject to project id MyProjectID
            on error
                set theNewProject to (make project with properties {name:theProject})
            end try

                set newtask to selectedItem
                move newtask to end of tasks of theNewProject
                set success to true
            end try
        end if
    end tell
    return success
end ChangeProject

The first line sets the success to ‘false’, because we want to actively, after having our success, set it to ‘true’. We then chat with OmniFocus again, and this time, we’ll just talk to the default document (the one you have open). If the variable ‘theProject’ is not empty, we’ll continue. If it is, the ‘if-end if’ ends, without having set the ‘success’ variable to true (and thus, the script failed). You could technically build in an extra loop to change it to a default project, however, I prefer it this way. If I accidentally emptied that dialogue-box, nothing will happen, just as I like it.

If theProject does contain something (anything), the script continues with its routine. It sets the MyProjectArray to null (makes it empty, just in case). It then used OmniFocus complete option to find the first matching project of OmniFocuses project-list. If you’ve ever only typed the first three letters in one of OmniFocus’s project-areas (to set the project) and it magically came up with the right project, this is the same thing. It means you only have to type the first three or four letters of your project, and the script will find it. If it can’t find the project, it will create it for you (at the end of your project-list).

After that, it will simply try to add the task to the desired project.

Postponing tasks in OmniFocus (and snoozing)


For a while I’ve wanted to easily postpone tasks in OmniFocus because sometimes, I just want to procrastinate a little. Last night I started fiddling and playing with AppleScript to get this done and after a few hours of that I wanted to rip my hair out. I went to bed instead because I quite like my hair intact and had a few other things to do today, so didn’t get around to it until now. I applied my google-foo to try and fix the problems I ran into.

And ‘lo and behold! I found Dan’s site who did not only make a script to postpone the due date (defer it), it also gives you the option to defer the start date and he made a nifty little snooze script to basically hide projects / tasks from your view until you have to do them (by adjusting the start date).

I’ve tossed both in my ~/Library/Scripts/Applications/OmniFocus folder and set up a hotkey in QuickSilver and tried it out on a few tasks. Works like a charm!

A few TODO-list pointers.

Today I read this article over at the Neat & Simple blog about ToDo-lists. Ariane explains we’re all different people and we all have different ways to have a ToDo list work for us. We also all have different reasons why some things just don’t work for us. She gives some great tips to create the list that works for you and find the right tools to do it.

I wanted to add my own experiences and tricks to it so I whipped up this post.

I’ve recently bought myself an iPhone (you may sigh/scream if you desire). My old phone started to fail and so did my palm. Combine this with my arthritis and enter iPhone. The touchscreen helps a lot with the arthritis. I started using OmniFocus as a trusted system months for my todos before that, and happily got the iPhone app when it became available.

What to use.

Now, it doesn’t really matter if you use pen and paper or a computerprogram to make your lists, you should pick whatever works for you. For me, a computerprogram works best:

  • I change my mind a lot, pen and paper gets very very messy
  • A computerprogram lets me hide unimportant tasks with a few clicks / shortcutkeys
  • I can’t write that much due to arthritis, typing goes a lot better
  • I can fit more info on my screen than on a reasonable piece of pape
  • I can use my phone to take notes and then sync up with my computer

If everything fails, power goes down and my phone drops dead, then yes, I’ll use pen and paper. However, if that all happens at the same time I think I have bigger problems ;-)

My current setup.

So, I have a pretty simple setup:

  • OmniFocus on Mac laptop
  • OmniFocus on iPhone which alows me to note down tasks at any time.

How I write down tasks.

When I want to write down a task I take a few extra seconds to follow my ‘pattern’:

  • I always start with a verb, to put me in an actionable mood. The item is something I need to do, which requires a verb, so I put it in there straight away.
  • if it’s a call, I use something like call John about project x and I’ll look up the number straight away and copy-paste it into the item (as a note)
  • if for some reason I cannot look up the number straight away, I will always make an item before the original one stating where to find the number look up John's number in his letter Usually I know where to find it, so I’ll make an extra note saying something like ‘letter in archive’ or ‘letter on kitchen table’. I will link these items together. call John will become a subtask of look up John's number

By using a default ‘template’ for my actions it makes it easier for me to act on it. I know it will always say what to do (verb) with what / who (subject) about/for/because of what. If I feel like using a somewhat vague verb like ‘think about’ I’ll take an extra minute to break it down a little into something I can actively do, and not passively. ‘Thinking about’ usually involves brainstorming (noting down any idea I have on the subject) and something like a pro/con list.

Beware of micro-tasking.

It takes some more time in the beginning to do this, but once you get used to it (and it fits your thinking) it’ll help to clarify tasks and help you just do the task instead of having to look up that number, so you postpone it again. A successful todo-list will not make it hard on you to follow through, it will make it easy for you to do the task straight away. If you have to do things before you can actually start your task, then you should look into that, and perhaps make a task about it. Don’t fall victim to micro-tasking though, you’ll spend more time writing things down than actually doing it. Only you can decide where to draw the line in that. If you find you write down too little, try to do it a teensy bit more to see if you like it. And don’t listen to those people who say that ‘look up John’s number’ is a stupid task to write down, because of course you know you have to look it up. If you need to have it written down to keep going, by all means write it down. It sure saves me a lot of time and frustration and takes away the temptation of procrastination.