Automating OmniFocus: Guided Tour with Sal Soghoian

Learn how to automate and enhance OmniFocus on iPhone, iPad, and Mac using Omni Automation from automation legend, Sal Soghoian

Omni Automation is a technology that allows you to add functionality to OmniFocus on iPhone, iPad, and Mac using “plug-ins.” This technology is also supported by Omni’s other apps and can be a helpful way to create a bridge between OmniFocus, OmniOutliner, OmniGraffle, and OmniPlan.

In the Omni Automation – Fundamentals course we introduced you to the basics of Omni Automation, including how to install, configure, and make simple customizations to Omni Automation plug-ins.

Omni Automation - Guided Tour with Sal Soghoian - Image

Course Overview

This course builds on this foundation and provides you with insights and skills that will be very helpful as you customize existing OmniFocus plug-ins and write your own. Sal will take you on a guided tour that will introduce you to the power of Omni Automation through the Console. You’ll even have the opportunity to create and install your own plug-in.

You’re encouraged to follow along on your Mac or iPad as you go through the course. Sal provides you with step-by-step instructions for preparing to go through the tutorial using your own Learn OmniFocus setup. He’ll then take you through a series of hands-on exercises that culminates in the creation of an Omni Automation plug-in for OmniFocus.

What You’ll Learn

Sal Soghoian will start by showing how you can access and update your projects and actions using the Console feature that’s built into OmniFocus and how to use the built-in API Reference to learn about the wide variety of ways that you can tap into OmniFocus’ power. Sal will teach you how to store and retrieve information stored in “variables” and will demonstrate how to view and update these variables using the Console.

While the Console is very useful as a learning and debugging tool, you’ll most likely be tapping into the power of Omni Automation through plug-ins. These are essentially text files that contain a block of “metadata” (e.g. the name of the plug-in and the author), “validating code” that identifies when the plug-in should be enabled (e.g. when at least one action is selected), and the “action function”, where the work actually happens (e.g. toggling tags or automatically updating due dates).

Sal will guide you through the process of creating and installing your own plug-in. Along the way, he’ll also cover plug-in management, including techniques for adding keyboard shortcuts to frequently used plug-ins.

You’ll find a detailed outline of this course on the Omni Automation website.

There’s Something for Everyone

If you’re new to JavaScript (and programming in general), you’ll walk away from this course with a basic understanding of the many ways that Omni Automation can be used to add features to OmniFocus and make your workflows more efficient. And if you’re a seasoned JavaScript developer, you’ll gain an understanding of how to tap into OmniFocus’ extensive API when writing your own plug-ins.

About Sal Soghoian

Sal Soghoian on Learn OmniFocus

Sal Soghoian is a user automation expert, software developer, author, and musician. He’s best known for having the role of  Product Manager of Automation Technologies at Apple Inc. from 1997 through 2016.

During Sal’s many years at Apple, he advanced AppleScript, Automator, JavaScript for Automation (JXA), System Services, the Terminal, Apple Configurator, and the other macOS automation tools. He also wrote scripting dictionaries for iWork, iPhoto, Aperture and Photos, authored the “Mastered for iTunes” automation tools, and designed and wrote the user automation support in the Apple Configurator application. 

Prior to his tenure at Apple, Sal created automation solutions for the publishing industry, authored the popular “Sal’s AppleScript Snippets” collection, created the ShadowCaster QuarkXPress XTension, wrote two books, including “AppleScript 1-2-3,” and penned numerous magazine articles.

In recent years, Sal has been assisting The Omni Group with the creation and development of Omni Automation, a device-independent automation framework for Omni applications. He also continues to write and consult on automation solutions, and firmly believes his credo, “The power of the computer should reside in the hands of the one using it.”

Photo Credit: Phuc Pham for WIRED