OmniFocus 3.8 Brings Omni Automation to iPhone, iPad, and Mac

Announcements

Earlier today the talented folks at The Omni Group released OmniFocus 3.8 for macOS and iOS/iPadOS. The signature feature of this new release is support for “Omni Automation”, a cross-platform technology that makes it possible to add functionality to OmniFocus using Plug-Ins.

No Programming Experience Required

While you can certainly write your own Plug-Ins in JavaScript, most people will leverage the efforts of programmers, potentially making a few minor tweaks to customize Plug-Ins to suit their specific use cases.

Some Plug-Ins will act on whatever you have selected in the outline view and others will introduce functionality that doesn’t depend on anything being selected.

A word of caution. Since OmniFocus Plug-Ins can make changes to your OmniFocus database, make sure that you only use Plug-Ins from trusted developers. And take care when writing your own Plug-Ins or modifying those that others have written to help ensure that you don’t have any unwanted surprises.

Syncing Plug-Ins across your iPhone, iPad, and Mac

One of my favourite features of the new OmniFocus Automation technology is its ability to sync Plug-Ins across multiple platforms. For example, if you install a Plug-In in a shared folder (e.g. on iCloud) on your iPad, it will also be available on your Mac and iPhone. Similarly, if you no longer need a Plug-In, simply remove it from one of your devices and it will automatically be uninstalled on the others.

It’s worth noting that, while all Plug-Ins can be synced, some make more sense on an iPhone and iPad than on a Mac (and vice-versa). In these cases, you may choose to store a local copy of the Plug-In so that it only shows up on the device that it’s installed on.

Practical Use Cases

To get a taste of how this new automation prowess can help enhance your day-to-day use of OmniFocus, let’s look at the Push Out Project Due Date Plug-In, one of the examples included on the Omni Automation website.

Let’s say that you have a “Prepare for Company Retreat” project that originally had a due date of July 31, 2020. Due to the pandemic, your company has decided to push the date out by 30 days. While you could manually change due dates for the project, actions, and action groups, it’s much more convenient to automate this process. Using automation also helps ensure accuracy.

Here’s the “Push Out Project Due Date” Plug-In running on iPad.

And here’s what it looks like on the Mac. Even though the interface is a little different, the end result is exactly the same.

Some other examples included on Omni Automation include:

  • Move Selected Tasks into New Project – As the name implies, this Plug-In allows you to create a new project based on actions you’ve selected in the current project. This can be helpful if you have a project that’s getting a little unwieldy and better handled through multiple projects.
  • Complete and Await Reply – If you select one or more actions and invoke this Plug-In, the actions will automatically be marked complete and new actions will be created with the text “Waiting on reply: “ followed by the name of the completed actions.
  • Open Note URL – It can be very handy to store a link in the note field of actions. For example, if someone asks you to review a Google Doc, you could put a link to the document in the note field for easy access. The Open Note URL Plug-In opens the link contained in the note field of the selected action. This plugin is particularly useful when triggered using a keyboard shortcut. I use ⌥⌘L on both my Mac and iPad.

This is Just the Beginning

We’re hard at work on new content to help you make the most of Omni Automation, including a video to teach you how to install Plug-Ins that work across all of your devices and an “OmniFocus Plug-Ins Directory” that showcases some of the best Plug-Ins we’ve come across. We may even toss in a few of our own. We’ll also look at how Omni Automations can be used to build bridges between OmniFocus and other apps, including OmniOutliner and OmniPlan.

For those who want to delve a little deeper, we’ll provide you with some guidance for making simple modifications to Plug-Ins you’ve downloaded. And we’ll introduce you to some features that make it quick and convenient to make use of your Plug-Ins as you go through the day. For example, it’s possible to trigger Plug-Ins using keyboard shortcuts on both Mac and iPad.

Please get in touch if you’ve developed OmniFocus Plug-Ins that you’d like to include in our directory. We also welcome specific requests for topics that you’d like us to cover.

Thanks, Omni Group

There’s a lot of work that goes on behind the scenes to bring features like this to fruition. Many thanks to The Omni Group for all the time and energy they put into this transformative new feature.

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