Optimizing OmniFocus 3: Shortcuts & Widgets with Scotty Jackson

Scotty Jackson returns to Learn OmniFocus to share practical ways to create Shortcuts and Widgets that surface OmniFocus tasks on your iPhone and iPad in a highly visual way.

This content was recorded using OmniFocus 3. Some of the content may not apply to OmniFocus 4 and more recent versions of iOS.

OmniFocus is a highly flexible app for managing personal tasks. With some thoughtful setup and regular use, it can have a profoundly positive impact on your life and work. The challenge is that it’s all too easy to forget about your carefully crafted system as you navigate days that don’t go as planned. External communications such as text messages and emails can easily dominate your attention, taking the spotlight off of your important tasks in OmniFocus.

OmniFocus Shortcuts & Widgets

Widgets: A Portal Into OmniFocus

Widgets, that live on the home screen of your iPhone and iPad, are very helpful for surfacing information stored within OmniFocus and can provide quick access to key OmniFocus features and perspectives. For example, the built-in OmniFocus Widgets can provide a quick way to capture tasks into your OmniFocus inbox, can present a seven-day Forecast, and can display the contents of your most-used perspectives.

Third-party apps make it possible to take this a step further. For example, you can use the clever Charty app to display a circular chart that fills in as you complete actions on your daily Hot List and WidgetPack to display the most relevant tasks based on the time of day and whether it’s a weekday or the weekend.

What You’ll Learn

In this session, Scotty Jackson provides practical instruction for creating and using Shortcuts and Widgets to add a new dimension to OmniFocus on iPhone and iPad.

He guides you through the process of creating a customized home screen that displays OmniFocus tasks in a variety of ways. Along the way, you’ll learn how to make productive use of three apps that add power and flexibility to Shortcuts and Widgets: Charty, WidgetPack, and Toolbox Pro. Scotty also provides instructions for customizing Shortcuts and Widgets so that they’re fine-tuned to your personal preferences.


The Shortcuts that Scotty features are a great starting point for your own automations. Add them to your Shortcuts library, then customize them to suit your needs and to reflect the specifics of your OmniFocus database (e.g., your projects and tags).

Here are some of the Shortcuts that Scotty showcased:

  • Now in OmniFocus – Opens the Morning, Afternoon, Evening, or Weekend perspective in OmniFocus based on the day of the week and the time of day. [ Add Shortcut ]
  • Now in OmniFocus Widget – An adaptation of the Now in OmniFocus Shortcut that displays tasks in a Widget, with some help from WidgetPack. [ Add Shortcut ]
  • OmniFocus Charty Ring – This Shortcut makes use of Charty to display a graphical representation of your daily progress. [ Add Shortcut ]
  • Add to OF List – Allows you to add a task, complete with notes, to a predefined list (project) in OmniFocus. Using this Shortcut eliminates the overhead of manually adding actions to projects and promotes consistency. This Shortcut leverages Toolbox Pro to create an attractive and functional menu. [ Add Shortcut ]

As a bonus, Scotty featured a number of other OmniFocus-related Shortcuts, including a couple that interface with Drafts and Agenda. You can learn more about these Shortcuts on Scotty’s blog.

Additional Resources

  • Scotty Jackson’s Blog – Scotty has documented some of what he shared in this session on his blog. Most notably, his recent My Reimagined Productivity Home Screen post will give you an overview of what he taught in this session.
  • OmniFocus Shortcuts Directory — We provide a growing library of OmniFocus-related Shortcuts. Some can be used without modification and others will be a great starting point for your own creations. While we can’t guarantee that they’ll all work as advertised, we do make a point of testing all of the Shortcuts we include in this directory.
  • Shortcuts Field Guide — David Sparks (aka MacSparky), who’s been a guest on Learn OmniFocus, has an excellent Shortcuts Field Guide that offers an in-depth look at both basic and advanced topics, including enhancements to Shortcuts that were introduced in iOS/iPadOS 14.

Also, check out the Nested Folders podcast that Scotty co-hosts with Rosemary Orchard. Scotty has also shared his OmniFocus setup and workflows as a guest on other podcasts, including The Omni Show, Home Work, Automators, and Productivity in Tech.

About Scotty Jackson

Scotty Jackson - Learn OmniFocus

Scotty is a long-time student of David Allen’s Getting Things Done approach to productivity and has been using OmniFocus since the beginning. He has a disciplined and thoughtful approach to project and task management that he applies to both personal areas of life and his corporate endeavours.

Scotty has worked in a variety of technology-related roles and currently supports a development team that builds and maintains corporate intranet websites. He works to help digitally enable teams by introducing tools, processes, and practices.

His day job is balanced with being a husband and father to three children, including a six-year-old and twelve-year-old twins.

You can follow Scotty on Twitter at @heyscottyj.

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