OmniFocus has some features that are not commonly found in other personal task managers. Here are our favourites.
If you’re considering adopting OmniFocus, the following list may offer some compelling reasons to use this software. And if you’re already an OmniFocus user, this list will serve as a summary of some of the powerful and flexible features that you have at your disposal.
Mac Integration — The Mac version of OmniFocus is tightly integrated with many popular Mac applications. For example, through the use of a hotkey, you can select a message in Apple’s Mail app and create an OmniFocus action that contains the contents of the e-mail and a reference to the original message. At this point, you can clear/archive the e-mail from your inbox and manage any actions that need to be taken from within OmniFocus.
iOS/iPadOS Integration — OmniFocus is also very well integrated on iOS/iPadOS. And the Omni Group has a well-deserved reputation for supporting new iOS/iPadOS features as soon as they’re available. For example, the Omni Group was among the first developers to support drag and drop and native Siri integration.
Apple Watch App — Having OmniFocus on your Apple Watch can be a great way to provide convenient access to your most important tasks. You can even add a complication to your favourite watch faces. This helps keep your OmniFocus tasks on your radar and provides a quick way to open the OmniFocus for Apple Watch app.
Web Access — OmniFocus for the Web allows you to access your OmniFocus database from most modern web browsers, offering a subset of the functionality available in the native Mac and iOS/iPadOS apps. Web access can be very helpful if, for example, you use a Windows computer at work.
Cloud Sync — You can keep your Mac and iOS/iPadOS devices in sync using the Omni Group’s free Omni Sync Server. For example, you could use Omni Sync to keep an iMac, MacBook, iPhone, and iPad in sync and enjoy the freedom of being able to access and edit projects and actions from any of these devices. You can also use Omni Sync Server to email actions into OmniFocus from any computer or device. And OmniFocus for the Web allows you to tap into your OmniFocus database from any computer with a modern web browser.
Offline Access — OmniFocus stores its data locally on Macs, iPhones, and iPads. This means that you can access your OmniFocus projects and actions even if you don’t have an Internet connection (e.g. when on a plane). When an Internet connection does become available any changes and additions you made while offline are synced to your other devices through Omni Sync.
Project and Single Action Lists — OmniFocus supports two types of containers: projects (parallel and sequential) and single action lists. A project, in Getting Things Done (GTD) speak, is a clearly defined objective that requires two or more actions to complete. By definition, projects have a beginning and an end. Single actions lists, on the other hand, are essentially a bucket of related actions and don’t have a defined destination. OmniFocus is one of the few task management solutions that distinguishes between projects and single action lists. This is a key distinction that greatly enhances the usefulness of this software.
Sequential Groups & Projects — In some cases the first action on a list must be completed before the second one becomes available. For example, you probably wouldn’t send out invitations to a party if I don’t know where the party’s going to be held. OmniFocus makes it easy to define groups of actions or even entire projects that are sequential in nature. OmniFocus can then be configured to only show actions that are available — in this case, the next available action in the sequence.
Custom Perspectives — By tracking projects and actions using your Mac and iOS/iPadOS devices, rather than using pen and paper it’s possible to have different views of your data. For example, you may only want to see business-related projects, or you may choose to focus on all of the phone calls on your list, regardless of which areas of life they relate to. The Custom Perspective feature in OmniFocus (Pro) makes gaining access to these common actions and project views very fast and convenient. Custom Perspectives can be created on either Mac or iOS/iPadOS and are available on all of your devices.
Defer Date and Time — Projects and actions can be assigned both a defer date and a defer time. For example, if you tell a client that you’ll call them back tomorrow afternoon, you could create an action that becomes available tomorrow at 1pm and can configure OmniFocus such that this action doesn’t show up until tomorrow at 1pm rolls around. This helps keep action lists relevant and focused. You can also optionally include a due date and time for actions and projects that have a deadline. As a general rule, we recommend using due dates sparingly and not as a way to track arbitrary target dates.
Recurring Actions and Projects — Actions and even entire projects can be configured to repeat at regular intervals, on specific days of the week, and a specified number of days, weeks or months after the action is completed. For example, you can have a repeating project that walks you through your morning review, a recurring action to water your plants that automatically repeats a week after it’s marked complete, and a repeating action to prompt you to pay your credit card on the first Friday of each month.
Review — Regular reviews are a key component of the Getting Things Done (GTD) methodology, and this is the aspect of GTD that people often find the most challenging to put into practice. OmniFocus is the only task management solution we’ve seen that has built-in functionality to help you keep track of when a project was last reviewed. You can specify the default review frequency as well as the review frequency for individual projects and single action lists.
Efficiency — The folks at The Omni Group have put a lot of effort into making OmniFocus as efficient as possible. For example, rather than selecting a project or tag from a menu/list (Mac/iOS/iPadOS) or dragging the action to the sidebar (Mac), you can type a few letters of the project or tag name to quickly find what you’re looking for. Assigning defer and due dates is equally efficient. On the Mac, abbreviations such as “1d” and “1w” equate to a date that is one day or one week into the future. Similarly, typing “mon” or “apr 1” will translate to the appropriate date. If you really want to get fancy, you could type something like “1w fri” and OmniFocus will calculate and insert the date that is one week from Friday. On iOS/iPadOS there are buttons that allow you to quickly add a day, week, month, and year to the selected date.
Automation — OmniFocus has outstanding support for automation. You can use the built-in Omni Automation feature to extend OmniFocus’ capabilities on Mac, iPhone, and iPad using plug-ins. You can make use of plug-ins that others have written (customizing them, as needed), or even write your own plug-ins from scratch. The OmniFocus Plug-In Directory contains some of our favourites. OmniFocus also has extensive support for Shortcuts on iPhone and iPad. You’ll find some examples in our OmniFocus Shortcuts Directory.