How to get the best out of Omnifocus — for PC Users

Andreas Lorenz
Feb 2, 2016 · 6 min read
Omnifocus for PC
Omnifocus for PC

As someone who is genuinely interested in productivity, the quest for the best app is a never ending story. Consequently I stumbled early about the Omnifocus app and had a long love-hate relationship with it.

To cut a long story short, it became my go-to productivity app and my trusted companion on my GTD journey.

Lately I switched jobs and needed to adjust from a Macbook as my primary work device to a PC.

I had already envisioned changing my ingrained workflow and redo my whole productivity setup as there is still no such thing as Omnifocus for PC and probably never will be.

However, since the version 2.0 of the app, Omnifocus can work pretty well as a standalone solution if you use an iOS device (using it standalone on an iPad will work better than standalone on an iPhone).

In this post I will share my experiences and best practices on how to still be able to use Omnifocus if your main working device is a PC.

Omnifocus + iPad — my 1–2 punch for productivity

Whenever I arrive at the office, the next thing after firing up my PC is flipping my iPad open and starting Omnifocus to see what I have on my plate. Crossing off tasks on the iPad is due to the more haptical process even more fulfilling than doing it on the Mac app just by clicking the left mouse button.

My iPad is around with me during all day. This enables me to have my commitments always at my finger tipps and can complete them at every context I happen to be.

I also found it handy to have the to-dos open on the iPad during phone calls that I do with my iPhone. Would I be running Omnifocus on the iPhone it would be more complicated to check tasks in my at phone context.

Being 14 months in my iOS only Omnifocus usage, I can see no dramatic disadvantage versus the Mac version if it comes to getting things done.

Getting things into Omnifocus

Undoubtedly, getting things done is the key function of any to-do application. Therefore I guess it is good news for every wannabe Omnifocus user who has no Mac on hand.

If you follow the GTD principles however, you know that getting things into your to-do system is as important as checking them off.

This being said, it is time to shine a light on the limitations the iOS-only Omnifocus approach has.

Capturing new projects, new next actions and to manage them within the apps is more complicated or will — at least — take more time than on the Mac app.

This is largely due to the fact that the input on iPad and iPhone takes longer than if I would fly with 10 fingers across my computer keyboard (although this may be an individual issue).

Workarounds that I am using

To avoid this little disadvantage from stopping you to reap the benefits of a really ingenious app for your productivity, you might be interested in a few hacks that I am using to get my actions into Omnifocus without having to type everything into the iPad or iPhone:

E-Mail Forwarding

Every Omnifocus user receives upon registration an individual, secret e-mail address. Every e-mail that you sent to this address will land in your Omnifocus Inbox with the subject line of your e-Mail as the title of the task and the body of your mail as the notes associated with the task. Also attachments will be stored in Omnifocus as such. This is very handy for future reference if you start working on this task.

Tell Siri to add your task

With a little set up inside Omnifocus and the Reminders app, you can enable the app to pull in your reminders from the native Apple reminders app. To keep things clean, I suggest that you create a new list for all the reminders you want to have pulled into Omnifocus.

With this little trick, you can use Siri to add things to Omnifocus. Simply pull up your phone and dictate your reminder into your iPhone or iPad and watch the magic happen.

Import all your checkbox items from Evernote into Omnifocus

If you happen to be an Evernote user, you will be very happy to hear that there is a way how you can get all your check-box items out of Evernote into Omnifocus.

For that matter, you will want to sign up for a service called TaskClone. The next step is to tell TaskClone your secret Omnifocus E-Mail address and create a trigger tag.

Just for the case you are not familiar, tags are one way of organizing your notes in Evernote. TaskClone uses them to check your Evernote dataset for notes that may include a checkbox.

I use Evernote classically from my PC to capture notes from meetings, phone calls or one-on-ones and to brainstorm. As soon as there are actions associated for me with these notes, I mark them within the note with a little checkbox. The note itself will be tagged with the trigger tag. In my setup it is simply “Omnifocus”.

This is all I need to do to make sure that all actions from the Evernote note are landing in my Omnifocus inbox (you need to sync your Evernote regularly, though).

The cool thing is not only that the to-do action appears in your Omnifocus but it also has an internal reference link to the Evernote note where this action came from. Should you have installed the Evernote app on your device, you can click this link to open the respective note directly in your app.


Use technology to type faster

In case you are down to inserting all your tasks manually through your iOS device, one further recommendation is to check out the app TextExpander. TextExpander enables you to create little (or copious if you wish) snippets of text that will auto expand as you type an abbreviation for this snippet. For iOS devices, you can install a special Textexpander Keyboard which will also enable you use your snippets directly inside Omnifocus.

The versatility of this combo is huge. A good resource for very handy Omnifocus Textexpander snippets is MacSparky. I use his snippets very often as a starting point for my own snippets.

Bonus idea

In my experience, often when I start to take notes on my devices (no matter if it is iPhone or iPad) I am not yet sure what will end up doing with it.

Not all notes that I take will make actionable to-do´s. Therefore putting them directly into Omnifocus would clutter my system and make it less useful.

Therefore I personally only seldom add tasks directly inside Omnifocus to my to-dos. More so I have an app called Drafts installed.

You can imagine Drafts as a cross road to all different text based use cases on your devices. Drafts can convert inserted text into e-mails, text messages, calendar entries, Evernote notes and also into Omnifocus tasks.

Whenever I enter text into my devices I open drafts (which is one of the few apps in my dock for that matter) and start typing. Only then I decide what ever this note is and what it will mean to me, before I decide what destination I will send it to.

There you go — if you are on a PC you can very well use the benefits of one of the best productivity apps within the GTD ecosystem today provides. I hope that some of my workflows and application ideas in this post will help you to use Omnifocus even more efficiently in order to get things done.

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