Bridging the Windows gap with OmniFocus

February 01, 2011 by Gabe | [mmd] |

OmniFocus from Windows

There's no doubt that OmniFocus by the Omni Group is the quintessential mac app. It's elegant, easy to use and simply makes work easier. It has nearly solved the digital ubiquitous capture problem. It's an iPhone app, it's an iPad app, it's desktop app, it's a whipped topping. Unfortunately it is not a windows app (yet).I spend most of my work hours on a Windows machine. I have developed a couple of rountines that allow me to integrate OmniFocus with my workflow on Windows. An easy way to add tasks to OmniFocus is by way of email. I'll briefly describe the hack and subsequently tell you that it is no longer needed.


Tasks by email
This is really just a modification of the excellent workflow described by Shawn Blanc. I've made some changes that make it a little more accurate and contemporaneous. All of this requires a mac at home running full time. That's not a problem for me since I already had my mac running as a server for several reasons. Maybe I'll write some posts about those other users. In OmniFocus for Mac, turn on the mail rule in the preferences

OF_Prefs

Head over to Apple's Mail.app and look at the newly added mail rule. I added an extra trigger that looks for mail to a special gmail address.I actually signed up for another email account that was prefixed with "qqq" so that it's easy to remember and type and is likely to be unique in my address book. Gmail also allows you to place a dot in the middle of your gmail address and still receive the mail. For example, "myemailaddress@gmail.com" also works as "my.email.adress@gmail.com" for receiving messages. Give it a try. I use the "qqq" prefix because it's easy to type to get an auto-suggestion in Outlook. I also added a rule that only accepts tasks from my preferred list of email addresses (Note that you can set that in the OmniFocus settings as well). Namely, my personal and work email accounts. This helps, in case the spammers get smart enough to start sending OmniFocus enabled emails. How aweful would it be to get spam tasks. The horror!

OF_Mail_Rule.png

 

Adding a task from Outlook on Windows is simple. Fire up Outlook and send an email to your special address like this:

OF_Outlook

Now we have a precise rule that adds tasks to OmniFocus, except we have to wait for OmniFocus Mac to sync to the cloud before that task is available everywhere else. I wasn't happy with waiting. I decided to modify the Applescript that the Mail.app rule uses. I added a couple of lines to force OmniFocus to initiate a sync everytime it receives a taks from Mail.app.

tell application "OmniFocus"

synchronize default document

end tell


Everything is working well. So why did I abandon this workflow? Spootnik!

Spootnik Sync
I first discovered Spootnik when I was looking for sync server for OmniFocus on iOS. This was before Omni Group offered their terrific and free sync service. Spootnik is much more than a sync server though. The primary reason I continue to pay the $3 per month for Spootnik is for the fantastic web interface. I can now access my task list from any browser. Specifically IE and Firefox from my work computer. I can review, check-off and add tasks from the web interface. It's a pretty full featured product. The only things you can not do is add due times to tasks or move tasks to another project. It is primarily intended as a simple web front end to your tasks in OmniFocus. It accomplishes that very well.Spootnik also offers integration with Bascamp from 37Signals. I'm not a Basecamp user so I can not describe the integration or the quality of the results. Based on the sync and web services from Spootnik, I'd bet it is a good implementation of Basecamp.

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