Action Groups Usage

How are you using Action Groups aka subtasks?

I like having the option to break down tasks into smaller pieces that really shouldn’t be projects via Action Groups, I can’t seem to get past not being able to see which Action Group a task belongs to while in a Context perspective.

For ex: Let’s say I have a tasks, one for each chapter: Learn Chapter 1, Learn Chapter 2, … then I have for each task, subtasks: Read, Take Notes, etc… If I flag Read from Chapter 1, then in my Flagged Context perspective I have no idea which chapter it belongs to. Of course I can add Ch1 to the subtask name, but that seems unnecessary.

Learn Chapter 1
Learn Chapter 2

Are Action Groups not used that much that others aren’t complaining about the same? Maybe I am using them wrong. How are you using them?

Any sharing is much appreciated. I feel this is a feature of OF that I just can’t make use of without being able to see the Action Group that a subtask is part of in a context view.



Yes, I have this problem too. Your example gives a good illustration of the worse case. I try to avoid it as best possible. From my experience, in this case you have probably only two ways to fix the problem …

  • add a prefix or suffix to each task or
  • pull out the chapters action groups as individual projects

I prefer the latter in most cases. Why? Because I might assume that, at some point, the tasks inside the chapter studies would be running in parallel. For example, you may start reading Chapter 2 before you have finished Study in Chapter 1.

I use an action group when I have a set of parallel action tasks in sequential workflow in a project OR when I have a set of sequential action tasks in a parallel workflow in a project. The latter template fits your case. It is taken to an extreme where the sequential actions inside the (potentially) parallel work flow all have the same names. I have weaker cases to illustrate. By example, I have projects that I call Topic Content. They each have parallel action groups named Brainstorm Map, Lecture Slides, Study Notes, Example Problems, … Each action group has a starting action point to “draft content”. What follows differs in each case. For now, I have attached the action group title as a suffix to help avoid the problem you note. So I have actions that say “draft content (for) brainstorm map”, “draft content (for) lecture slides”, … As I experiment further, I may get frustrated to the point where I will create Topic Content folders (Topic Content - Mass Balances) and put the action groups as projects inside each folder. Then, I don’t have to add suffixes.

Again, for your specific case at hand where the flow and titles of actions in the Chapter lessons are clearly exactly identical, I would make the action groups in to projects, probably each in a folder (e.g. folder “Chapter Studies”).

Hope this helps.


Same problem here, even with no flags involved - only subtasks and context filtering.

I’m extremely surprised that such a basic functionality for an outliner todo is not there for years, and no one seems to be concerned.

Thanks for the reply. I write about that use case because it clearly identifies the problem. I have many other situations where I want to use Action Groups (that really don’t call for a separate project) and I can’t because of this issue. I sometime think that they should just remove this functionality if they are not going to make it useful. I honestly can’t see how anyone is using Action Groups that uses Context perspectives. This has been the only part of OF that frustrates me. Everything else makes sense to me in the software. This doesn’t.

I have written to support several times over the years and no one if this will be addressed.

– Stephen

I will wager that Action Groups won’t be removed in my lifetime or yours. They are ingrained in the OF app. They are a useful and in some cases quite powerful feature. They are what brought me over to OF versus competitor apps that do not have this feature. That they have a limitation in their utility just means either that they needs refinement or that we sometimes have to think carefully about how we are using them.

So what is your proposal for OmniGroup to change how Action Groups work to “make it useful”?

Are the approaches that I suggested really that hard to apply? Are they so hard to apply that you will give up on using Action Groups rather than use them? Sounds to me like cutting off your nose to spite your face, as the saying goes.

That you have seen no changes despite your writings may mean one of two things. Perhaps your requests are not well-structured enough for Omnigroup to put them in a proper perspective relative to their larger plans. Hence, my question to you above. Alternatively, perhaps you are in a minority of folks who want to have the existing feature changed.


[Temporarily on OF v.1 due to computer replacement]

I noticed the same confusion a while ago, but didn’t take the time to ask someone. I just modified an AppleScript that spat out a complete action group for a template scenario just like this, and had the script add in the chapter number to each task.

IIRC, on the Mac, highlight the task and hit ⌘+⌥+R to switch to projects view for the selected task.

I don’t have a solution, but wanted to mention that I agree and experience the same shortcoming.

It’s simply hard to use action groups in OF, it seems there isn’t a clear view on how they should be used.

After all these years, I’ve come to use Action groups as a visual grouping of a linear list rather than anything special. Each item in the grouped action should be able to stand on its own in clarity etc… Not ideal, but working with how action groups function.

I’m using it in a similar way - problem is, that only works when working within a project. The action group won’t survive to perspectives, even if both the container and all the sub-tasks meet the criteria to be included in the context. In that case in my experience, the container task won’t be shown at all and the sub-tasks will be shown but not in any hiearchy.

For us working in the Project view mainly when planning the project, and tend to execute through perspectives, Action Groups will be problematic.