Are we all just pretending Natural Language input is not a thing?

So… we’re here picking dates with the date picker from 2007 while the rest of the world gets “Call John on tue at 3p” and “Drive soccer team to game every 3rd tue”

Has no one seen it? How about a “Yeah, we’re good where we are, thank you” or “It’s on the roadmap”. Something… I mean, it’s like if Apple released a smart speaker that only had a fraction of the capability at twice the price of the competition! Why would anyone do that?


… and the supposedly intelligent voice assistant never gets it wrong or gets confused by background noise.

OF on IOS has this capability via Siri input. Yes it’s convenient, but not reliable.

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I think OF3 would greatly benefit from natural language parsing. Other todo app have it. It works, reliably. I love the new OF3 but the date picker methodology being continued was a disappointment.


I’m in agreement with @revstu on that. While I haven’t messed with OF3 yet natural language parsing has been the standard for most modern productivity tools (calendars, tasks managers, etc.) and it’s disappointing that the most powerful task manager of them all doesn’t have it.


Agree. It’s a very surprising omission. One of the most important things in ToDo apps is the ability to capture information quick. With OF2/3 I sometimes feel I’m spending more time inputting data on my iPhone instead doing things.

This is less of a problem on desktop where there some parsing already and you can smack the tab button to rapidly input all the info.


Definitely surprised that natural language parsing hasnt been mentioned. Thought it would have been a key feature for OF3 - especially on ios where task input is a little clunky.

I use it for fantastical a bunch and its a lifesaver.


It really is pretty easy though to use Siri input for this and have OmniFocus pull from Reminders.

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Yep absolutely correct … except when you’re in a meeting, on a plane, at an airport, on a bus, watching tv with anyone, in a classroom, at church, in bed with partner asleep, or any situation where there is another human being present.


Agreed. so you were referring specifically to text input. Workflow can do this if you were looking for a workaround. You can pass the action to OmniFocus.

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Hi @steve28

Have you sent this as a feature request to the Omni team - it may be something on their radar that is yet to be implemented - but regardless it is a sure way to make sure your voice is heard

I think the Omni team are very responsive to suggestions and would be interested in hearing what they respond to you with :)




I’ll add that I’m also surprised this isn’t in OF3.

To be clear, we’re not talking about spoken language here. Natural language parsing is different from Siri- or Alexa-based input. In other apps—Todoist and Fantastical, for instance—you can type “Find Raul on Friday” and the app will understand that “on Friday” implies that the task should be deferred to Friday.

Using the date/time picker OmniFocus has is quite the chore, especially when you’re going through a number of tasks at once. Yet, there’s natural language parsing built into some inputs—i.e., if you’re already in the task’s defer/due date box, you can write “next friday” and it’ll understand. So, the app is capable, but the feature isn’t built into the way adding to the Inbox works.

This seems like a missed opportunity. Writing out your thought and then clarifying with the date pickers seems easier and faster than having to click the date inputs and then to go from there.


I had been thinking that “natural language” input is quite a burden for developers particularly when you factor in all the different rules and structures for languages that need to be supported. It’s something that could be done much better and consistently by the OS itself.

In an indirect fashion this might be arriving with iOS 12:

If OmniFocus supports the Siri “List and Notes” domain it might come for free. I’m not an iOS developer, I’m just making vague assertions at this point. What I’m hoping is that OmniFocus can register itself as a handler for this kind of data and Siri does all the heavy lifting of capturing and “understanding” the users request. This might work a little like the OmniFocus iOS reminders integration but more direct.

Anyway, we’ll find out soon enough…


Are you assuming English is “natural”?


My guess is that this is not a huge thing to everyone. But to those who care, it is a massive weakness. I am in that group. After time away from OF I am beta testing OF3. This stops me in my tracks. I always default back to todoist despite what I think are its limitations (lack of a good review function that OF does better than anyone) because of how good its natural language is when I do quick entry. I can blast out thoughts into things I don’t have to modify later nearly as much

call CDW thursday at 2pm @project name #context.

DONE - all that is captured.

And for repeating things? Its so important.
Replace home air filter every 3 months.


Even if we had to keep the date picker, it would be nice if they would abandon the Apple one and move to something where you could move the minutes of a clock, or pick based on a month. Apple’s date picker is just soooo bad.

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I can imagine this is on the horizon in the near future, but for any textexpander users looking for a temporary solution - a small node.js script could be used to achieve the desired effect. I just tested the following script

#!/usr/bin/env node
var chrono = require("chrono-node");
var moment = require("moment");
var parsedDate = chrono.parseDate(process.argv[2]);
var md = moment(parsedDate);
console.log(md.format("DD-MM-YYYY, HH:mm"));

which I ran from textexpander as a shell script:

/usr/local/bin/node path/to/script.js "%filltext:name=Date%"

which turns “in 30 minutes” into “27-11-2018, 18:54” - see chrono node docs for more examples


So… we’re here picking dates with the date picker from 2007 while the rest of the world gets “Call John on tue at 3p” and “Drive soccer team to game every 3rd tue”

Has no one seen it?

Yep and I’m disliking 99% of the implementations. Why? Because they don’t support things like autocomplete causing you to type out a full sentence instead of some letters and that makes them slower than manually adding the item.
If OmniFocus were to get natural language input I hope it is the same implementation as in Apple’s calendar app. It does autocomplete when you manually add an entry as well via the quick entry option (which also uses natural language input). This is implementation allows very fast data entry and that is very important on something like a smartphone.

The reason why I think there is no natural language input and most likely never will be is how OmniFocus and things like GTD work. The entire idea is to capture everything in the inbox and then, at a later time, go through all of them. It is then that you clarify them, assign them to a project, add tag(s), dates, etc. In that regard it doesn’t make much sense to have natural language input. In fact, it may even obstruct things because at this time you need to think about the item you added to the inbox.

Btw, the given examples are really bad ones since these are all items that generally go into a calendar app instead of a todo app. That is not going to help with setting the use case for having natural language input.

I also think that this request isn’t actually about natural language input at all. What seems to be the concern is the speed of data entry; people are requesting a quicker data entry. I doubt natural language input is to solution to that (see above) but it certainly isn’t the only solution (autocomplete is one, extending the keyboard so you can go through all the data entry fields is another).


Agreed. Do I want to type: “Add appendix to ERP project report tagged urgent and import in project Client1 defer Monday due Friday”? Which is what I have to do if I want to use natural language in a structured task app.

If all I want to say is “Pay gas bill on Friday” then OK, natural language might help. But then I’m just making a list - and I don’t need OF for that

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I think the point is being missed. The answer here is not “you’re using it wrong”

Ignore dates/times if that helps you get though it. In “other programs” I can type:

Email Bob about starting early #project @tag1 @tag2

Don’t tell me I’m supposed to just enter the first part, then come back later and add the the project and tags. What a waste of time if I already know how I’d like to enter it. It’s quick, easy, etc.

Same is true for due dates, start dates, etc. Omnifocus has these features so it should be easy to enter them.

This takes nothing away from using a date picker if you really feel like you want to. But I as well as others would really appreciate being able to type:

Turn in final report on elephants fri 5p #myproject @animalthing


Take out garbage ev thur
turn in report ev other fri 6p


Clearly you have never used or seen this in action. What you’d type is:

Add appendix to ERP project report @urgent #Client1 fri

And this is WAY faster than doing it the OF does it now. And, btw, the projects, tags, dates, days, etc. all auto fill as you are typing.

EDIT: and I should add that nothing forces you to do this! You can type, click, drag, multi-view all day if you like.