Inbox vs Projects

It’s so confusing for me to understand what Inbox in OmniFocus is and does. In Inbox I can’t add a project, and in Projects, if I add a single action, I can’t see them in my inbox. I just bought OmniFocus 2(so expensive), Please tell me what is Inbox, because I’ve thought inbox acts like the inbox in Mail or other applications.

The inbox is for collecting action items quickly, to be processed (added to existing projects or make a project with) later. This helps alleviate the stress of establishing all the structure for an item when you create it, and lets you get back to it at a time when you’re free to think it through.

The OmniGroup have made an excellent video to help explain using OmniFocus with David Allen’s Getting Things Done (GTD) framework. It may help clear up some confusion. They have made lots of other videos that you may find helpful as well.

In brief, you collect new actions or ideas into the inbox. You later process these into projects. You use contexts to view actions that you can accomplish given your present tool, time available or location. You may wish to use flags to mark things that should stand out (to be done today or high priority, for example). And with OmniFocus Pro you can create custom perspectives on your database to further streamline how you want to see your actions.


The inbox is meant to be a temporary storing area for random thoughts and ideas.

In e-mail, the theory is that most incoming e-mail arrives in your inbox. Then you go through your inbox e-mail and either act on it or move it to an appropriate folder. We can create e-mail filters that can automatically move certain messages to the correct folder. All e-mails from my family will go into the family folder. E-mails that have keywords such as “Project X” will go into the Project X folder. The idea is to empty to the inbox and place it into the appropriate folder(s).

In GTD parlance, we have letters, business cards, notes, pamphlets, and every other form of input collecting in the inbox. Then we move it to the appropriate area. Junk mail goes into the trash bin. Bills will get put into the calendar and stored in a folder or drawer called “Upcoming Bills to Pay.” Appointments get recorded into the calendar. Notes can be placed into a reference folder or into a Project folder. Physical receipts get scanned and then tossed. We clear out the inbox so that it can accept new inbox items in the future.

We don’t leave something in the inbox. We would like to move it to its proper place.

If you have a bunch of single actions, you can create a Single Action List called “Miscellaneous” or something else such as:

Work - Single Actions
Home - Single Actions
Personal - Single Actions
Fundraisers - Single Actions

Then you can store all of your one-off single actions in any one of these containers. Then you can visit these single action lists and work from there.


Thanks, Nostodnayr and Wilsonng for your great explanation. I like the idea.
I have another question; the time I set in Estimate Time doesn’t show in my calendar. should I do something to show me the duration of the tasks I set in OmniFocus to my calendar?