Looking for ways to automate getting actions from meeting notes in to OF

I’ve been using OF for a few months now and it is having a very positive effect on my ability to stay on top of an extremely hectic work life.

Many times a day (in meetings, one-to-one conversations with colleagues and clients, on calls, or when alone and brainstorming something) I am taking notes which end up as a mixture of notes, thoughts, ideas and actions.

Rather than have to then go through those and copy/paste items to OF entry box or send multiple emails to the OF Mailbox I’d like the actions to be automatically identified and added to OmniFocus , either as individual items in the Inbox or even if possible being added to the relevant projects, contexts with due dates based on syntax I could include when capturing

I have:

  • OmniFocus Pro
  • Hazel
  • Evernote
  • SimpleNote
  • nvALT
  • Dropbox
  • No experience in scripting but happy to do the hard work once I am
    confident what should be possible :-)

This also happens from iOS (iPad or iPhone) - this is a less pressing concern as I have found a Drafts action that can process lots of actions from a single draft to Omnifocus inbox.

I’m flexible on which capture tool I use if it means that I can capture my notes and then forget about having to manually add the actions to OmniFocus.

So, where can I start? :-/
Help me ObiFocus, you’re my only hope ;-)


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OK, I’ve found something that could be an important part of a solution to this.

Take a look at this blog post : http://joebuhlig.com/omnifocus-auto-parser/ and the previous post it references http://joebuhlig.com/using-omnifocus-for-somedaymaybe-lists/

I’ve set up a Hazel rule as shown and it uses the parsing script to take the title of suitably formated actions in the Inbox and assign them to projects/contexts/due dates/time estimates/notes.

This is brilliant - it means that we can now focus just on getting multiple actions out of the meeting notes and firing them off to OmniFocus maildrop individually as a way of achieving this.

I’m still a bit bamboozled as to how to achieve that bit.

As far as I know Evernote or Simplenote don’t save a file anywhere that Hazel can watch and act on - is that correct?

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This might be slightly off topic, but might provide some ideas: I had this same problem, but on iOS. I have found copy/paste to be a big enabler on Mac, but moving things on iOS was more troublesome.

My solution (and maybe you can find a similar approach on OS X?) was to use the Workflow app. I take notes in markdown format in iA Writer, and use the task formatting ("- [ ]") to denote actions. Using Workflow, I made a flow that separates all lines of text, identifies which are tasks based on the first characters of the line, strips those characters, and puts them in the OF inbox (via Reminders).

The nice thing about Workflow is that it can take text as an input from whatever app I want to use, the only dependency is the use of markdown-formatted take. I don’t know AppleScript, but I imagine that a similar parser could be made in a similar way either with it or Automator (perhaps as a system service?).

Just thought I would share in case it adds some ideas.


Thanks man.

Yes I grabbed Workflow recently but to be honest struggled to get the hang of it.

Drafts with its Action library seemed easier to get to grips with, but I’ll try again with Workflow as everyone raves about it.

Yeah it doesn’t win awards for simplicity, but enables great stuff. I’m rebuilding some things - perhaps I’ll share here once done :)


That would be cool thanks :-)

Have you found any good resources for Workflow app online?

Not really, @TimO. The best resource for me has been time and experimentation, though the subreddit community really helped refine what I was doing.


@TimO Check this out.

This workflow is intended to allow me to take notes in a meeting or through the day in markdown. It:

  • takes markdown-formatted text via share sheet in-app (I use iA Writer, myself)
  • identifies tasks based on lines that begin with “- [ ]”
  • adds each task to Reminders (destined for OmniFocus, based on Reminders integration)
  • separates a task with “//” in it, where the first part before the “//” becomes the name of the task, and the part after “//” becomes a note in the task
  • assumes the first line of the document is the title, and adds that title to the note of the task, along with the date he workflow was run (given markdown-formatting, it also removes any “#” characters)

Let me know what you think!


Ooh that sounds very helpful - I’ll give it a go. Thanks

I just ran it and it errored on me. Looks like I inadvertently dropped a variable setting. Werps! It’s fixed here.

I hoped it would actually work with Notes.app (the checklists are markdown!), but it doesn’t seem to. I might tinker, as Notes would be fun to export from, given how easy it is to stuff things there now.


Sorry to keep bumping this, but @TimO - I figured out how Notes.app text looks when seen by Workflow, and edited my workflow to account for this (using the character “◦”).

Now you should be able to process a note there to Omnifocus, with each checklist item as a task (all other lines and content ignored).



Nice - will take a look.
I couldn’t get the previous one working - not sure if it was because I’m starting in something other than Writer - the workflow stopped and asked for a title and got stuck there.

I’ll try this new one too :-)


I think the one thing I have learned in looking in to this is that currently there are better solutions out there for getting notes captured and multiple actions seamlessly in to Omnifocus when you start in iOS than when you start on Mac - which sounds crazy!

I suspect that the various scripts (like the Workflow and Drafts scripts people have created) can be replicated in Applescript either with or without Hazel triggers and enhancements.

It may be that I need to take the plunge and learn scripting to get what I need rather than just digging about and hoping someone else has done it :-)

Yes that first one was absolutely broken - not just you @TimO :)

And I agree, but only because I don’t know AppleScript or Hazel or any other automation equivalent. I wonder if Automator could do this sort of thing, though. At the same time, on the Mac, I have found it easier to select, copy, and paste, so it wasn’t as burning a need, but it is odd that my iOS workflow is getting more robust than on Mac.


I’m genuinely surprised that there isn’t something out there on Mac that can be used as a simple ‘access anywhere’ note taker/keeper where you can, using syntax, flag lines as Omnifocus actions that don’t need extra steps to get brought across.

I’d have thought it a common need and a gap someone would have filled.

I’d pay!

I’m old fashioned. Is an app the answer?

The best bit of PRACTICAL advice I was given as a baby manager many, far too many, years ago was to get and use a day journal.

The day book is now an A5 size Leuchtterm1917.

Writing in a book doesn’t interrupt meetings or throw up a barrier between me and the other participants. I can’t get distracted and ‘quickly check my email’.

I capture actions for me as a A in a circle.
Possible actions (or unrelated ideas for other stuff) as a ? In a circle (many of these get culled later during transfer)
Actions for others are their initials, circled.

All the circle indicators are at the start of the line.

It is really easy at the end of the meeting to run down the indicators at the start of lines in my notes and check that everybody knows exactly what actions are theirs.

After the meeting, a few minutes will enable me to transcribe actions and ideas into OmniFocus, applying the right contexts etc.

This has the added bonus of enabling me to review my notes.

Reviewing notes within 24 to 48 hours of a lecture, seminar or meeting massively helps retention.

Edit: removed weird scrambled and repeated extra paragraph.

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@PhilRob I totally hear you. In fact, my system prior to (re-)implementing OmniFocus was entirely paper-based.

What became a problem for me was that this fragmented my system; most inputs and actions come to me digitally, so having content in paper and content in digital was becoming a problem that I wasn’t good at managing. Additionally, I was looked to more and more to share my notes, which was really laborious when it came to typing up all my handwritten stuff (I looked at scan+OCR, and it’s either not quite there yet, disturbingly expensive for my needs, or an overarchitected solution).

So I’ve really been cornered into an all-digital solution need, which unfortunately brings with it a slippery slope of “how do I automate everything” kind of mentality. Still, I think I’m learning to be judicious about what I take the time/effort to solution and what I just “work”.

Really appreciate your point of view here, and wanted to add my support for paper if it is viable for folks to do in their workflows.


I suspect we are violently in agreement.

I can’t type as fast as I can write, and screens do present a barrier. The day book is for meetings, phone calls and things associated with voice - everything else is electronic.

In seminars etc. I have, in the past, tried using notability on the iPad, which records the speaker (check that they are ok with this first, and in a meeting that everyone else is ok with it) and links my scribbles/notes on the iPad with the speakers words.

I know someone who is profoundly dyslexic and uses a recording pen and special notebook to achieve the same aim.

It is still a two stage process.
Step 1 - Be in the room, pay attention, Capture the notes.
Step 2 - review/process the notes and decide on actions

For me, even with a jot script stylus, the iPad lacked sufficient sensitivity - I suspect we will have to wait for the iPad Giant and iPen for this to work - even so, I don’t think that contemporaneous notes will couple well with ‘capturing actions’.

As an aside. Some of the best meetings I have had with people (judged by eveyone knowing and doing what was expected) came when I had a ‘who what when’ A4 sheet with me. This captured actions for everyone. At the end of the meeting it was copied (or photographed) by everyone present - there was no hiding place or 3 day delay while the minutes came out.

@PhilRob Ah I tried the stylus thing, but I could never get past the tip-tip-tap noise of writing on glass. Terrible. Too bad, because I remember learning and living the Jot language on my Palm devices back in the day.

Totally agree with the best meeting having agreed upon actions, too, with however the notes are best grabbed by all. Very powerful approach.


Best way is to automate through one of these apps: zapier, ifttt, task clone or workflowy. They all have their pros and cons. But selecting one is personal preference that only you’ll be able to decide