Need more context in Flagged and Tags perspectives

One continual source of frustration with OF is that it often does not show the context I need for each item. For example, in the Flagged and Tags perspective, I would like to see the parent item of children. As it is, children are essentially disembodied. You can see the top level and the tags, but not the parents. Thus, for a project like this:

Plan Vacation
Book air travel
Book hotel
Delft, Netherlands
Arrange for pet sitter
Ask Molly
call to confirm

You end up with things like:

Luxembourg (Plan Vacation)
Home (Plan Vacation)
call to confirm (Plan Vacation)

Where’s the context? Why are parents treated like second-class citizens, with only children shown? I understand the GTD emphasis on Next Available Actions, but it’s the parents (and parents of parents) that are the goals of the children (tasks).

Compare this to Things, which goes the opposite direction, showing the parents (goals) and only when you drill into it do you see the children (tasks). This also has some limitations, at least in their implementation, where you can’t have deeply nested projects, but honestly, I’ve been contemplating switching based on this difference alone, as OF’s parent-hiding is just not compatible with how I think of my projects.


This falls in place with the general state of the iOS app sadly. I’ve said it in another thread:
Too often there is redundant text in the wrong places (e.g. inspector) while it is missing in others as in your example. I definitely share your gripes. The workaround (to add more details to the action) is just not always feasible and it should not be necessary with good app design.

For me these glaring UI/UX issues should be more important than expanding to a web version, etc.

I have tried to make it a habit to name my task so that it can be understood without drilling into it for more info.

Use this:
Pick up cake for Mother’s Day party

Instead of this:
Pick up cake

I title the task so that my 3rd grade daughter can figure it out. If she can’t figure out by looking at the task title then I known I didn’t write it as well as I need to.

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I get what you are saying but if your action group was named ‘Prepare Mother’s Day party’ and you had several sub-actions, why should it be necessary to append all this redundant bloat text to every action in the action group?

…but you haven’t told us what project that action group would be part of.

Something which is a clear independent goal/outcome should usually be made a project in OF. ‘Prepare Mother’s Day party’ sounds like it should be a project, or simply ‘Mother’s Day party’.

I agree with @wilsonng that an action should be sufficiently descriptive to stand on its own, in combination with its project name and tags. This way, it’s clear what it is in whatever perspective it appears (especially those that slice by tags). Action groups are great for representing sequential and parallel execution of complex tasks, but I don’t recommend relying on them for providing meaning for the actions to perform.

In your example, this with a [tag] would be clear:

  • Order flowers [online] — Mother’s Day party

In @jdm ’s original example, ‘Plan Vacation’ is a good project so, yes, some action names will need to be longer eg:

  • Book plane ticket to Luxembourg — Plan Vacation
  • Call Molly to confirm pet sitting — Plan Vacation.

If tags are used to better structure tasks, that last action could become:

  • Confirm pet sitting [Phone] [Molly] — Plan Vacation

which is concise to input, clear in all perspectives, and nothing associated with Molly will fall through the cracks.


Using the same ‘Plan vacation’ example, the action ‘book plane ticket to Luxembourg’ could require more steps e.g.

  • compare airline prices
  • check for frequent flyer deals
  • ask significant other about seat preferences

How would you suggest handling these?

It makes sense to indent these as an action group because they are part of an action which is more extensive, yet not extensive enough to justify an own project. The action group also presents a helpful visual and contextual cue (provided it can be seen by the user).
And creating a project to book the plane ticket to Luxembourg next to the project to plan the vacation is much of an overkill IMHO and again looses the context (of the trip planning).

While using more tags may shorten the action name, bloating every action with multiple tags such as ‘Phone’ does not make sense for me personally, because I want to keep my workflow lean.

I would like the tools (software) to adapt to me and my workflow and not the other way around with me having to fiddle in 5+ action properties when it could be easily fixed otherwise. This is just not productive if it has to be done for every sub-level action.
Omnifocus’ customisability is praised in many ways regarding many aspects, yet seems to miss essential options and lacks general consistency (e.g. filters across custom vs. built-in perspectives) as well as IMHO conceptual consistency e.g. missing context as seen here.

The action title needs to be just enough for you to recall what it is when seen in isolation. So I might use ‘Compare Luxembourg ticket prices’ and ‘Check for frequent flyer deals to Luxembourg’. This is enough as a mental trigger, especially when the project name ‘Plan vacation’ is displayed alongside (an option in both Mac and iOS views). I already have in mind that I’m planning on taking the plane to Luxembourg as part of my vacation. The action ‘Ask significant other about plane seat preferences’ is probably enough on its own. For tasks that are less “top of mind”, you might need to describe them more at length.

When you do in-depth review and planning of your system, you look at the Project view, or perspectives that return ‘Entire Projects’, and you see the full structure of your projects and action groups. When you see an isolated action in the Tags/Flagged/Forecast views, or perspectives that return ‘Individual Actions’, you always have the option of switching to that action in the context of its project (‘Show in Projects’ command on Mac, ‘Go To’ icon in the Inspector on iOS), in those rare cases where you don’t remember what an action is referring to.

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I‘ve found a possible solution for iOS: this could just be added to the window that pops up when 3DTouch/Force Touching the action.

Send a +1 email to Omni if you‘d like to see this as well.

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