OmniFocus and Apple Calendar

I can’t understand, why developers didn’t add a feature like “create new event in calendar” for my Actions in OmniFocus, or at least add new events in Reminders App? I can make cool project with OmniFocus but i can’t plan it to particular time, it’s just strange, because all of this is about productivity and planning. I’m sure there is possibilities to do such features because there are apps that can do that.
Is there something i didn’t get, some ideology or what?
UPD.: and what’s the point of adding estimated time, if i can’t even see it somewhere besides inspector?

You can drag and drop actions to the calendar, but they don’t backlink to their entry in OmniFocus.

I tend to keep my calendar for ‘hard events’ like meetings, etc. and any empty slots are therefore available ‘work time’ at which point I switch to OmniFocus and work from those lists.

I think this approach is the anointed David Allen GTD approach.

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OmniFocus version 1 allowed you to customize column views, so that you could see the estimated time in a column and sort on it.

For whatever reason, that capability hasn’t made it across to OmniFocus 2 yet, since the new version was a complete rewrite, not simply an update of the older code.

What you can do in OF2, however, is create custom perspectives that filter on estimated times, so you could have a perspective for quick items that can be completed in “under 5 minutes” versus those that might take longer and therefore require more focus.

That said, I generally ignore the time estimate field just because it’s one more piece of data to fill in that isn’t really worth it for me… As per the GTD approach, I try to break down all of my projects into bite-sized chunks as much as possible, and I generally suck as proper time estimates anyway :)

Regarding adding events in the Reminders app, you can set a specific time for events in OmniFocus itself, not just due dates, and the OF app will fire off reminders accordingly. I think setting Reminders would be somewhat redundant, and therefore something of an edge case.

Thank you for responses guys!

It’s a strange but drag-and-drop doesn’t work on my mac, still can’t figure out where is the problem.
Creating “estimated time” perspectives is a good idea, i’ll try it.

I was thinking about a question i started topic with, and here is my thoughts:

  1. It’s made (to be specific, not made), for more flexibility in doing things. Instead of becoming “slave of calendar” you decide what to do here and now, depending on your current priorities. Makes a little sense.
  2. If you can see all of your planned todo’s in Apple Calendar and Reminders, and since this apps are synchronized to all iDevices, you less likely to buy OmniFocus for iPhone and iPad (i believe that almost all omniusers use Mac as main platform for work). Greed.

What do you think?

Well, the real issue is that OmniFocus was built to follow the GTD, or ‘Getting Things Done’ task management system by David Allen, which as @Splinky pointed out, shirks away from setting a lot of “hard deadlines” and time allotments in your calendar.

You can find a lot of information on the “GTD” system online, so I won’t bother repeating it all here, but basically the concept is that your tasks should be a function of what you want to do with your available time, as you have available time, not something that’s planned out hour-by-hour in advance simply based on artificial timeframe and deadlines. Rather, tasks should be prioritized by context (where you are or what ‘mode’ you’re in), time available, energy level, and priority. So, for example, at 4:45 PM you might say, “I’m at my desk (context), I have 15 minutes available (time), I’m beat as it’s the end of the day (energy).” There may be a couple of dozen things on your list, but when you filter it down by those criteria, perhaps you have only seven you can do at your desk, and then three that can be done in less than 15 minutes. Of those three, only one may match up with your end-of-day energy level, but it’s a simple enough thing so you tackle it.

OmniFocus handles the first one (context) very directly, and time available works with the “estimated time” fields and perspectives. Energy level is something you probably have to make a more in-the-moment decision on, and priority should also be based more on flexibility.

One of the notable things that’s excluded here is the concept of “hard landscape” vs a “soft landscape.” The GTD approach usually eschews setting “artificial” deadlines on things based on what you want to do (creating a “soft landscape”), reserving due dates for tasks that actually have consequences if they’re not done on time (“hard landscape”). You might want to clean up your desk by the end of the day, but unless your boss is inspecting your office for cleanliness, chances are that task can slide until tomorrow if other things come up. On the other hand, if the TPS Report has to be in by 5:00 PM or you don’t get paid, then that’s definitely something you’d setup a due date for.

Outside of due dates, however, GTD is about having fluid lists that allow you to tackle what you’re ready to deal with, rather than building things to work in a predetermined order based on time slots. You might have all the intention in the world of cleaning up your desk between 4PM and 5PM on Wednesday afternoon, but if something else comes up, or if you’re simply tired from an otherwise exhausting day, having a fixed calendar appointment ends up being more of a discouragement than a floating task that you can simply leave in place until you’ve actually dealt with it.

Keep in mind also that GTD is about breaking your projects down into the smallest bite-sized chunks possible to encourage you to actually move forward on actions. A project that says “Write Proposal” may encourage procrastination simply by seeming too daunting and a lack of knowing where to start. Break it down into subtasks such as, “Review Customer Needs Analysis,” “Collect Pricing Information,” “Prepare Executive Summary” and so forth gives you individual tasks you can complete in manageable chunks. This is even more valuable when projects may span multiple contexts… A project to build shelves in your garage might require a trip to the hardware store to buy wood, in which case you create a task with a context of “Hardware Store” or more generally, “Errands” that says “Buy Wood” that precedes a task to “Cut up wood into shelves” which might have a context of “Home” or “Garage” (depending on how specific you want to get). Your task list is then based on context and you’re actioning what you can do when you’re in a position to do it – if you’re out running errands, you’re in no position to take out the garbage or cut up your wood, but you can buy those shelves and maybe pick up the garbage bags you need. Further, if you’re at home, you can’t cut the wood or take out the garbage until you’ve completed the preceding tasks, so those become unavailable in your “Home” context.

Again, I’m not suggesting that this is how one must do things – there are many alternatives among task management systems and approaches – but it’s definitely the philosophy behind OmniFocus’ design.

I don’t think that enters into it. It’s more about using the right tool for the job, and the overall design philosophy. Further, OmniFocus in all of its iterations does include a feature that will allow you to “Publish due items as calendar alarms” which would certainly provide the flexibility to at least get notifications of important tasks on the go. In fact, if you turned that option on and gave everything a due date, you’d have Calendar reminders in place for every one of your tasks. It wouldn’t block it out based on project time, but your alarms would go off at the appropriate time, and you’d have a good view of your “hard landscape” for things.

On a more practical level, I should also note that you can create links from a calendar appointment back to an OmniFocus item – just right-click on any project or task and choose “Copy as Link” from the context menu. You can then paste this into the URL field of a Calendar appointment and that will link back to the project or task in OmniFocus. So the functionality is somewhat there, but my guess is that ultimately it just hasn’t been a priority for OmniFocus to implement anything more integrated simply as there’s probably not much demand for it among the larger OF user base, many of whom are to at least some degree adherents to the GTD approach, be it loosely or strictly.


Yes, thank you, i get it, and i was wrong, it makes a lot of sense. It’s really just more comfortable then you look at tasks from “what i want to do” point of view, instead of “what i have to”. Though sometimes you have no choice, especially in business things, and for them i’d like to have possibility to plan my calendar hour-by-hour. By the way, may be OmniPlan suits well for such things?

Realistically, OmniPlan would probably be overkill unless you’re normally planning much more complicated projects… OmniPlan is basically a full project management software, similar to something like Microsoft Project. If you need to schedule or allocate resources, build more complex task dependencies, and view things in gantt charts, that’s where OmniPlan comes in.

I found OmniPlan invaluable when I actually did real project management, but that was on a level that generally goes beyond what anybody uses personally.

For calendar integration, I’d simply suggest doing it more manually, which is what I generally do… You might be double-entering tasks in some cases, but there really is a difference between the task you need to do and the time you need to (or choose to) do it. I’ll frequently block out time in my calendar even when I’m actively working on a task. The calendar doesn’t reflect the urgency of the task, merely the time I’ve allocated to doing it.

In fact, for me the only time a calendar ever comes into the equation for managing “due” times is when I’m dealing with actual external appointments, which of course have artificial deadlines, but aren’t really tasks. Work I’ve allocated to do sometimes goes in there, but I don’t deal with alarms for it or checking my calendar as I pretty much live from my OmniFocus perspective.

I think that’s also the key to how OmniFocus is ‘supposed to’ be used… This isn’t something that you dump a bunch of tasks into and forget about until you go looking for a specific task, or something alerts you. Rather, it’s a list (or set of lists) that you’re repeatedly checking throughout the day to determine what the next available action is to focus your efforts on.

I can easily check my primary OmniFocus perspective a couple dozen or more times per day, depending on what I"m working on… It’s basically a process of checking the list, picking something to do, doing that thing (and only that thing), and then going back to the list and picking the next thing. In an ideal configuration, however, the list should be setup in such a way that you’re only seeing the things you can do, which minimizes distractions and helps improve focus as you’re not scanning through a list and having to mentally dismiss things that aren’t available or practical to do in the moment. I may need to pick up milk on my way home from work, but I don’t need to see that on my list until I’m ready to leave from work. If it’s there at 10 AM, it’s going to be a distraction that my brain has to skip over each and every time I look at my list, taking me away from the focus of what I can actually do now.

All of that said, however, if you’re dealing with business things that have hard deadlines, like getting a report done for your boss, or calling a client by a certain time, that’s exactly where due dates and times go into OmniFocus. These will show up in your Forecast view, along with your normally scheduled appointments, and if you go into your OmniFocus settings, you can find a way to also have these sync into your Calendar by enabling the appropriate option on the “Notifications” panel:

This will only work for items that have an actual due date and time on them, and you won’t get links back into OmniFocus, but realistically if you’re working from OmniFocus on a regular basis anyway, you shouldn’t really need those links. The Calendar integration is just a way to get this into your calendar so that you can alarms on other devices that don’t have OmniFocus available or installed, or so you can see deadlines at a glance if you’re more used to dealing with Calendar views (although the OmniFocus Forecast view does a better job of this in my opinion, since it more clearly separates tasks from actual appointments).


Did you ever get this solved because I am having the same problem? It looks so easy when you see Sven’s article here:

… And I solved the problem. Unbelievably, it has to do with Omnigroup entries in the key chain. I deleted all of the key chain entries containing “Omni” and was able to drag and drop to any OS X Calendar after that. See my previous comments on this behavior elsewhere in this forum.