Problem with custom perspective filters

I recently upgraded to the pro version and am having some trouble understanding how some things work.

First of all, I don’t quite get what some of the filtering options are supposed to do. For instance, if I choose, “Filter context: Active”, some contexts that are set to Active disappear from the sidebar and some stay.

I created two tasks, named Test 1 and Test 2. They are duplicates of real tasks. Test 1 is one task in a Single Action project that contains a bunch of other tasks, most of them deferred to some later date. The project is active, not flagged. Test 1 is also active and deferred to Today at 2 pm. Note that 2 pm is later today as I’m writing this in the morning.

Test 2 is in a sequential project which is active and flagged. It is the first item and it is deferred to Today at 2 pm.

I created a new perspective called “By days”. I want to see all my stuff grouped by defer date. If I set “Filter context: Active”, then Test 1 appears as Available Today, but Test 2 is hidden, and the context of Test 2 is also hidden, although it is set to Active as is Test 2. If I set “Filter context: remaining” then Test 2 appears.

Why doesn’t Test 2 appear with “Filter context: Active”?

In the Forecast perspective for Today, both Test 1 and Test 2 appear.

The manual doesn’t go into these details. Is there anywhere where I can go to get a detailed description of how to use the Pro features, and more specifically, the various filter options?

If I have understood correctly you can’t see Test 2 - that’s because it’s not available yet. It will become available at 2pm and not before because of the defer date set on it. If you want it to appear in this view you have two choices - defer it to midnight, or change the perspective to remaining.

I learnt a lot about perspectives from the MacSparky field guide - lots of great examples. But at the end of the day you have to play with things until they work for you.

What I didn’t understand was why two active tasks with the same defer date and time didn’t show up the same way in a custom perspective set to “Filter context: Active”. It’s not that I wanted Test 2 to appear, but that I wanted both Test tasks to behave the same way.

I have tried again this morning by changing the defer date and time of both test tasks to today at 2 pm and now both act the same way, both are hidden with “Filter context: Active”, and both appear with “Filter context: Remaining”. I must have done something wrong yesterday but I have no idea what.

I still don’t understand the apparently complex interactions of the filter settings but, as you very wisely put it, I’ll have to play with it for a while and may also have a look at the MacSparky field guide you mention, although I much prefer books.

Is it possible that you may have changed the ‘Filter by availability’ setting instead to ‘Remaining’?

The ‘Filter contexts’ setting only applies to the status of a context (active, on hold, dropped). Selecting ‘Remaining’ here will get actions from contexts that are active or on hold.

You can use ‘Filter by availability’ to be more specific about the visible actions. ‘Remaining’ actions are actions not yet completed. ‘All’ is everything completed and not yet completed. Most complex, ‘Available’ actions are:

  • not blocked by higher actions in a sequential project
  • not deferred to a future time
  • not in an on hold context

I think that the problem is that I’ve been using OF standard (not Pro) for a long time and have sort of gotten the impression that once a view is set up to satisfaction it should stay that way unless there is a compelling reason to change it. It seems that with custom perspectives, one may want to change the view settings more frequently, or just temporarily, to get a better picture of the situation. And yes, I didn’t quite understand the filter context settings but now it’s much clearer. Thank you.

Another problem is that when playing with the settings, I don’t always save them and then I don’t realize when they have reverted to the previous state. I know that when a perspective is modified but not saved its name appears in italics, but the difference is very subtle and not at all easy to see, for my eyes anyway. That may explain my errors.

Other things are also much too subtle in OF, especially on my calibrated graphics monitors. For instance the difference between “active” and “on hold” contexts, or between available actions and remaining actions. The difference between a dark gray (or maybe black) and a medium gray is hardly discernable for me. It may be more elegant but I need something that makes the differences much easier to see. But that’s a completely different subject.

You should definitely write in to the @SupportHumans at about the legibility issues. It may be useful to know as they work on any design changes for OmniFocus 3.

Apologies if I came across as patronising about the available and remaining actions in the last message—it wasn’t my intention. I do hope you can get your system working as you’d like.

For what it’s worth, my perspectives are quite static, changing only if I happen to have a change in contexts. If I found much value in an alternate view, I’d probably just duplicate and edit it, and keep two separate perspectives.

Hi @EllenH

Thanks for your input about the visibility and legibility of certain areas of the OmniFocus 2 interface. Like @nostodnayr mentioned, OmniFocus 3 is currently in development. I’ll pass your feedback along to the development team so they’re aware of how this could be improved for you.

Please don’t hesitate to reach out to with any further questions or comments that come to mind. We’re happy to help in any way that we can!

All the best,

Bethany F.
Support Human
Omni Group

Custom perspectives is a very powerful feature once you figure it out. But it is difficult to master. Hopefully OF3 will have some type of smart list feature like the smart playlist in iTunes with ‘and/or’ capabilities. It is easier to read the iTunes smart playlist settings than the OF2 view settings. I’m sure they’ll figure out a way to improve the view settings with some new interface.