Sorting Within Contexts and My Improbably Long List of Errands

This is been a regular cycle for me since OmniFocus 1.0…

  1. Decide to give OmniFocus another try.
  2. Import tasks into OmniFocus.
  3. Go to run errands.
  4. Realize that I can’t manually sort tasks within contexts.
  5. Go back to my lousy previous productivity app.

OmniFocus’ inability to manually sort tasks within contexts is absolutely baffling to me, and that limitation is never more problematic than when I’m running errands.

For instance, on Saturday I’ll have 21 errands that I need to run that have to be completed in a very specific order due to traffic/time constraints. (I’m a single parent, so my list of Saturday errands can be improbably long.)

My natural inclination is to go into the Errands context and manually sort my errands in the order they must be completed, but manually sorting tasks within Contexts isn’t possible. So I’m stuck having to scroll up and down (like an animal) after every completed task trying to figure out which task in my improbably long list is the next one I need to complete.

Invariably, what happens is that I’ll miss a task that’s “below the fold” and have to double back, and it only takes one U-turn/25-mile return trip before OmniFocus starts to lose some of its luster.

Manual sorting is possible within Projects, so I’ve tried moving all of my errands into a single “Errands” project, but that divorces them from their real projects and breaks down pretty quickly.

This is such a basic task management problem that I’ve always assumed that I’m missing something embarrassingly obvious, but I’ve scoured the documentation/videos/forums/web looking for a good solution and I’m at a loss.

Surely I can’t be the only one who has a brain that benefits from having errands listed in the specific order in which they must be completed. How has everyone else solved this problem?


I have not tried this entirely, but I suspect it could work in one of these ways …

  • Create a Perspective that shows only your Errand context. Group by anything and sort by Name. When you are ready to sort the errands, put numbers in front of the errand names to indicate their preferred order. They should fall in to proper place automatically.

  • Create a Perspective that shows only your Errand context. Group by anything and sort by Duration. When you are ready to sort the errands, put times on them according to the order they are to be done. They should fall in to proper place automatically.

  • Align the respective Projects in the Organizer pane in the order that their errand tasks should be done. The tasks will show in context view in that order.

ps … This assumes that you have the desktop Pro version to create custom Perspectives. I cannot vouch at all for the ability of the iOS X apps to make this approach possible, even with the Pro versions.



You’ve specified OF2 for Mac as a subforum, but I wonder if you are carrying an iOS device on your actual errand runs. If so, you can set up location-based reminders for your contexts as demonstrated here, and receive alerts as you enter or leave the specified zone.


I would like this too and couldn’t figure out why it wasn’t possible.

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For what it’s worth, I usually have a harder time squinting at my iPhone and looking at a long list.

Sometimes, I’ll copy and paste the tasks into another program. Sometimes I’ll use a spreadsheet (Excel or Numbers). Other times, I’ll use Word or Page and go into Outline mode so that I can paste my tasks into that document. Or I’ll just go to OmniOutliner and paste there.

I’ll manually sort it and print the errands list. Then I can just cross things off my paper list.

I don’t like to bring my iPhone out of my bag because I might accidentally leave it on a shelf and lose it. There’s also that nice feedback to see a bunch of crossed off items on my paper. In OmniFocus, it just disappears when I check things off.

Not being able to sort within context, specifically for things like errands or to prioritize within ANY context (i.e. Home, Online, Email, etc.) is a significant inefficiency in OF2 - iOS or Mac version. All the workarounds with Perspective noted above require “tricking” the system and don’t really fix the problem while defeating the purpose of having a program that is supposed to make organizing and executing your life’s task easier.

Has anyone figured this out, simply being able to manually order the items within a Context the same way you can manually organize items with Projects? OF Staff???

The only two sort options available right now for contexts in OF2 for Mac are

  • Due Date & Flagged
  • Project

Sorting is implied by project order.

If you put your work projects before your home projects, the tasks from the work projects will appear higher up on the list.

If you’d like, send feedback to to request the ability to have a perspective settings that is “manually sorted” instead of unsorted. Then maybe we’ll have the ability to manually sort and keep it sorted in that custom perspective. Of course, this feature sounds like something that will require a database structure change which may be incompatible with OF1.

I’ve often thought of wishing for the ability to have a “manual sort” setting in the perspectives settings.

Is this possible in OF2 for iOS?

I’m not sure what you’re asking is possible in OF2 for iOS. Or are you asking if it is possible to send feedback via OF2 for iOS?

Are you asking if it is possible to re-arrange the tasks in a project? Yes, you can go to the default Projects perspective and tap on “Edit” on the top right of the screen. You will see handlebars (3 lines stacked on top of each other). You can drag your tasks up and down as desired.

I´m waiting for this feature for years!

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same here !!

very annoying

Hello OF staff, any movement on that feature?

Manually sorting in context should be a no-brainer.

It would be useful to mail Omni Support if you haven’t already done so. That way you’ll definitely get a response

I’ve been using OF for 4 years now and find many things about it very useful.

because of the lack of reordering contexts within the contexts feature I ended up making all of my contexts actual “projects” so that I can reorder things within them. this defeats the purpose a little bit, but was essential for my sanity.

I am at my breaking point with my workaround and I’m probably going to leave OF over this. I’m looking into both daylite and targetprocess. does anyone have any experience with those?

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We plan to solve this in OmniFocus, but this requires a change to the file format. Our next major update (expected to go into TestFlight in a few weeks) lays the groundwork for this change (and others) by making the file format extensible (so that we can safely add features without breaking sync with devices running older code).

I don’t have a timeline yet for implementing this specific feature on top of the new format, but this brings it a lot closer. I’m hoping it will be done within the next year.


any updates on this? the persisting inability to reorder tasks in contexts in iOS is still quite frustrating.

A solution for me is to use the “Estimated time” field. I just give the tasks a number according to the list order I want.
I don’t need the field for it’s intended use so I can use it for this.

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This is a great idea. Have you submitted it as a feature request to Omnifocus? I just did because it makes a ton of sense. I sort my projects alphabetically to make them easy to find, and I used the estimated time feel to gauge if I have enough time to completed a task.

Meanwhile, go wild creating ad hoc sub-contexts under Errands for each stop you might need to make.

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