Templates for creative projects involving OmniFocus, OmniOutliner & OmniGraffle — and navigating project info

We at CogSci Apps have published means of streamlining creative knowledge-intense projects that involve OmniFocus, OmniOutliner, OmniGraffle and other apps (here). By “creative projects” here I specifically mean creating conceptual artefacts like research papers, blog posts, books, presentations, screencast, detailed functional specification, and patents.

This builds on the same mechanism that I described recently in Templates for using OmniOutliner as a contact management system with Hook - OmniOutliner / OmniOutliner for Mac - The Omni Group User Forums.

Normally the types of projects summarized above involve the following information items (some may be explicit in documents and/or one’s head; some may be implicit) :

  • rhetorical and conceptual elements (thesis; argument/counter-arguments; other claims; references, etc.)
  • an outline [e.g., in OmniOutliner, my preferred outliner],
  • purposive information (requirements; decisions; goals;and pre-, during-, and post-action)
  • visualizations (figures [e.g., in OmniGraffle, my preferred drawing app], concept maps, etc.)
  • main draft (e.g., a keynote file, a document in Craft, a .txt file).
  • Previous drafts (folder to keep your prior drafts)
  • Resources and research
  • Communications (to store communications with co-authors, reviewers, editors, and others)
  • arbitrary linked information (links to anything on web, the file system or anywhere else)

At CogSci Apps, we’ve created, zipped and shared a free folder with OmniOutliner, OmniGraffle and other files and subfolders that contain templates for all the above. The folder can be used by itself (i.e., you can replicate it manually, or with linking software such as CogSci Apps’ Hook (in which case you’d unzip the file and put it in your your “custom templates” folder so that it shows up in your Hook to New... menu).

A typical workflow might be:

  1. create a project in OmniFocus , e.g., Write a blog post on my theory of attention and mental perturbance,
  2. with the focus in this project, invoke Hook (⇧⌘SPACE) [it’s looks a bit like a launcher], but it’s mainly a contextual tool].
  3. Hook to New > Composition project

The latter action will cause all of this to happen instantly:

  1. replicate the template folder
  2. name the folder and each of its files sensibly, based on the OmniFocus project name, and store it in the default folder (there are variants of the Hook to New command to choose the name and location of the new folder)
  3. bidirectionally link the OmniFocus project to the new folder
  4. link each top-level file in the replicated folder to the folder itself, and mesh link them
  5. optionally Finder-tag the items with “Hook”.

That means that you can then quickly navigate between the OmniFocus project and its component resources, without needing to use Finder or to search, even if you move or rename the files. More generally, you can instantly navigate between the hooked items. (The Hook window is also a navigator, meaning you can use it to find and navigate linked information.)

You can also go in the other direction: first replicate a composition template folder; and from there, use Hook to New > OmniFocus project. That will also hook the project, and it will insert a link into the note of the new OmniFocus project.

Background (Disclosure and context of the above)

I work for several organization: I’m an Adjunct Prof at Simon Fraser University in two different programmes (Education and Cognitive Science). I’m head of CogSci Apps Corp that makes Hook Productivity. I’m also founder of CogZest and co-founder of Somnolence+. I write reams of documents for each of the above — different types of documents ( papers, books, blogs, detailed functional specifications, etc.) A lot of my research focuses lot on knowledge-intense work (some of it is on attention, emotions and insomnia).

So I’ve developed processes, templates and software to align my own creative work with my Cognitive Productivity framework. Hence the above.

Example: One of my template folders includes our in-house DFS template in Markdown format. You can include any linkable template file in your template folders.


I’d love to know how other OmniOutliner users create projects using OmniFocus, OmniOutliner and OmniGraffle together.

  • How do you navigate between artifacts in different apps?
  • What navigation challenges do you face? How can they be addressed?
  • What kind of templates do you use writing papers and the like? Do you explicitly document your rhetorical/conceptual elements (thesis, major claims, etc.) ?