What would you like to see in an OF Today List?

The lack of a robust Today list in OF is a big drawback for me. I’m currently using OF as a database, then copying tasks into Dynalist which I use as my Today list.

What features would you like in an OmniFocus Today List?

Here’s what I would like:

  • A “star” indicator like a flag that would send the task to the Today List
  • Send projects to Today List using star flag
  • Display starred Projects with tasks underneath like a project outline
  • Make the Today list an outline that can be directly manipulated like a Project view
  • Drag to reorder
  • Unlimited nested folders
  • Expand and collapse folders
  • Assign time blocks to folders, with reminder settings
  • Gather tasks into folder by due date/flagged/tag/search item
  • Make it fully functional in MacOS and iOS
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Hi Anamorph,

Most of what you want is already available. OF has great functionality of being able to build own Perspectives. I have here an Today - Next actions perspective I am using:

It is based on my OmniFocus setup (Tags and Folders) which is described here. You have to adjust the perspective to your setup.

Specific to your question:

  • A “star” indicator like a flag that would send the task to the Today List -> adding flag to task or project shows it on the Today list
  • Send projects to Today List using star flag -> dito
  • Display starred Projects with tasks underneath like a project outline -> sort and view options
  • Make the Today list an outline that can be directly manipulated like a Project view -> possible in perspective view
  • Drag to reorder -> possible in perspective view
  • Unlimited nested folders -> project order in perspective
  • Expand and collapse folders -> that is not possible
  • Assign time blocks to folders, with reminder settings -> Folders are used for the concept Area of responsibility in my case, projects are goals in my setup, subprojects (nested) are result streams. On projects, subprojects and activities you are able to assign estimated time and reminders (defer/ due). Please read here my idea on “horizon of focus” setup, for inspiration only.
  • Gather tasks into folder by due date/flagged/tag/search item -> see sort options in perspective
  • Make it fully functional in MacOS and iOS -> perspectives sync across MacOS/ iPadOS and iOS if you use the synchronization feature.
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Yes, I know all about persepctives, I’ve been building them for years.

The single most important feature to me is to have a daily list that can be directly manipulated like an outline with nestable folders. “Direct manipulation” means you can grab an item and drag it to a new position in the list without changing any database data. Or grab a few items and drag them into a new folder. In OF, project view has direct manipulation in outline style. I’d like the Today list to have the same functionality, with unlimited nestable folders

Currently, I’m copying OF tasks into Dynalist and using that as my Today list. OmniFocus is too much of a database and not enough of a list for me.

If Omni is considering making a new Today list, I want to make sure they understand the need for a real outline-style list, instead of another perspective, which is just another database report.

Thanks for your input. I hope others will chime in with features that they would like in a Today list.

Send with a Shortcut (Taskpaper format) “a perspective” to Drafts5, OmniOutliner or Excel is what I use for sorting “lists” if I need to do this outside OmniFocus.

ALIASES for OF !!!

Personally, I manage a small set of tasks and task-groups using the structure in this video.

I work out of Project view almost exclusively - both for planning and taking action. The reason is that I am constantly capturing, and tidying, and planning as I do my action work. You have permission to work out of Project view also.

My “Do” folder holds all of my shallow and urgent work. My “Engaged” folder is where I keep long-running projects and areas of responsibility. I try not to over-organize. You might consider making yourself a “Today” list similar to mine. You may wonder why I’m not actually using Folders. The main reason is so that I can use the “Quick Entry” tool and type-in natural locations for the things I capture.

  1. Not a star. Simply more flags. Why is there only one attribute (orange flag) we get? Way too restrictive. Have a set of default colors and maybe a set of default icons so we can choose a star. Under the hood, everything is just a flag.
  2. Allow querying by flag color/type in perspectives.
  3. Allow free sorting/dragging in perspectives (order only affects the perspective). This is a big one. If I have 3 projects A, B and C with tasks a1, a2, b1, b2 and c1, I need to be able to sort like this: A:a2, C:c1, A:a1, B:b2, B:b1.
  4. Modify the head event of a repeating event without modifying the entire series.

I’ve no need for a Today list. I work on the Next Actions of my active priority projects.

I would like it to have at least same capabilities like the Today view in things

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Which means manual sorting and tasks shown in projects? Or are there more? To me, the possibility of a Today tag in Omnifocus makes a nice combination of due date order and manual sorting, even though I have found that I prefer my own Forecast perspective as a complement for manual sorting. That kind of perspective could be set up to show tasks in projects, the Things way, for those who prefer that.

I fully agree that a “Today” list would be most welcome.

Maybe I am missing something, but the often suggested notion of a Today tag seems to miss the point entirely. I don’t want to search everything in my database for items that should be done today, I want the benefit that the normal review process could provide.

When you do a daily or weekly review it is natural to notice that some of the items you are reviewing will need work before their due date (if they even have one) and may need a particular context - which might only be available on particular dates).

So it seems to me that being able to set a “Do Date” (as distinguished from a “Due Date”) would be very useful. Having that data point (for any item where it is useful to set it) would make lots of things possible.

For example, while doing a weekly review on the weekend, I might set the Do Date for several items to the following Wednesday when I will be in the location required.

Those items will then be surfaced automatically on Wednesday.

There will also be items that are surfaced for any of the normal reasons/features we use now.

Setting a “Today” flag is only useful for today or tomorrow, but any to do item could (should) ‘know’ what day will be “Today” for that item - no need to think about it until then.

The daily review will not require a search for things I want to add to tomorrow’s Today list.

A Today tag or Flag can’t be set for a future date, it is just “now”. Or is there functionality that I don’t know about?

This is my wish (truly, my only desired enhancement) for OmniFocus.

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Isn’t that one of the uses of a defer date? ie to see when something needs to be looked at.

On the question of a “Today” perspective I have a custom one which shows me flagged, due, plus links to other perspectives such as “clear quick perspective”, review “communications perspective” etc. That way I keep a reasonably short “Today” list while keeping everything I need to do on my radar.

You can apply the ‘today’ tag and defer the action. When the date arrives the action will appear in Forecast, and you can decide whether to do it ‘as planned’ or reprioritise it.

Yes, that is certainly an approach that many use.

The downside is that it suppresses an item that has been Deferred, when actually it should be Available if you choose to view the correct context (if, for example, plans change in such a way that you wanted to see next actions suitable for that item’s context - that item would not appear).

Much like putting Due Dates on items that don’t have real deadlines, putting Defer dates on items that are otherwise “available” is a sub-optimal solution.

If we had a “Do Date” field, then we would have nearer to a “touch it once” mode of handling action items. You could add it to the “Today” view of any future date at the time you create the action item or any daily or weekly review (ie., when you “touch” it in the normal course of work, without requiring you to go looking for items that should be on today’s Today view). That gets us closer to ‘mind like water’.

An action item with a future Defer date is not Available now, so using Defer to surface action items on a particular future date will work as a way (that many people use) to get action items to “appear” on a particular Today view.

By making those items unavailable, even if the appropriate context becomes available, the process of managing action items is more complicated than it needs to be.

When I create an action item, or ponder it during a periodic review, I often will know when it should be accomplished (not when it is due, but when it needs to be worked on) and would like to give it a Do Date.

I want OmniFocus to surface it as a Today item on that future date.

I also want OmniFocus to surface it earlier if/when I have a day that goes even better than planned and I look for next actions. It won’t be available if it has a future Defer date.

It doesn’t belong on a calendar for the same sort of reason: I am not trying to hide it until that future “Today”, I am setting a date (that I recognize when I create or review the action item) that it should be brought to the surface. That shouldn’t preclude OmniFocus from surfacing it earlier if appropriate.

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@jorbru True — I’m only recommending this approach when you are using the defer date properly (the task can’t be done before a certain date or you’ve decided firmly to wait until then).

I don’t schedule tasks or have any notion of ’start dates’. Using contexts, prioritised shortlists, and true due dates (including planned intermediate milestones where useful) gives me the control and peace of mind I need.

Given the number of people that complain about OmniFocus’s complexity I would image a third date option would cause more stress than benefit.

I have “flow lists” which feed me what needs to be done but I also have tags which do not directly feed into those lists such as “laptop”. Therefore tasks tagged for example office and laptop will show me office tasks, without the office tag they will not show in office based perspectives. However a quick flick to the laptop perspective shows laptop tasks available or not, sort these any way that works, defer date, project whatever.

So, I believe it would be possible to find a way to do what you suggest without another layer of dates and more OF complexity

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OmniFocus users who want a “Today” list want it to be a one-stop view of what needs doing Today. The list should emerge (mostly) automatically from normal periodic reviews (and be easily expanded, as needs arise).

That doesn’t mean that only items on that list will be performed. It doesn’t preclude you from looking for next actions in the usual manner.

Your suggestion means you need to “look in this list, and look in this other list” to find items that would be on a Today list but aren’t because the functionality doesn’t exist.

Or, put another way, the Today view functionality that I am suggesting would enable an element of planning that you, personally, might not need or want but that would be a big benefit for users who want more refined control over when an action item is surfaced.

If you are suggesting that you will look in “laptop” for more action items because your laptop is handy, that functionality is great and will still exist. Your laptop is probably close by during most of your working hours. In the case of a constrained resource (a context/location that you visit infrequently, time with a colleague), you can’t ONLY wait for the moment to arrive and then look for things to do, you should have a list of appropriate action items already identified (mostly identified in a daily or weekly review process that you already performed, so without extra work on your part the helpful list is built).

Some other benefits would tag along. Estimated Time could have a purpose. You could look at the Today view for a future date (or maybe a Week at a Glance view - that would be awesome) and have a sense for whether that day (or days) is over-committed (so, maybe you need an additional day in Chicago, or more time with that colleague).

Most of the complaints about OmniFocus complexity have more to do with needing to jump thru hoops to get a list of Today’s action items. All of the talk of Defer dates, Flags, “Today” tags, etc. are work-arounds.

It could be a Pro-version-only feature, I suppose. Though I just don’t see the addition of one optional data point per action item as being intimidating to anyone.

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Do they? I for one would not presume to speak for anyone else other than myself. The system I use influenced heavily by @Kourosh excellent book “Creating flow with Omnifocus” is a pretty well regarded book as is the system it espouses.

In the example you describe (meetings, which as a self employed developer luckily I rarely have to have, meet probably the only person yet to use zoom) I see the meeting is coming due, and I check my agenda perspective showing me all actions tagged with the people attending and do what I need to do. I truly believe large catch all lists are a deterrent to doing anything, they can intimidate and demoralise, better for me anyway is a small master list with tasks to process “office” tasks or deal with morning communications, plus of course the 2-3 major things I am working on, again their own focussed perspective. Of course not everything gets done, in every list, but my today list stays small and completable.

It may not work for you, fine, in fact OF may not work for you, no system of app is suitable for everyone and any one that has ever tried has run into trouble, Dreamweaver, Evernote. etc. The more features added the more the bloat the larger and more complex the code base and by definition more prone to collapse, and ironically complaints they do too much.

I really do not see we need another marker date, I have no problem seeing what I need in OF when I need to see it, and on the odd times I have had difficulties it’s been when my system was set up incorrectly. As to complexity just look at social media, the biggest gripes against OF are price (that’s subjective and never fixable) overkill for many and the learning curve needed, you may not find one additional data point intimidating but as attention spans dwindle, plenty of people expect to just pick up an app and never read the instructions or do what it takes to thoroughly master it.

Anyway just my take on things, as they say opinions are my own.

“I for one would not presume to speak for anyone else other than myself.”

Take a look at the original post for this thread and see for yourself what a user wants in a Today view.

“In the example you describe (meetings, which as a self employed developer luckily I rarely have to have, meet probably the only person yet to use zoom) I see the meeting is coming due, and I check my agenda perspective showing me all actions tagged with the people attending and do what I need to do.”

All well and good, if that works for you, but by your own admission you don’t have many meetings.

I am not claiming that you need a Today view, just that some of us would benefit - and that a very useful Today view could arise organically from a normal periodic review process. As such, this functionality would be a nice addition to OmniFocus.

If you had more meetings, or worked more often in different locations, or had some other constraint on the way you get your work done, you might see the benefit of planning the timing of some of your work.

"I truly believe large catch all lists are a deterrent to doing anything . . . "

Who is talking about large catch all lists?

“It may not work for you, fine, in fact OF may not work for you, no system of app is suitable for everyone . . .”

I have been using OmniFocus since its original issue. It is the best system. It is not perfect, and its development is not complete (unless you’ve heard something from OmniGroup that I haven’t).

You don’t need another marker date, so you can’t see why anyone would need one. You would never presume to speak for anyone other than yourself, but you oppose a feature request of others and tell them to look elsewhere to find it. I’m glad you are a happy user, but I think the bogey man of “bloat” is a bit much.