What's the difference between Areas of Focus and Tags

Hi all,

I was wondering what the difference between areas of focus and tags would be in OF3? Like many others I am looking over my set up again and trying to incorporate tags. I am thinking that some of my AOF will become tags and only a few general folders will remain (work, teaching, home, PhD). The more granular folders will become tags (e.g. course development, with tags for each name of course, the gram I coordinate, etc).

What do the experts think?


I am also interested to see what the experts think, but I tend to think about it this way:

There are two ways to group, collect, and display actions:

  1. Structure (i.e. projects and folders)
  2. Tags

Because the Review perspective is based on structure, I favour structure for planning and storing actions. In other words, as I look at the containers, I ask myself if I have all the right things there and if they are appropriately represented in status, tag, etc.

Tags are potentially more transitory, and so are more suited towards doing. I mostly use tags to help group and collect actions for “in the moment” doing or for a more ad hoc way of looking at my actions.

None of this answers what will help your particular use cases, but it might give some food for thought around how you might approach the application of tags or structures in your system and workflow.

Hope this helps!



I did a big reorganization with OF3 (and am actually thinking the Mac version may be unnecessary for me…but that’s another story…) but my tags ended up still basically being contexts, but now with multiple contexts per item.

These can basically be grouped in a few categories:

  • energy level
  • routine
  • place
  • app
  • device
  • people
  • website

Note that the last five are all variants of the “if I’m in X I should get everything done that needs to be done in X” form.

I think the point above about review being project-structured is a really important one -to me review was one of the main things that kept me from switching to Things a few months back, and I wouldn’t want to upset my system in a way that lost that advantage.

One other piece I always refer to in the folders vs tags discussion is this one: https://macademic.org/2014/02/09/tags-or-folders-depends-on-the-file/ - it’s not exactly parallel but at minimum it makes the point that there is a place for both, and you should have clear criteria for deciding which to use and how to use them.


Not an expert either but here’s another perspective.

I think it depends what your areas of focus are.

For me, AOF is just a list of important parts of my life. I use it as a prompt periodically to see if I need to trigger any more projects to make sure I have everything covered. It doesn’t form part of the structure of my OF set up though - I don’t near my projects under an AOF structure (e.g. I don’t have have AOF folders that projects go in). I don’t think it would add anything and sometimes I think it would force me to categorise something one way or the other when really it didn’t fit in only one place and that would add a friction to the system that didn’t bring any benefit.

In OF my projects are projects as per GTD - things that need more than one step, and my tags are contexts (which, like dfay above, cover several types of things). I haven’t found a need to sort projects into folders even though I started it thinking I’d want to.

I like the link above on tags vs folders. Pretty much the only thing I tag is academic reference material (outside of OmniFocus).

My Folders got reduced a bit with tags but they are still for organizing

  • Work
  • Personal
  • Media
  • Business
  • IT (all stuff relating to computers like software updates / web site updates but not blog or context updates)

This changed as I used to have multi folder structure

  • Media
    • Music
    • TV
      • Watch
      • Record
    • Movies

Now this structure is handled by Tags and I am using folders only to keep the ease of moving things around

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Problem with GTD & OF: It‘s a universe. Your universe. You can‘t describe one aspect of it intelligently without mentioning the rest. So, here‘s my universe.
With the switch to OF3 I needed to write it up anew, anyhow.

I‘m fully GTD with OF3 with this basic setup. eMail Zero and all of that. Sounds good?

Grab a coffee and follow along.


  • The file storage neds to follow the exact same structure and you need to have it with you. I use GoodReader, DS Cloud (Synology NAS only) and replicate that to NAS, iPhone, iPad, personal PC and job PC. You have to practically immediately invest housekeeping time after opening / closing projects to keep the structure aligned. I tag that housekeeping action „!!Prio“ in case I cannot do it immediately (more on tags below). You have to invest regular review time to keep up with functionality changes and keep / improve your workflows, e.g. how to get stuff into storage (I use Workflow on iOS, the tools from techhit for Windows, ScannerPro to scan paper).
  • My job file storage can‘t be replicated to my home NAS, legal reasons. Luckily, my employer has invested in syncplicity. So this follows the structure, of course, and I can still access it from anywhere I‘m online.
  • I‘ve got a TB of archive on a separate drive on the NAS. Follows the ‚Routine‘ structure explained below, no current projects. Contains historical spillover that is not replcated but only accessed when I‘m connected online with my NAS.
  • Yes, that includes eMail folders (me: Outlook). Again, invest in housekeeping and review. I use the techhit tools on Windows, really, really shine, but eMail integration on iOS is a pain in the ass and all the eMail clients I tried are not reliable enough, including the ones specifically labelled as GTD-friendly. In outlook, with it‘s supremene search-funcionality, I have a rule that copies each and every eMail in and out from the dozen accounts I use (including the throwaway spam-email-adresses that I redirect to a single spam-mail-account) into an archive. So I do not necessarily set up subfolders for each project. But for each folder / subfolder, at least. Delete mails from the inbox vigorously (after procesing - use the Omni Sync Server to forward mails into the OF3 inbox) to achieve email Zero (at least during the weekly review). File really really important eMails (your insurance‘s small print) as pdf (with embedded attachments - something iOS tools don‘t do or - mostly - can‘t even read, GoodReader being an exception) with MessageSave from Techhit in the format „yymmdd hh:mm ShortInputText SenderNames RecipientNames“. In iOS move these mails to some „auto file“ subfolders, which MessageSave on the PC grabs daily and files automatically.
  • For complicated long-running projects, constantly update a commentary in the OF-notes of the project. Very concise: Involved people (apart from the usual suspects) and their role. New line. Paragraphs for dates (newest first): Date (I use a TextExpander snippet to enter „/weekday day.month.year hh:mm blank blank“ quickly) and one line of what‘s happened. And immediately create good(!) new actions that have come up. Don’t plan more than one step ahead, waste of time and energy. While we‘re at it: append most project-actions with their creation date. You‘ll thank me.
  • Move any stuff for completed projects into appropriate „Routine“ (file or archive). Use a Workflow for pdf-ing your project folder notes to file (my convention for files is „yymmdd name“) before closing it in OF.

Paper setup: avoid it. Scan everything you can. Organize the rest in the ‚Routine‘ structure and keep necessary working papers for current projects in one place only, where you also keep your Inbox.

Now comes an ugly part: In mail, file storgae and OF append icons to each folder that tell you whether you‘ve got supporting material in OF, file, syncplicity, archive, mail. Sorry. E.g. eMail: The OF folder gets the mail-icon, but in case I have not set up a project folder, the project in OF does not get the mail-icon)

Onwards to OF3!


  • Job (static until retirement, only contains projects as defined by GTD)
  • Job - JobArea1…n (fixed until next job change)
  • Job - JobArea1…n - lots of projects (very fluid) as defined by GTD: clear
    outcomes I want to work on NOW
  • Job - „Ideas (no action)“ - stuff w/o immediate action. Gets the tag „no action“ which is on hold)
  • Private (fixed for life, only contains projects)
  • Private - PrivateArea1…n (Family, Hobbies, …, quite static)
  • Private - PrivateArea1…n - lots of projects
  • Private - Ideas (no action)
  • Routine (static for life, does not contain projects but quite a few single actions, many of them repeating or deferred)
  • Routine - Area of Life1…n (keep the house from falling in, improve your job, raise the kids, stay healthy, connect with people, spouse, improve yourself, have fun, specific wild ideas,…)
  • Routine - Area of Life1…n - lots of ‚projects‘ that are not ‚projects‘ in the meaning of GTD but an ongoing thing. „keep your vaccination up to date“ gets a repeating action, for example, deferred and/or due. „discuss with my son whether he‘s participating in this specific event“ is an action within the ‚project‘ „raise the kids“ and gets tagged „son‘s name; talk; atHome; BrainDead“ (more on tagging below). Anything needing more than one step is a new project in ‚Job‘ or ‚Private‘. In case I don‘t want to work on it NOW, it‘s in the respective ‚Ideas‘ folder and gets „no action“ which it propagates to it‘s actions. Understand the difference between the tag „no action“ and on-hold-projects: „Ideas for presents“ is a on-hold-project within „connect with people“. Actions are tagged with people, of course.
  • Routine - Area of Life1…n - Ideas

Tag Structure (remember that the sorting is important here for all of your tag-specific views)(I got myself carried away and prefix all tags with icons. But not the tag-folders)

  • !!Prio (anything that‘s necessary to keep my GTD system consistent; any other action that is on the magnitude of „run for your lifes“
  • focuslist. Specific checklists I have in routine projects. E.g. „Packing list for a hike“ is a self-repeating, self-closing on-hold-project with „focuslist“ and everything from „pack water“ to „charge cell“ and „consider powerpack“. Activate the project, work through this perspective (won‘t cross-contaminate other lists and is always two swipes away), tick off the last item and go an that hike. When you‘re back, the full list is again there. Review it, add, delete, modify, comment in the header notes, put on hold. Don‘t over-engineer: I once had dozens of cooking recipies there, in sequential groups (first errands, then mis-en-place, then cook, then dispair at the complexity of it all and the housekeeping necessary for keeping it consistent), threw them all into a simple note each (outlook would do, I‘m using DS Note)
    1. That‘s for people, with a nice icon.
  • 0 - Colleagues - Companies1…n - Departments1…n ANDOR expertise groups 1…n PLUS one subfolder for VIP. Convention is „Initials Firstname Lastname“ (smart match favors the beginning letters). Remember to put each person into your contacts, remember to assign eavh VIP to your email-VIPs. RtfM. In the note field of my contacts I keep a rough history „yymm name of project or expertise“
  • 0 - Personal - …
  • talk. Tag that to any action where you want to phone or speak personally instead of writing an email or a message (so much more bonding, effectiveness etc)
  • Meetings. Tag those to any stuff you want to bring up in a regular jour fixe style meeting, but only those (not the one-off stuff, use „talk“ for that. You can use „talk“ and „meeting“ both, obviously: clarify and then report). Very impressive for the others at the meeting: „I achieved boom, boom, boom and boom“. Full stop. „I now have exactly 4 open items that I need to bring up.“ Only, by the time you‘re on, they will be 3 (someone else was first). So: During the meeting drag&drop done items to the top. Top? Yes, your new-new items append themselves to the bottom and are now grouped with your old-new items.
  • Meetings - meeting1…n
  • RsVp. French for „waiting for that damned guy to response“. Actions with that tag typically get a defer-date and, very seldom, a due date. While we‘re at it: Hard deadlines go into the calendar, potentially also as a block of time in time (I use a workflow to create a block of time in my calendar from an action. It pre-polpulates it wirh everything in OF, including a URL back to OF and e.g. the duration). Externally agreed upon deadlines that could actually be mutually agreed to be moved without the world collapsing? Yes, put a due date on it in OF. Anything you yourself imagined should be done by a date? No deadline. Rely on doing your weekly review (parts of which can be an ongoing thing with OF) and keeping your action lists sweet and short so you‘re motivated to get things done. For stuff that I decide in the morning that they should be given loving attention today, I flag them. Summary: be very liberal with „no action“, defer a lot, flag your prios but due-date only when an externally agreed upon deadline looms. E.g.: the flu shots? Give them an actionable name „Call doc about flu shot and get appointment“. Tag them „1 Office“, „talk“, „personal“ (I don‘t have specific docs set up), „BrainDead“. Defer them to a week before „due“ anually, but don‘t due-date them. When available and seen, call the doc, put it into the calendar and tick them off even when you‘haven‘t been there yet. You‘ll catch any cancelled appointments latest in your weekly review.
  • „1“ That‘s for „where am I“. A must-have tag for any action (specific exceptions apply). Use this exact tagfolder for „anywhere“, e.g. „look up definition of RsVp cause I‘m curious“
  • 1 - atoffice. Only daytime stuff
  • 2 - athome. Weekend, night, at Home.
  • 2 - athome - coming home. Location reminder. RtfM.
  • Errands. You‘re in the city.
  • Errands - Groceries. You‘re at a supermarket.
  • at - Groceries - Store1…n. Location reminders. Set both „Groceries“ and „Store1“, „Store2“ in case you urgently need getting an item from either
  • Errands - HardwareStore …
    … lots of other places
  • at. You‘re at some other specific place. Put these on-hold and reactivate as necessary (exception: you regularly stop by, unplanned, e.g. your beloved brother‘s. But not e.g. Paris)
  • at - Paris. You‘re in Paris
  • etc
    1. That‘s for energy level. The second of the exactly 2 must-have ingredients of every action (exceptions apply).
  • 2 - FullFocus
  • 2 - QuickWin
  • 2 - BrainDead
  • noaction. On hold
  • temp. My structure for escaping GTD-rigidity.
  • temp - Issue1…n. Group various actions from all over the place for a specific purpose. Or for something that‘s not really a project as defined by GTD but has multiple items in OF (most of them unactionable notes, e.g. ingested emails). Don‘t ever use that structure, or you‘re doomed to GTD-hell. We‘re all sinners, try to redeem yourself by dissolving this structure during weekly review.

Launch Center Pro. Invest in that, put it on the launchbar and get into the habit of starting OF from there.

  • Primary page: Populate the tiles with calls to the secondary pages (of course) and URLs to jump to NOW things, e.g. „100%“, „with Family“, „with Boss“, „Meetings (group by tag)“, „Errands“, „avaiable action in folder x (group by project, sort by project structure)“ - stuff that you need to call up one-handed with your iPhone, on a call, riding the bike. Plus one tile that jumps to the home screen of OF (I hate OF always remembering the sub-sub-sub-menu I‘ve been in. I want to do a specific thing, have to navigate up, then down. By then it takes a conscious effort to recall what I wanted to do in the first place)
  • Secondary page for viewing a dozen projects / project folders. Plus one tile that prompts you for a text, then jumps you into the first match (according to OF‘s smart match algorithm). RtfM (Read the f… manual).
  • Secondary page for viewing tags/tagfolders (mostly: People) plus a smart match tile.
  • Secondary page for Mood combinations. From „Home; BrainDead (single actions; not a project or group; available in „Home“; has „Brain Dead“ (or is „remaining“ with „!!Prio“); group by due; sort by project structure) to „Job; FullFocus“

Perspectives, general rules (with obvious exceptions):

  • In each perspective, include all „!!Prio“ and exclude all on-hold-projects (you don‘t want to see all your ideas for presents on a daily basis)
  • don‘t use a perspective when you can use a URL-scheme to view a project, project folder, tag, tagfolder or special view, e.g. „Nearby“. RtfM.
  • special perspective „100%“, you‘ll use it a lot. (has a due date; is flagged or is !!Prio); sort by due; projects order. While we‘re at it: set the general settings in OF to „due soon means due today“ and to always include the tag „!!Prio“. Make the forecast-view helpfull.
  • specual perspective for showing non-compliant projects. Remaing and none of the following: is not a project or group; has a project which is on hold; tagged with any of „1“; tagged with any of „!1Prio“, „no action“ or „Focuslist“
  • special perspective for showing non-compliant actions. Remaing, not a project or group and none of the following: (in inbox; tagged with „!!prio“, „no action“, „focuslist“, „errands“ or „meetings“; tagged with all of (any of „1“; any of „2“, „talk“, „rsvp“)
  • special perspectives for „rsvp“ and „meetings“
  • special perspectives for special managers (in general, use „view tag“) that includes their connections: you‘ll want to know what you‘re due from the whole range of people he‘s connected with (not only his department - again, you should use the tag structure for that) when you meet him in the escalator plus, of course, what you‘ve still got open for him (shame on you) and from him (be tactful, but do mention the pay rise en passant).

Use cases: I won‘t insult your intelligence - but drop me a line for specific questions. Not along the line of „how/why should I…“ but gladly anything that‘s „How do you handle this and that use case“. Cheers!



Reading your post made me rethink my tags, and I’ve moved the icons from the beginning of the tag names to the end. Is there a benefit to prefixing all tags with “@” or “#”, and if so, is one preferable to the other? I’m not just talking personal preference, but potential future use cases like the ability to export tags, integration with other apps/platforms, best practices, that sort of thing.

Hi Sentinel,
iOs icons in Windows10 often only show a rectangle, so they‘re actually bad for interoperability. Modern OSes don’t throw up any more, at least, when they see them.
I use them as visual clues for tags (and only for tags, but for all tags) for three reasons:

  • when moving a new tag into it‘s correct place, I get presented with an expanded list of all my >100 tags. Knowing just from the icons „ahh, that‘s my office list (factory icon), keep scrolling, now here‘s my list of people I know from cycling politics (hobby of mine, bicycle icon)“, I can efficiently find the exact spot to drop them into.
  • In a condensed list of actions, I get context just from the look of the icons. the two exclamation marks in the tag „!!Prio“ actually are the bold red icon for „!!“. Focuslist gets the red circles of the icon for „target with an arrow sticking out“. Red = Attention. The factory and the bicycle icons are grayish but very recognizable. „Talk“ gets the gray shilouette of a talking head, I grasp „talk“ before having read „talk“, you get me? I still need the text „talk“ for searching for the tag, otherwise I might go without text for the most-used ones.
  • Helps intuitive understanding of a perspective‘s structure: A structure with icons? Grouped by tags, obviously. A structure without icons? Obviously grouped by something else.

There might be an additional advatage of icons. OF actually does a good job of separating tags visually in the subtext of an action, so using icons (or special characters like # and @) for that purpose is not necessary. But you can of course avail yourself to that added benefit, if they also present a visual cue to you. Or if you‘ve got multi-word tags and you need better visual separation between tags.

Or me:
Actually the „icon“ for locations is the special character @ that you proposed …
Actually, I use multi-word tags for people, so I benefit from the added visual separation, too.

But, one difference: I prefix my tags with the icons (put them before the text) instead of putting them at the end - „(Talk icon) talk“ versus „talk (Talk icon)“. Easier to quickly grasp that I need to talk from the first example, for me.

And, maybe another difference: As my English is pretty ok but I‘m actually german I always write projects & project structure in German (I translated it in above examples), tags and tag structure in English. Another clue as to context - „Home“ would be a tag(structure), „Daheim“ (german for „Home“) would be a project(structure). Sounds a bit over the top? Well, you can group perspectives e.g. by tag or by project and every little bit of context helps.

Hi Christian,

Thanks again for your thorough replies. I think I understand what you’re saying, but this comment got me reflecting:

I used to have tags with icons in the beginning, like this: “(icon) tag name”. I agree that it’s visually expedient to have it set up that way. At the same time, I like to think beyond the current setup and abstract the scheme a bit, so I’m not too tied down to any one software. If there will be a way to export tags down the road, for backup purposes and whatnot, I don’t want nonstandard characters at the beginning of the tag names, for precisely the reason you mentioned: sorting. I’m thinking it might be better for nonstandard characters to be placed at the end, and ignored if need be, than at the beginning, if they are to be later imported into another application or processed in any way.

It’s pretty obvious in OmniFocus when you’re looking at tags, as you said, but I’m trying to establish a consistent, best-practices vendor-independent scheme that I can take anywhere. If there’s a zombie apocalypse and I need to survive just long enough for benevolent aliens to arrive and beam me up, and all the information I need to make this happen is organized by tags in OmniFocus, and for some reason I have only a core data dump of all my info (humor me), I want to be able to pick out my tags at a glance. In an endless stream of paragraphs, I can immediately spot the “#” - the “@” less so, because it resembles a letter, though it looks prettier IMO.

I have some lists in OmniOutliner that I export as OPML for backup purposes. Most of the items on those lists have icons as well, for quick identification, but they don’t display on Windows. It’s not a big deal now, but I’d prefer those X marks at the end of entries, rather than at the beginning, and I’m thinking it could make a difference on the processing of that data by other utilities.

I think good tagging practices are going to become increasingly relevant, because they provide a lot more flexibility than rigid structures. I never used areas of focus precisely because they are so restrictive. Once an item is in one such container, it can’t be anywhere else, and you depend on perspectives and other techniques for getting the complete display of all the relevant data. It’s like, you have one hardlink to the task/item, and a bunch of proprietary and clunky symlinks. With tags, you have multiple hardlinks (the analogy is admittedly forced and not fully applicable here but hopefully helps illustrate what I think I’m trying to get at). Granted, tags are a proprietary feature too at this point in time, I was talking more abstractly in terms of how we think about the organization of the data, not necessarily their OF3-specific implementation.

So if I were to start using areas of focus, I’d use tags for them, not folders. That way, I can have something like “yoga” in both the #fitness area of focus, and #spirituality, and it would faithfully show up regardless of which of those two areas I’m currently exploring.

I think this was perhaps a bit more of a stream of consciousness than I originally intended but your input has certainly gotten me thinking more seriously about some of these matters.

Hi again, this conversation is fun, thanks for challenging me in an intelligent way!

Let‘s move a few things out of the way, where we agree:

Future interoperability. Check.
I‘ve moved away from iPhoto, the Apple podcast app, Apple music because of that. I shy away from Microsoft OneNote, iCloud or any other public cloud because of that. Even though I have to use modern tools like Outlook, syncplicity, a company social network, a company cloud, Omnifocus, I archive in pdf, jpg, mp3 in a directory tree / file structure that has been substantially stable since the IBM PC, that nobody can change „to improve the user experience“ (to lock me in and milk me) and that every past, present and - most likely - future software will understand in principle.
My credo is: depend only on the best tools (for my purposes), only a few of them and completely master them. E.g. I know circa 100 keyboard shortcuts for Windows by root and I use them. But jealously stay independent at the core so you can change your mind.

Backups. I got that.
OF is great at backups. Manual backups. Automatic daily backups, automatic backups before upgrades, before the database structure is replaced, OF does it.
Be aware of this, though: They don‘t always back up attachments.
On the file system: Versioning, Differential backups, full backups on a spare NAS, full backups offsite. A whole crowd of Backups in an orderly tree structure. Check, we‘re on the same page.

Export. Yeah, my thoughts exactly. Export and Import to wherever I might need it to be in the future.
Try an „export database to csv“ in OF and have a look at it: It‘s human readable, it‘s readable by Excel and any database tool on the planet. It‘s a consistent text format in a tree structure, so I am absolutely confident that I can not only manually but automatically batch regex it (check regex in wikipedia) to whatever other text I might want it to be, provided I don‘t want to change the tree structure.
That includes the content-preserving elimination or substitution of non-standard characters in tags, irrespective of whether they are at the beginning or at the end. That should mitigate your zombie apocalypse for me.

Now we‘re coming to an issue where our use cases might differ:

Having choosen the best tools for my purpose and using them to the max, I can live with residual annoyances like icons not being faithfully represented or sorted across OSes. Because in daily doing it doesn’t matter (the icons at the end of a project name? I experimented to find exactly those icons that look similar in both OSes. And, yes, I put them at the end, too). And because I know a way out, if need be, for tags (which in my curent use cases don‘t need to be represented faithfully outside OF). Because the basic structure is the tree and not the tag.

Next stop: Are Areas of Focus (AoF) in OF best represented as a rigid tree (projects) or in a fluid way (tags)?

A thought experiment:

  • If a hypothetical OF on a hypothetical OS in an hypothetical IT environment would, apart from a tree structure, also fully support an additional two separate fluid structures, two separate tag clouds, would we best represent AoLs as a tagged group of elements, with the elements themselves being ungrouped, unsorted etc?
    It would present an easy solution to the border case that you mentioned („yoga is great for me. Not for one reason, but for two reasons“).

I know I would give it a thought, but I probably wouldn‘t. Even in that ideal world.
Why do I know that?

  • Well, I already did set up two wikis in my job. Each page could be tagged with multiple tags of any of multiple tag structures (person/org editing, person/org involved, business process touched upon, data object used, status, …). Oh, the beauty of it! Directories and to-do-lists automatically compiling themselves and always being up to date!
    Takes a conscious effort, though, when adding/updating a page and at least one dedicated evangelist to keep entry tagging compliant with the structure, to take care that to-dos are tagged as such so they show up in the To-Do-List. Why is that?
  • On the automated hardwired level of my primitive reptilian mind I think in structures of concentric circles. This is me, this is my family, this is my social group, that is the unknown, the enemy. This is mine, that is yours. Don‘t touch my wife, my toothbrush, ever. Tree structures. Populism works at that level, and that‘s why it‘s so enticing, so clearly „the right thing to do“.
    On the next level those trees interact:
    Don‘t invade my home unless you are part of my family (welcome) or social group (less welcome). How do I feel about my drill, my car? Sharing economy, it starts to get complicated.
    On the nect level there are trees sprouting everywhere, existing trees changing, beloved trees dying. Wow, welcome to life.
  • Woah, stop, wasn‘t GTD meant to be the solution to that?

Now let‘s return from the thought experiment to my universe.
I could actually get OF to accomodate mutiple tag structures, the elements of the one would always be marked #, the others § etc. Your proposed solution.

So why don‘t I ?

Because tags only seem simple, but they are really complicated, compare above.
I already need 2 separate special perspectives to keep my tag usage compliant with the implied logic of the perspectives I have set up, even with my comparatively limited use of them (one of the reasons why I only use perspectives where I really need them, URLs otherwise)

My important goals in live are simple. They fit a simple tree structure because I‘m a primitive simple human.

  • When I didn‘t have kids that branch was missing. Now it‘s there, clearly part of „family“. Not „financial“, though that‘s a major impact of having children as well. If it‘s an important goal, one anchor suffices. In „Routine“, which contains my strategic tree structure.
  • Your Yoga doesn’t show up on my radar. Cycling did, at some point in time. When cycling was unimportant to me, it was an occasional action of „fix that tire“ somewhere in „mechanical stuff“ in „home chores“ in „keep the house from falling in“.
  • If it‘s not an important goal, make it a project (or not), do it, full stop. No own anchors needed. Just put it in either „Job“ or „Home“, maybe „PhD“ (in your case), any structure is only to help tackling it on a tactical level. This tactical structure is totally independent of my strategic structure, my AoLs. For projects, I liberally use tags, but only for tactical purposes, without any exception.
  • In my universe, for half of the projects I start, I don’t waste one thought on „in exactly which AoLs does this further me?“. This will change over time, anyhow. I simply want to „get it done“ (GTD flight level zero), full stop! When done, take a second to celebrate and reflect, then file it in the strategic tree structure, wherever it fits best. I don‘t even crosslink any more, the file indexing on modern OSes is good enough to immediately find it again if it‘s not where I might first expect it to be years down the road. It‘s not that important, anyhow.
  • The other half of all the projects I start are derived from AoLs. Still: When started, they are Projects at flight level zero and need to simply get done. While they live, keep them in your tactical structure. If (and only if) you‘ve got your AoLs clear, you won‘t need a link to the strategic structure in „Routine“. How do you know that this is NOT the case? By not immediately finding any reference material (in „Routine“) that you might need for this project. Repent and organize.
    And your are free to reaorganize your AoLs whenever necessaty, precisely because it is independent from current projects! Imagine having crosslinks all over the place (e.g. tags). You‘d have to shut down operations at truly incovenient times. With full GTD, do that once a year, planned and enjoyed.
  • When cycling became important to me a few years ago, for a variety of reasons, it became a twig „find nice routes and do them“ (which eventually grew to „organise and lead cycle tours“) in „enjoy“. And another twig „help getting a better network of scenic bicycle routes“. Two twigs? Only a theoretical problem. It‘s all part of the AoL „enjoy“.
  • Now it‘s a major branch on the same level of „work“ (left out on purpose in the description of my universe, above, not relevant). Don‘t diss me for that, I‘m talking to mayors of cities about cycling. We won‘t save the planet without cycling (at presently foreseeable levels of technology and human development).
  • In case it lessens in importantance at some future point in time, for good reasons not yet apparent, I‘ll drag&drop the branch in my tree structure of „Routine“. Done. Maybe delete quite a few (person) tags in OF, but that‘s neither urgent nor essential - remember that tags, for me, are tactical only, that I‘ve got short descriptions of the projects I did with them in Contacts and that I filed the most pertinent occasion of each project as pdf in the twigs of that branch. So, when meeting Joe from city planning years from now, we‘re all set to reminiscence on the good times (and forget about the bad) with all necessray references still in place to dig up juicy details.
  • Some GTD-trainer (forgot which one, but I‘m still following their podcasts) once summatized the above quite succinctly: „Your GTD-system is only a good system, if you can work it from your bed, having high fever.“. Multiple tag clouds? Rather not.

Plus, and that is only an afterthought for me, it would make IT life complicated, like you said.
File storage according to tree structures? Check.
According to tags? Wow. Yeah, I‘d be really concerned about OSes, backups, interoperabiliy too.

I do not know if you tried AirMail but the integration for iPad carries over in to Mac. For work mail a bit harder because of some restrictions, I use a scrip to create email attachments (eml) so that mail will stay in OmniFocus for tracking. Wish I could use airmail.

Why, thanks!
I’ll certainly check AirMail out.

Thanks for the link to the tagging/folders article! I agree - it really depends on one’s use case and comfort style. I have levels of folder hierarchy for areas of my life (e.g. work and personal), for my clients, and for each matter I work on for each client. The hierarchy of a folder structure works well in this use case and does so without extra custom perspectives (e.g., I can see all of the projects for one client just by selecting the client folder). I am just starting to grow my tags (trying to wait until the Mac beta before putting too much effort into multiple tags and upgraded perspectives), but I suspect I will not have more than a handful of tags for any task.

Exactly: In general I have exactly these two tags

  • 1 „where am I?“ (should pretty nearly always be inheritable from the projects, in your structure)
  • 2 „what kind of energy level / effort is necessary to complete the task?“

But have a look at the special tags „!!Prio“, „RsVp“, „talk“ in my GTD@OF universe, described above.
I have an inkling you might love them.
And you don‘t have to use perspectives for them to be usefull, just try them out in case you like them.

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I like your special tags, and I suspect I will incorporate some of them. I already have a “priority” tag of sorts, which is a “flame” emoji at the beginning of a task descriptor (with a perspective that filters on that emoji). I will change it to a flame tag when the Mac beta is available.

Also, regarding tag hierarchies and tag “icons,” I have made a “people” tag that is just an emoji “👥.” Then, I have individual names as child tags. In this way, I maintain a hierarchical family of people in which each person tag appears highlighted by a nice little “people” emoji at the front of each name (“👥 John”). Now that I think about it, maybe I should have used “person” (👤). I think I will change that.

Wow, you‘d then use the exact same icons and structure that I use …
Both of us can‘t be totally wrong together, can we?

Have you given my usage convention a thought?
„👤CM Christian Martini“ would be my handle, then. Not just „👤Chris“.
So much better when you‘re doing a smart match search, especially if and when you‘d be using the Launch Center Pro shortcurt I described above.

Or, in all detail, here:

I will have to evaluate the more unique names. At the moment, I don’t think I have any conflicts, but I have a set of uniquely named co-workers and then some generic groups like “client,” “vendor,” “USPTO,” etc. Your approach is likely more scaleable. I was checking out Launch Center Pro this morning, which might also make me change some things. Like Drafts, I am still working to understand how best I use launchers. You and Rose Ochard have provided some good motivation! (Note: I would LOVE Notability and/GoodNotes to support URL schemes, and provide a better document management design. Launchers would be great for launching a specific journal in either app.)

Sigh. You‘re so right.

Launch Center Pro: Try putting this into a tile (the second line, when you‘re editing it) and launch it:
omnifocus:///tag/{{[prompt:Part of a Tag - will show first matching]}}

Neat, eh?

Ok. So, I went ahead and bought Launch Center Pro on both iPhone and iPad, thanks to this trick. I think I’m gonna love them! That prompt bit is quite cool! Now, I’ll spend some time getting to know the other features! Thanks!

That’s a piece of genius. Thank you!