Why do I have a purple task?

I recently switched to OmniFocus from Toodledo, and I really like the software. However, one item I cannot figure out is why one of my tasks appears in a purple font. I’m using the dark mode. I’m sure there is a simple explanation for this, but I can’t seem to figure it out. Thanks!

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The purple color is used to indicate that the task is First Available. It’s part of the “Color text in the outline” option in the OmniFocus preferences’ Style tab.

Thanks. Now I just need to read up to see what First Available means here.

Ah, sorry, I should explain that further. It’s meant to help identify the next task in a project. It breaks down like this:

Sequential Projects: If the first task is not blocked, that task is considered first available.

Parallel Projects: The first non-blocked task is considered first available.

Single Action Lists: All non-blocked tasks are considered first available (since these tasks are not dependent on one another).

Parallel’s where it’s a useful distinction. You might have a bunch of possible tasks you can do, but it’ll always give you the first one.

Hope that helps!


Why is it applied to Parallel projects? (what’s the reasoning?). Seems like you wouldn’t want to highlight any particular task in a parallel project.

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In a parallel project, all tasks in the project are available (unless the defer date is set to the future for a task) and the first visible task is colored purple while the rest are black. As someone else said, it’s the first available. Why is that significant? You can filter a perspective by Available or First Available even for parallel projects. Color highlighting aside, the availability filter settings affects visibility of tasks.

The concept of “first available” is not strict GTD, true. For a parallel project in GTD, all tasks are first available. What we see here is an OmniFocus convention.

There’s also some person preference there. Some people don’t like seeing all of the tasks from a project listed in a perspective. That list can be long if there are a lot of tasks and it can dilute the effectiveness of a perspective.


In the original Getting Things Done, David Allen advised that for any goal that takes more than one task (i.e., a project), you should identify the next action that you can take to move the project forward. You can plan more, but at the very least, you should have a next action listed. OmniFocus operationalized that with the purple color, so that if you have remaining or all actions showing, you can visually identify it, but you can also set a perspective to show only the next action. OF calls it the “first available action” because in a parallel project, all actions are technically the next available one, but if you are overwhelmed by your action list, filtering on first available can show you a smaller list of concrete steps you can take to move things forward.

So in a sense, it is an OmniFocus convention, because Allen’s natural planning method didn’t strictly distinguish between parallel and sequential projects (not really necessary if you’re doing it on paper and not overplanning, the way software can encourage you to do). But it’s in keeping with the spirit of GTD, in my view.