The OmniFocus “Switch” Button


I’ve received several e-mails and comments concerning my discussion of the “Switch” button in OmniFocus during the task management episode of the Mac Power Users.
This button is among those available in the “Customize Toolbar” menu.

Screen shot 2009-11-09 at 10.13.15 PM.jpg

Simply drag it on your toolbar and you are set. Here is my OmniFocus toolbar.

Screen shot 2009-11-09 at 10.17.41 PM.jpg

The “Switch” button becomes useful when working through your list. I work most of the day in the context view. So, if I’m working through the phone context and perform a task like, “Call Rumpole regarding trial” and decide I need to add a task to that project after the call, I do not need to go digging through the project list for it. I simply press “Switch.” Then, using some strange dark magic, OmniFocus drops me right into that specific project for me to fiddle with to my heart’s content. When done, I simply press the “Context” button again and get back on my merry way.

Continue reading

Adding a Mail Folder to IMAP Mail Accounts


My friend, Tim, has recently “seen the light” about using IMAP mail services to sync between multiple accounts. (If this sounds like greek to you, watch my E-mail Sorcery screencast, episode 15 right here.)
Having successfully set up his IMAP mail accounts, he now wants to add several folders to also synchronize through IMAP. I thought his question was worthy of a short tutorial so here goes:

1. Create the Folder

In Apple Mail, Go to the Mailbox menu item and click “New Mailbox”

mailbox Screen shot 2009-11-04 at 9.52.05 AM.jpg

2. Make it IMAP

Next a dialogue will show up asking what type of mailbox you want. Click on the selection arrow.

Screen shot 2009-11-04 at 9.52.43 AM.jpg

The click will open a list of your current accounts. You want to select the root level of your IMAP account. In the example, I am doing this on my MobileMe IMAP account. This is where mistakes are made. If you create the mailbox “On My Mac” or within an old POP account, it won’t synchronize.

Screen shot 2009-11-04 at 9.53.10 AM.jpg

Then you simply give it a name and you are done. It should show up in both Apple Mail and your other linked IMAP devices, such as your iPhone.

Continue reading

Limit Dropbox Sync with Multiple Accounts

dropbox diagram.png

While there are a lot of things I like about Dropbox, one problem is its inability to synchronize limited files.
For instance, at my office I have a PC computer for which I would like to share frequently used reference files. Because Dropbox has an “all or nothing” structure, activating my account on that PC computer would force the synchronization of everything, including personal items that have no business on my office PC. Furthermore, tech staff, work colleagues, and even the cleaning staff have access to the office PC when I’m not around. For these reasons, I do not want my entire Dropbox library on the office PC. This may be a unique problem resulting from my own paranoia but I think not.*
I toyed with a number of possible solutions to this problem. One option is a MobileMe synchronization but again that opens the PC to other files and requires manual steps. I want this to be automatic. Another solution is to set up a free account with a different service such as Syncplicity or SugarSync. Of course that would require operating two synchronization services on my Mac and I’m not thrilled about two seperate applications tracking and syncing files and burning clock cycles.
The best solution I found was simply to set up an additional free 2 GB Dropbox account on the PC under a different e-mail and “share” a folder from my Mac-based paid Dropbox account with the new account. This allows me to control access of what gets synchronized, limits the ability of someone on my PC to only obtain access to the shared files, and allows me to avoid running two synchronization applications on the Mac. Problem solved, for now.
* I’m aware I could set up a limited synchronization using Sugar Sync. The problem is that those require you to submit your account information and would allow a prospective evildoer simply log into your web account and have access to the whole enchilada. See what I mean about paranoia?

Continue reading

OmniFocus Tips – The Omniscient Start Date


I’ve been promising an OmniFocus screencast for some time but it seems the world is conspiring against me lately. Nevertheless, I thought I would share one of my most valuable tips, the effective use of start dates.
If you’re like me, you have a lot of tasks in your database. One of the primary goals of task management is to actually get things done and not be paralyzed with fear when you see a list of 784 items. The trick is to make OmniFocus only give you the tasks you want to see at that moment. In addition to using contexts, another way to accomplish this is through the effective use of the “start date” field. For instance, if you have a particular project for work that you want to start on Wednesday, the start date for the related tasks should be Wednesday. You do not want those items appearing on your task list on Monday or Tuesday. I have some tasks that are not scheduled to begin for over a year. I was reminded of this yesterday when OmniFocus told me it was time to sort out the Christmas card list.
Every morning I do a sort of triage to my task list. Several items appear that weren’t there yesterday. I look at them and realistically determine which of those will get accomplished today. Those that won’t, get rescheduled to appropriate new start date. It’s not that I’m deleting these tasks, I’m rescheduling them. They will appear again and will get done.
OmniFocus makes this very easy. You simply tab over to the start date field and type in a new date. You can also mouse over the calendar and enter the date that way. By far the most efficient and nerdy way to do this is through OmniFocus’s intelligent date system. For instance, if the start date lists as December 8, 2008 and I type in the field “2d”, OmniFocus will automate reschedule it for 2 days, December 10, 2008. If I type “Wed” in the field, it would do the same. You can even combine these. If you type”3w Sat”, it will reschedule the event for three weeks from Saturday. I find it extremely useful and I am quickly able to parse through my task list to show only those events I need to work on today.
If you really want to go nuts, you can also use times in your start date field. If I’ve already blocked time out to do a specific project in the afternoon for instance, I will set the start time to coincide. That way my task list during the morning is not stuffed with items I do not currently need. I also do this for home related tasks. As an example, tomorrow someone’s coming to work on my home and I need to prepare. When I made the appointment last week, I set a task for today. When that task appeared this morning, I promptly rescheduled it to 7 p.m. It will show up tonight but I don’t have to look at it all day. If I were a bit smarter, I would have scheduled the task to “mon 7pm” and then I wouldn’t have seen it this morning. Using this technique, I am able to keep my task list to a manageable and appropriate size. Once I finish the triage in the morning, I click over to context mode and then I’m off to the races for the rest of the day. By the end of the day I’ve either finished everything on the list or advanced it to a new appropriate start date.
I know GTD purists would argue that in doing this, I’m tying my hands behind my back. Specifically, GTD canon holds that if you have free time, you should be able to pull up all of your outstanding phone call tasks and work through them quickly. For me, this just doesn’t happen very often. I think more in terms of specific projects I want to focus on and I’m such a terrible multitasker that jumping around quite often leads to misery. However, if I do find myself with free time, like I did a few weeks ago when the Internet went down to my office, it is a simple matter in OmniFocus to change your filter to show all tasks “remaining” instead of just those “available” and I can see all of my telephone calls.

tasks remaining.png

So MacSparky Nation, are these productivity posts helpful? Every time I post one I get several complementary e-mails from readers and several not-so-complementary e-mails from people threatening to unsubscribe because I’ve gone off the Mac-centric focus of the site. Let me know.

Continue reading

Bento Syncing Done Better

bento icon.png

Awhile back, I posted a tricky little Applescript I made to make syncing the Bento database easier. I was so busy patting myself on the back that I completely missed a much more elegant solution. Thankfully reader Neil shared it in the comments. It was so much better that I decided to give it a separate post. As Neil explained …
I have a somewhat simpler approach (I think). All I did was copy my Bento folder from ~/Library/Application Support to my iDisk folder. Then I deleted the Bento folder and replaced it with a symbolic link. That way, when I start Bento, it looks in ~/Library/Application Support/Bento and is redirected to the copy on my iDisk. That way, it is always synced between the local computer and iDisk whenever I sync iDisk.
When it comes to computers, simpler almost always equals better. Neil, I bow my propeller beanie to your chocolate covered Mac-ness.

Continue reading