Speeding Up OmniFocus on iOS with Launch Center Pro

A while back, David Sparks offered up a video showing how he uses TextExpander to dramatically speed up entry on repetitive tasks in OmniFocus. He was also generous enough to share his snippets. While I use the hell out of them in both the Quick Entry and Clipper on my Mac and have created many of my own, these timesavers have been limited to the OS X as OmniFocus and TextExpander do not work together on iOS.

Thankfully, with the introduction of Launch Center Pro, we (finally) have a solution. You can use the URL Scheme that OmniFocus has provided to create similar pre-formatted snippets.

What the hell are you talking about?!?

Okay, some of you are probably with me, but many may not be. Simply put, if you commonly create repetitive tasks (e.g. Follow up on, Email Jen about, Set Meeting with Bob regarding), you can dramatically speed things up using Launch Center Pro. Still not with me? Here’s a video showing you how it works:

All I’ve done here is create a new group in Launch Center Pro called OF Actions. This allows me to have 11 rapid-fire actions for my most commonly created tasks. Rather than 11 unique actions, I’ve actually created duplicates for most that include whatever I have on the clipboard. This way I have a version that duplicates the Quick Entry field and another that emulates some aspects of the Clipper (you can find more on how I use these on the Mac here).

Creating tasks in OmniFocus with Launch Center Pro

While you can easily tweak these and make them your own, here are my current actions:

  • New Task from Prompt – omnifocus:///add?name=[prompt]
  • New Task from Prompt w/ Clipboard – omnifocus:///add?name=[prompt]&note=[clipboard]
  • Follow Up With – omnifocus:///add?name=Follow%20up%20with%20
  • Follow Up With w/ Clipboard – omnifocus:///add?name=Follow%20up%20with%20&note=[clipboard]
  • Set meeting with [name of person or team] re – omnifocus:///add?name=Set%20meeting%20with%20[prompt]%20re%20
  • Set meeting with [name of person or team] re w/ Clipboard – omnifocus:///add?name=Set%20meeting%20with%20[prompt]%20re%20&note=[clipboard]
  • Email [name of person or team] about – omnifocus:///add?name=Email%20[prompt]%20about%20
  • Email [name of person or team] about w/ Clipboard – omnifocus:///add?name=Email%20[prompt]%20about%20&note=[clipboard]
  • Look into – omnifocus:///add?name=Look%20into%20
  • Look into w/ Clipboard – omnifocus:///add?name=Look%20into%20&note=[clipboard]
  • Plan new project – omnifocus:///add?name=Plan%20new%20project%20to%20

To create these, all you need to do is add a new action to your group, name your action and then add the url I’ve provided above. It will automatically add the OmniFocus icon, but as you can see, I’ve tweaked this for easier recognition.

Some may wonder why I’m not using an additional prompt at the end to finalize my task entirely in Launch Center Pro (while others are likely questioning my sanity right about now). My reason for this is simple: by adding an extra space at the end (you do this by adding %20) and jumping into OmniFocus, it feels very fluid to me. OmniFocus opens quickly and the cursor is placed at the end of my snippet so I can just keep typing. You may want to experiment with adding an additional prompt (for example, the email url would now become omnifocus:///add?name=Email%20[prompt]%20about%20[prompt]), but I’ve found that flipping over to OmniFocus feels faster.

While I’m certain that I’m just scratching the surface of what can be done here, it’s a great start for anyone looking to use Launch Center Pro to speed up the creation of repetitive tasks in OmniFocus. If you have any ideas on how to take this up a notch, leave them in the comments below.

Update: Great additions from Nick Wynja on how to use Launch Center Pro to access specific areas of the OmniFocus iPhone app.

  • http://timstringer.com/ Tim Stringer

    Great tip Mr. Schechter! I’m hoping TextExpander support comes to LaunchCenter Pro (and OmniFocus for iPhone/iPad) at some point so that I can make use of all the snippets that I’ve defined specifically for creating OmniFocus tasks. In the meantime, I’m making use of the Keyboard Shortcuts that are built into iOS. For example, if I type “ffol” it expands to “Follow up with “.

    • http://michaelschechter.me/ MSchechter

      I’ve never given the native iOS shortcuts the credit they’ve deserved, but I’m right there with you. TE support would be amazing (and if you listen to our interview with David Barnard tomorrow, you’ll hear more about TE and LCP!).

      • http://timstringer.com/ Tim Stringer

        Looking forward to hearing the interview with David Barnard! And please put in my request for TextExpander integration. I could see it opening up all kinds of new use cases for Launch Center Pro – both in OmniFocus and in other supported iOS apps.

        • http://michaelschechter.me/ MSchechter

          They seem to be on it. I believe he is the one who brings it up.

  • http://www.timemanagementninja.com/ Craig Jarrow

    Very slick indeed. :) Nicely done.

    My only thought is that I would like to see some of this functionality built “into” some of the productivity apps themselves. Kind of seems like using one app to stuff info into another app.

    I would like to see many productivity apps make it easier to get info/tasks into them in the first place. 

    • http://michaelschechter.me/ MSchechter

      I don’t know… I kind of like the idea of focused apps that help speed things up throughout an OS. This is as close to useful version of TextExpander, Keyboard Maestro or a launcher like LaunchBar that I’ve seen on iOS.

      Don’t get me wrong, I totally agree that the apps themselves need to simplify or improve creation (I’ve never understood why OF doesn’t have TextExpander support), but this idea of actions vs. apps that Launch Center Pro is promoting is interesting.

      Maybe I’m just stuck in an OS X world, but I love an ecosystem of apps that does the job efficiently rather than waiting/hoping for a perfect/better app.

      • http://www.timemanagementninja.com/ Craig Jarrow

        Guess I was expressing frustration with some apps and their front-end UIs.

        But, I do agree with the ecosystem thing.  

        On my Mac, I use Alfred to quickly add topics to Wunderlist…  Or Notational Velocity to quickly add a note to SimpleNote…

        • http://michaelschechter.me/ MSchechter

          I so agree there!

          I’m a LaunchBar guy, but same here. Have you tried Brett Terpstra’s nvALT fork of Notational Velocity? It gets a lot more love than the primary app. I use it to create notes in Dropbox now after having way too many issues with Simplenote syncing (although I miss Simplenote, badly).

  • lamike

    Michael…

    This is fantastic! Once again, I thank you for all you continue to share with the Mac Community. Ken Case has to be smiling.

  • http://pharmastrategyblog.com/ maverickny

    Love this concept, thanks Mike. In fact, I found many of the examples you gave were things I use myself so I eagerly set them up :)

    Several returned errors though, not sure why. I just clipped the urls you suggested, is an http needed at the beginning?

    • http://michaelschechter.me/ MSchechter

      Was there a particular one that caused an error for you? I pulled them directly from the app…

      • http://pharmastrategyblog.com/ maverickny

        Off the top of my head:

        F/Up with Clipboard (but plain Clipboard worked) Plan new Project Bith Look Intos (with and without clipboard)

        All returned errors.

        I recall the email ones worked fine, which was slick.

    • http://michaelschechter.me/ MSchechter

      And no, there should be no http, just the url as is starting with omnifocus:///

      • http://pharmastrategyblog.com/ maverickny

        That’s what I thought as I created one for Drafts that worked without. I couldn’t find the instructions for using OF on their site, so glad you figured it out, Mike.

    • http://michaelschechter.me/ MSchechter

      I figured it out. There’s something strange going on with the responsive design of the site. Need to figure out a long term solution, but in the meantime, here is a link to a plain text copy that works perfectly on iOS: http://bettermess.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/OmniFocus-Actions-for-Launch-Center-Pro.txt I’ve also updated the post to include this, so thanks for the heads up!

      • http://pharmastrategyblog.com/ maverickny

        Will give that a try, thanks. I originally copied the section in the post into Simplenote and pasted each one into the LCP tasks.

        • http://michaelschechter.me/ MSchechter

          Are you still having the same problem when using the plain text file that I added?

          • http://pharmastrategyblog.com/ maverickny

            Yes, it makes no difference, the same ones bork and the same ones work fine.

            Thought I might have missed a ] when pasting from Simplenote but it seems not. Strange!

          • http://michaelschechter.me/ MSchechter

            I’m at a loss, it works perfectly for me… Here they are with no other text:

            omnifocus:///add?name=Follow%20up%20with%20&note=[clipboard]

            omnifocus:///add?name=Plan%20new%20project%20to%20

            omnifocus:///add?name=Look%20into%20

            omnifocus:///add?name=Look%20into%20&note=[clipboard]

          • http://pharmastrategyblog.com/ maverickny

            Well if everyone else has succeeded, it must be stupid ‘ol me doing something stupid.

          • http://michaelschechter.me/ MSchechter

            Not what I’m suggesting at all! Just want to figure out why and try to fix it!

  • http://twitter.com/pishabh pishabh

    Whoa, I think I need a cigarette after watching that

  • Jordan Patterson

    Is there any way to create a new action with a context via a URL scheme?

    • http://michaelschechter.me/ MSchechter

      From what I’ve heard there are ways to access certain URL schemes, but not a way to create them. You can find that info here: http://storify.com/Veritrope/use-omnifocus-url-links-to-work-with-contexts-fold

      • Diplodocus

        Yes, there is a way. Example: omnifocus:///context/koaE4kfyfdj?/add?name=test&note=Do%it You have to put a “?/” between context link an URL for adding

        • Diplodocus

          Wrong! Sorry.

  • John Hemmings

    Any speed improvements to an application is welcomed. We have so many bits of software these days to work and play with, our patience levels are lower than ever! In an ever more competitive market, it maybe the fastest apps that win in the long term….possibly. Eigo.co.uk

    • http://michaelschechter.me/ MSchechter

      There’s always a speed/power balance, but I agree, speed matters and the savings add up incrementally over time.

  • http://twitter.com/camuel Cams on Arran

    Wow. Fantastic. This is getting a lot of attention on the blogs and Twitter, and rightly so. I’ve had Launchbar for a week now, but never really looked into it until now. It’s a powerful wee beastie!

    Thanks for posting this tutorial. 

  • Martin

    Excellent!!! Just a stupid question – where did you get those icons from?

    • bemental

      After creating the action edit the icon in LaunchCenter by clicking on the action in the ‘edit’ mode. Click on ‘Customize Icon’, set the color to the purple right-most color, page through available icons to find the specifics the author used.

  • http://billpetro.com billpetro

    How about:

    New Work Task from Prompt – omnifocus:///add?name=[prompt]&project=Work   While it will create the task, it will not set project to Work.

    • http://michaelschechter.me/ MSchechter

      Sadly this is not built into the URL scheme yet, but hopefully soon. You can access projects, but not write to them.

  • Arne

    Awesome job! Thanks a lot! 

    I Googled and searched at omnigroup.com to find the URL scheme provided by omnifocus – no luck so far :( 

    do you know if something like due_date=today is possible? Or where I can find a reference for the scheme?

    • http://michaelschechter.me/ MSchechter

      It doesn’t sound like this is there just yet, but based on the popularity, I bet/hope we see more of these types of possibilities.

  • http://kyledriffill.co/ Kyledriffill

    Just another than big thank you. Great contribution to the tech community; keep up the great work!

  • http://alphaefficiency.com Bojan Djordjevic

    I’ve expanded on your idea and mixed it along a couple of others, combined it with some jailbreak tweaks and made it really insane. Check it out here: http://alphaefficiency.com/launch-center-pro-workflow/

    • http://michaelschechter.me/ MSchechter

      Wow, some really cool stuff there!

      • http://alphaefficiency.com Bojan Djordjevic

        Thank you Mike, would appreciate it if you could share it with your audience.

  • bemental

    FYI, I used PasteBot to quickly copy these to my iOS device. Made things a bit easier on me.

    http://tapbots.com/software/pastebot/

  • John Chidiac

    These are fantastic, been using them extensively and finding ways to customize them for my own needs. One that had me stumped for a while was creating items for words or phrases to Google later… the solution was actually quite simple, here it is in case you’d like to try it.

    The one thing I could not figure out is how to use the same [prompt] text in the item title and encoded as it is here as part of the search url. I tried to get it to work with x-callback-url in Launch Center Pro or in conjunction with Drafts, but no luck.

    Anyway, here it is:

    Google Later — omnifocus:///add?name=Google%20this%20later&note=http://www.google.com/search?q={{[prompt]}}

  • Norm

    Great post! I added these and have been using them frequently. One change I made was to combine the with clipboard/without clipboard actions into one. Using something like this: omnifocus:///add?name=Email%20[prompt]%20about%20[[list:Include Clipboard?|Yes=&note=[clipboard]|No=]] you get a prompt asking if the clipboard should be included. Thanks again for a great post.