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What's the difference between Single-Action-Lists and Miscellaneous? Thread Tools Search this Thread Display Modes
Hi,
I've just started using Omnifocus and so far I'm very impressed. One thing that has me a bit confused is that in my library I have icons for both "Miscellaneous " and "Single-Action List". What's the difference? And why do they both have an icon that looks like a file box, as opposed to the icon that the projects have? Does the difference in icon indicate any difference in functionality?

Many thanks in advance,
Abe Z.
 
If you're referring to the "Miscellaneous" item(s) in the default database, those are single-action lists with a customized name. In other words, any collection with the blue shoebox icon is a single-action list (SAL). And, of course, you can name them whatever you want.

The primary difference between a project and an SAL it that SALs contain items that are independent of one another. Consequently, SALs don't have a single "next action" -- all the actions in an SAL are next actions.

SALs are used for collecting individual, stand-alone actions that don't require a project. For example: a list of books you want to read or a collection of small, miscellaneous actions that aren't tied to any particular project like "Call Mom for her birthday".

In projects, you'll see the top-most available action is displayed in purple (by default), which indicates the "next action". In SALs, on the other hand, all the available actions are styled in blue text (by default) and all of them are considered to be "next".

Hope that was too convoluted. :-)

-Dennis

Last edited by Toadling; 2010-02-01 at 09:20 AM..
 
Perfect! That explains the distinction completely. Thanks - I appreciate it.
Abe
 
Some of us also use SALs for things that we don't consider to be true projects because they don't have a final goal or an ending. In that case, the actions might well be closely related, but lack any particular sequence ordering. For example, I have one where I keep track of the daily activities involved in the care and feeding of our pets. I suppose I could make it a parallel project, with the outcome being the eventual demise of all of our pets, but a SAL labeled "Daily pet care" has a sunnier disposition, I think :-)

You can put an action group in a SAL if you want to make a multi-step sequential action. An example might be a sequence of steps to do water testing and treatment for an aquarium, while other single actions not in that group might be to feed the fish, replace a filter, etc.
 
totally helpful postings! Thank you. Reading the postings in this form, there is always confusion between SAL, etc by us new users.

I think it is possible there isn't enough distinction in Omni's descriptions and the also the functionality between the Parallel Project, Single Action List, and using Folders.

Personally, I think "single action list" is poorly named and causes the confusion. single action implies "one" thing. Not the possibility for multiple things inside a "single action" and a list related to it. It seems a Folder of single actions would be more clear.

I'm sure I'm missing some nuances. The beauty and challenge of OF is the ability to structure your data how you want to. Thanks for everyone sharing how they use OF!
 
Just getting to reply to this now, but I'm afraid I don't quite follow this. Why would you make an SAL called Daily Pet Care, rather than a Project? After all, aren't all the actions related together to the larger goal of taking care of the pet? Wouldn't an SAL be used for actions that are NOT related to each other (e.g. call mom, get milk, pick up the dry cleaning, etc.)? Or are you saying that if some collections of actions don't have a final, achievable, outcome or goal, then you use an SAL instead of a project?

Also, I'm a bit confused by your second paragraph here. What is an "action group"? Is that simply an action that has sub-actions indented below it (which I've been thinking of - perhaps confusedly - as being like mini-projects within the larger project)? Or does it have another meaning?

Many thanks for your input. I'm very impressed by how sophisticated OF is and it's clearly going to take me a little while to get the hang of it.

Abe Z.

Quote:
Originally Posted by whpalmer4 View Post
Some of us also use SALs for things that we don't consider to be true projects because they don't have a final goal or an ending. In that case, the actions might well be closely related, but lack any particular sequence ordering. For example, I have one where I keep track of the daily activities involved in the care and feeding of our pets. I suppose I could make it a parallel project, with the outcome being the eventual demise of all of our pets, but a SAL labeled "Daily pet care" has a sunnier disposition, I think :-)

You can put an action group in a SAL if you want to make a multi-step sequential action. An example might be a sequence of steps to do water testing and treatment for an aquarium, while other single actions not in that group might be to feed the fish, replace a filter, etc.
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by amz1 View Post
Or are you saying that if some collections of actions don't have a final, achievable, outcome or goal, then you use an SAL instead of a project?
Yep, this is the way the folks at DavidCo approach the term "project".

That said, I have some projects in my OmniFocus database that don't meet this requirement. My "drink enough water every day" project, for example; the outcome would be "push up daisies" or something far too depressing. :-)

Quote:
Originally Posted by amz1 View Post
Also, I'm a bit confused by your second paragraph here. What is an "action group"? Is that simply an action that has sub-actions indented below it (which I've been thinking of - perhaps confusedly - as being like mini-projects within the larger project)? Or does it have another meaning?
Action groups are an uncomfortable compromise between at least two groups of folks - one camp uses action groups as just another action that needs checking off. The other group wants the ability to say "I need to think about this some more, so I don't want to check this off. I also don't want to block the rest of the steps in the project from completing".

If you do a forum search for "action group" there were tons of threads back in 2007; it was one of the truly epic battles of the pre-1.0 period.

The current builds of OmniFocus let you create an action group, but the parent row itself is not considered an action. It's just an organizational tool.
I know the team plans to revisit this topic and try to make it less confusing.
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by amz1 View Post
Just getting to reply to this now, but I'm afraid I don't quite follow this. Why would you make an SAL called Daily Pet Care, rather than a Project? After all, aren't all the actions related together to the larger goal of taking care of the pet?
Well, the actions are related together to the goal of taking care of the pets, but many of them aren't related to each other all that closely. The stuff involving maintaining the water for the fish doesn't have much to do with feeding the cats (no, the cats don't eat the fish :-)

But mostly it is what Brian said about projects with outcomes vs. collections of tasks with no particular near-term outcome. It's just the way I happen to approach the tool, and if the distinction doesn't make sense to you, you have my blessing to go off muttering into the night about people making mountains out of molehills. What's most important is that you understand how the tool behaves so that you can trust it and use it in a fashion that makes sense to you. There are some subtleties in the behavior of SAL vs. parallel project, which I touched on (okay, landed on like a sack of wet cement) in the other current SAL thread, another Single Action List vs Project question.
 
Thanks for the responses. I think I understand the distinction now. Much appreciated!

Abe Z.
 
 


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