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Finding things quickly (and with confidence) in OmniFocus Thread Tools Search this Thread Display Modes
‘there must be a systole and diastole in all inquiry, ... a ... mind must be continually expanding and shrinking between the whole human horizon and the horizon of an object-glass.’

Middlemarch ch 63


OmniFocus is an excellent aid to zooming in (focusing on the task in hand) but does it sometimes introduce a bit of friction and uncertainty in the phase of zooming *out* and rediscovering all the hidden detail ?

The quality of engineering in OF is second to none, and its architecture is very well conceived - it certainly provides a repository worthy of our confidence ...

but there are signs that the sense of confidence can sometimes get a little undermined by some difficulties in finding things, and by a worry that the the filter system may be concealing detail which we really want to be revealed ... It is surprising how often there are posts in this forum about data having "disappeared" or been concealed by unnoticed filter or focus settings, or by unnoticed implications of those settings.

It is clearly hard to strike a balance between simplicity and power, and between hiding things and finding them again. At the moment it seems to me that the phase of data 'hiding' (the systole of the mental cycle), is very well developed in OF. I also think, however, that there is still some room for development in the diastolic phase of zooming out, and rediscovering all the stuff that had been hidden ...

I'm not sure what plans there are for this side of things in OF 2.0, but my own suggestions might include:
  • Foregrounding the slightly buried Perspectives > All Items function (a button on the default toolbar, perhaps ?). I think it might be reassuring for users to know that there is a panic button which can be hit when things appear to have disappeared ...
  • Extending the power of Edit > Find and the "Type to filter the outline" bar so that they do more than just filter the current view or search the current project. They should really offer confidence that we can quickly retrieve everything that contains a particular pattern of text, whether currently hidden behind filter and focus or not.
  • Supporting a range of house-keeping searches
e.g.
  • all projects or tasks which repeat
  • all projects which have no available next actions
  • all projects which have a high number of completed actions and only a few remaining
  • all projects which have an unusual review interval
etc. etc.
At the moment, I am personally doing all of this with applescript (I will post the generic code I am using when OF 1.8, which facilitates such things, is released) but I am not sure that writing or downloading applescripts is really the right route (for most users) to feeling more confident that everything is there, and can be found very solidly and quickly ...

Generally, I would like to think that OF 2.0 might become as helpful with the business of zooming out as OF 1 has been with zooming in.

--

Last edited by RobTrew; 2010-08-02 at 10:24 AM..
 
Great food for thought. Thanks!
 
what i'd most like in the area of hidden data is the ability to search right across the database, not just in the item which is selected... i'd prefer to have to select the option to restrict the search to the selected item - less double checking...
 
Agreed with RobTrew. At the moment I've made a special Search perspective that gives me a new window with everything I want to search.

My vexation is that Search is tied to the toolbar. To try and minimise the visual clutter of OmniFocus, I've set my toolbar to text-only mode. Invoking Search automatically sets the toolbar to icon mode, and there's no way of automatically returning it to text mode. I have to do it manually.

I'd much prefer to see a Search term entry window independent of the toolbar. Plus the ability to also search archives along with the current database with one search term. There is a bit that could be done to power up OF's searching abilities.
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by elektroglide View Post
what i'd most like in the area of hidden data is the ability to search right across the database, not just in the item which is selected.
Couldn't you just select the "Library" collection in the sidebar? Or not select anything at all? Then the search function covers the entire database by default.

Or do you mean you want it to include items not present in the current view (e.g. "on hold" and completed items)? If that's the case, you'd need to first switch to the All Items perspective (Perspectives -> All Items). I have it mapped to Control-Shift-A for quick access.

Personally, I prefer searching only on the selected sidebar node. I almost always know what folder an item is in, so the search is quicker with fewer results to wade through.

Some time back, there was discussion of adding a switch of some kind to toggle between searching the current sidebar selection and the entire database, kind of like the little popup menu in iCal's toolbar search field or the search bar that appears when you do a search in Apple Mail. NetNewsWire, if you're familiar with it, is another good example of an app with this kind of option.

I'm not sure what became of the idea. Presumably it's still planned for a future OmniFocus release.

Quote:
Originally Posted by bashosfrog View Post
My vexation is that Search is tied to the toolbar. To try and minimise the visual clutter of OmniFocus, I've set my toolbar to text-only mode. Invoking Search automatically sets the toolbar to icon mode, and there's no way of automatically returning it to text mode. I have to do it manually.

I'd much prefer to see a Search term entry window independent of the toolbar.
But isn't this standard Mac OS X behavior provided by Apple?

Instead of using the toolbar search (a.k.a. "Outline Search" accessed with Command-Option-F), you could make sure your cursor focus is on the main outline and then invoke the inline Find window (Command-F) and search that way. Does that help? This will, of course, only search across items visible in the current view.

Quote:
Originally Posted by bashosfrog View Post
Plus the ability to also search archives along with the current database with one search term.
I agree this would be handy. Or at least index the Archive with Spotlight in addition to the main database, so any OmniFocus item could be found with Spotlight queries and saved searches (Smart Folders) in the Finder.

It'd also be nice if projects and actions in the Archive had either a different file type/kind or some kind of metadata indicating that they're archived so they could then be differentiated in Spotlight searches. For example, give me all archived actions completed prior to a certain date or something like that.

-Dennis

Last edited by Toadling; 2010-08-04 at 05:51 PM.. Reason: Typos, added NetNewsWire example
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by elektroglide View Post
what i'd most like in the area of hidden data is the ability to search right across the database, not just in the item which is selected... i'd prefer to have to select the option to restrict the search to the selected item - less double checking...
Me too. Like bashosfrog, I've created a perspective but it's still too many mouse actions for what I want. The typical scenario is that I'm working at my computer and get a phone call and I want to tap in the person's name to see if I have any waiting fors, agenda items, or tasks associated with their name.

Here's a crappy applescript I put together that throws me my custom search perspective and puts the cursor in the Outline Search box in the Toolbar.

Code:
tell application "OmniFocus"
    tell the default document to tell the front document window
    -- "Search" is my custom search perspective.
        set perspective name to "Search"
    end tell
end tell
tell application "System Events"
    tell process "OmniFocus"
        click menu item "Outline Search" of menu 1 of menu item "Find" of menu 1 of menu bar item "Edit" of menu bar 1
    end tell
end tell
I'm not an experienced applescripter. If anyone could improve this script to tell OF to invoke the custom "Search" perspective in a new window, rather than the existing window, it would be a better script.

I run the script as a TextExpander Snippet.

--Marc
 
I tend to agree with those who would like to see a more fine-grained filtering system in OF, especially when it applies to date groupings. For example, I'd like to be able to set up a filter that only shows items with start date between x and y, or due date between y and z.
 
Hey guys,

I know this is an old thread, but it's new to me. Just started using OmniFocus and I've had an idea you might like.

As far as I can tell, there doesn't currently appear to be any difference between typing in the search field and hitting <Enter> and doing the same with <Option><Enter>.

<Option> is usually the "I really mean it" modifier key in OS X, so it would seem the simplest solution (to me) to make this the trigger for "search across ALL tasks, not just what I've currently focussed on".

As with the helpful global search script I found on these forums(*), it would make sense for OmniFocus to open a new window when this happens, so as not to destroy the current window state.

To give a use case, I'm often busy reviewing something when a little voice says "oh, man -- did you remember to.." -- so I hit the search and check it out. By having the "global" search open in a new window, I can get back to what I was doing very easily.

What do you guys think?

(*) I would have posted the link, but I'm not allowed to until I've written 3 posts -- it's topic #24564
 
An issue that I have is that when I'm using the quick task entry I want there to be a capability to show which tasks/projects are the same or similar. So my use case is that I'm bombarded with todos and I sometimes enter duplicates. So when presented with a todo I want to know if I have already captured it.
 
 


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