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I would love nothing better than to use OF for managing my entire GTD process. However, I've been frustrated by one thing in particular: How do I keep files or emails organized that are related to a project I'm working on, or even a single task?

Two examples of where this is a problem:
  1. I'm processing my email, and have a bunch of emails including attachments (e.g. budgets or invoices) all related to a particular project. I'd like to use the email clipping ability to suck them into OF and just nuke them from my email inbox. But I can't do this--they contain attachments, so if I just capture the tasks in OF using the clippy-thing and delete the emails, I've now lost the attachments. To avoid this, I need to keep an email folder (I have a folder named "-- Projects --" that I keep all these in) that contains emails with attachments in them so they're not lost. A related issue is that I might have a ton of reference emails related to a project that I might need to reply to as part of the project, etc. These are much better kept in a chronological record in an email folder--they're not really individual actions.
  2. I'm just doing a project on my Mac that happens to involve reading a bunch of reference files, and doing occasional work with them. Some of them I could just attach to actions, which I realize could just make a link, but this means I must maintain a project folder external to OF in addition to the project within OF. There's not any explicit linkage between these, so each time I want to work on the project I have to open up both the OF project and the project folder in Finder.

So, the issue is that, even though I have OF to manage all my "stuff", I still need to keep some things in email, and some things in a Finder folder, so for a given project I have crap spread all over the place, potentially out of sync, and it's often not very convenient.

It would be nice if OF had some way of providing a "portal" into related email folders or Finder folders, so I could view everything in a single place when I went to focus on a project.

I guess it would help me a lot of OF did not simply link to email-based attachments and instead imported them right into the OF database. That would solve half my problem.

Thoughts from anyone else?
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by mitchellzone View Post
It would be nice if OF had some way of providing a "portal" into related email folders or Finder folders, so I could view everything in a single place when I went to focus on a project.
Isn't that essentially what you have when you link in various items to the notes field of a project? The items could be anywhere on your hard drive (or even on a server if you have remote access to it) and still all be accessible from the project in OmniFocus.

This is exactly how I work, using OmniFocus as a sort of front-end for organizing and managing virtually everything I do.

Quote:
Originally Posted by mitchellzone View Post
I guess it would help me a lot of OF did not simply link to email-based attachments and instead imported them right into the OF database. That would solve half my problem.
By holding down the option key when dragging files/folders to a note field, OmniFocus will embed a copy of the file in your database. There's a similar option in the dialog that appears when you select Edit -> Attach File from the menu bar.

But be warned that there are trade-offs with embedding files in the OmniFocus database. First of all, the database will obviously grow significantly larger depending on the number and types of files you embed. This may or may not be a problem depending on whether you plan to sync your data (particularly to an iPhone).

Another thing to consider is that many embedded file types will not be available for access on an iPhone simply because the iPhone doesn't support those document formats (e.g. an embedded OmniOutliner file obviously won't open on an iPhone). In fact, I believe OmniFocus for iPhone currently only displays audio and picture attachments that originated from the iPhone itself.

Thirdly, once you embed a file, the copy of the file in the database essentially becomes read-only. If you open the embedded file from OmniFocus, make changes, and then save it again, the saved file gets written to a hidden temp folder, not back to the OmniFocus database! This may be less than ideal but simply underscores the fact that OmniFocus was not designed as a repository for reference material. I think the expectation is that most users will keep reference material somewhere else (usually in the filesystem or one of many existing apps designed for such tasks: DevonThink Pro, Yojimbo, Journler, Eagle Filer, etc.).

Hope this helps,
Dennis

Last edited by Toadling; 2008-08-08 at 04:40 PM..
 
I can appreciate the motivation to keep everything in one central place, but IMHO this is "overloading" (in the functional, not literal sense) what OF does.

OmniFocus is for managing tasks, thats about it.

There are several choices to store other things and have them "related" to the tasks.

I think mail.app does a good job with email (it could be better). But when you clip an email into OF, there is a link in the clipped text is a link to the "original message". Once I've captured the attachment, or replied to the email, it then goes in an archive.

For notes and reference material you can keep a pretty sane set of Finder folders - (you can drag a link to a folder into a note), or other files - and not embed them (avoid inflating the OF DB).

This does result in three places: Tasks, Correspondence, Reference/Resource

I use a combination of Finder and Journler for for files and notes.

If the project is long term and has lots of notes involved, I use Journler which has great tagging features, and is faster and cleaner to search than a bunch of text files. It can manage a ton of files without bloating, because it basically manages a repository ala the iTunes music folder.

If the project is mostly about some files and a produced result with few notes, then I will just use a folder in my ~/Projects folder (my root folder for all projects).

I've created a script that can create an entry (with link in OF notes) in Journler for a task: http://forums.omnigroup.com/showthread.php?t=7568

And there is a script I made for Journler that creates an embedded OmniOutliner Document (still a favorite for note taking and brainstorming).

For me the only improvement to OF would be to assign a global "project folder" to a project, and have that be available from within any task. This is pretty particular to my own workflow though and would not make a good general feature (I can implement it in a script come to think of it).

So not exactly the advice you were maybe looking for. If you like the interface OF provides, and feel the Finder is a little to chaotic for you, I would check out Journler, its a great app. (it won out in my head to head evaluation of the apps in its class).

-Preston
 
Okay, all good points from both replies so far, and well taken. Here are some thoughts based on those for further comment:

1. I especially appreciate the comments re: iPhone--I definitely don't want all kinds of attachments sync'ed to it, so that would be bad. However, I sometimes don't realize that there ARE files related to a given project unless I explicitly go look on my Mac, and then I have to remember what I called the project folder, etc. So, as ptone mentioned it might be nice to somehow know that there's a folder linked to the project somehow--even if I can't actually access it from the iPhone, a context menu from the project in OF on my Mac could bring up a Finder window pointing me right to it. Without this, I'm stuck with random Project directories that might hang around long after the project is closed, and then I forget what project it was for, and whether or not I still need it, etc.

2. In email, here's my real problem--if I want to capture the task in OF, great, I can do that. But if the task involves replying to the email, or if there are notes in the email related to an attachment, both of which I need to keep, then I need to keep the email somewhere, I can't get rid of it. But I don't feel like I can just have a single folder named "Projects" and just dump all emails into it that I clipped into OF--then when I finish a project I have to remember which emails were related to it and delete or file them into a reference folder. An alternative is to create a project folder in email for it, as it's easier then to locate them. But I have multiple email accounts for work, home, etc. so do I create a project folder in each one then? It just gets really cumbersome. How do other people do this?

Thanks...
 
Quote:
I explicitly go look on my Mac, and then I have to remember what I called the project folder, etc.
Quote:
Without this, I'm stuck with random Project directories that might hang around long after the project is closed, and then I forget what project it was for, and whether or not I still need it, etc.
I mange my /Users/preston/Projects/ folder as a list of "active" projects.

You should be able to name a project folder the same as the project in OF, it seems that would remove the name ambiguity.

An interesting and simple applescript would:

For any given action, check to see if there was a project folder for the project, and if so - open it, and if not, create it. There would still be no indication visible whether one existed or not...


Quote:
2. In email, here's my real problem--if I want to capture the task in OF, great, I can do that. But if the task involves replying to the email, or if there are notes in the email related to an attachment, both of which I need to keep, then I need to keep the email somewhere, I can't get rid of it. But I don't feel like I can just have a single folder named "Projects" and just dump all emails into it that I clipped into OF--then when I finish a project I have to remember which emails were related to it and delete or file them into a reference folder.
I actually just keep all my messages in my inbox. If I need to act on them through OF, I capture them into OF. If I need to act on them just in Mail, then I flag them. I then archive my inbox once a year. I've been doing this for quite a few years and find that smartfolders and searching have eliminated any need for additional "filing" of email.

-P
 
 


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