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Redefining the "Inbox" Thread Tools Search this Thread Display Modes
Taking up a point made by GeekLady in another thread, I would suggest that the Inbox should be slightly reconceived.

We mainly think of it, for historical reasons, as a point of arrival but it would function better (without losing its original role) simply as a list of all incomplete records, (i.e. records lacking either a context or a project or both) regardless of where they were first entered.

1. Actions entered directly under a project or a context would show up in the inbox, as well as being displayed where they were entered, as long as they lacked either context or project (where "project" includes the status of singleton).

2. "Clean up" would allow incomplete actions to be displayed under the relevant project or context, but would not delete them from the inbox until they had both project and context.

This would not constrain liberty, but it would make the "Inbox" into a more predictable and rigorous checklist of meta-work to be attended to.

Last edited by RobTrew; 2007-08-21 at 09:48 AM..
 
I feel strongly that single actions are not "incomplete" simply because they are not part of a project.

I like to use the inbox as an area where I can drop things quickly for processing later. When I go back to the inbox, I will process those items by adding a context. Once a context is added, I want it to move out of the inbox and on to the context list so I can move on to the next item needing to be processed.

Leaving these project-less, but contexted, next actions in the inbox makes it harder to find the items that still need to be processed. Further, one of the most satisfying parts of my workflow is seeing the actions move out of the inbox and getting "in to empty."

Last edited by chrjohns; 2007-08-21 at 11:40 AM..
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by chrjohns View Post
I dont want the inbox to contain already processed items and I dont want to have to add them to a project to move them out.
I think that's probably right - singletons are the anomaly - perhaps the inbox should only display items which don't have a context.

Nevertheless, I do think it would be useful if items directly entered under a project (not explicitly typed in QE or the inbox) were still to be displayed in the inbox (as well as in the project outline), if they didn't have a context.

In other words you don't prevent things from getting into the project list, but you also show them in the inbox until their context is processed.

This would build confidence in the inbox, making it a useful and predictable list of all incompletely processed items, rather than just one possible point of arrival.

Last edited by RobTrew; 2007-08-21 at 11:49 AM..
 
In GTD it is perfectly feasible to have single actions on a next action list which are not part of a project. If they have been processed and the decision made on what action is needed then they most definitely do not belong in the inbox.
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by RobTrew View Post
I think that's probably right - singletons are the anomaly - perhaps the inbox should only display items which don't have a context.
Agreed, once they have a context assigned they should be on an action list.

Quote:
Originally Posted by RobTrew View Post
Nevertheless, I do think it would be useful if items directly entered under a project (not explicitly typed in QE or the inbox) were still to be displayed in the inbox (as well as in the project outline), if they didn't have a context.

In other words you don't prevent things from getting into the project list, but you also show them in the inbox until their context is processed.

This would build confidence in the inbox, making it a useful and predictable list of all incompletely processed items, rather than just one possible point of arrival.
That seems like a sensible approach to me.

Personally, I'd like to see the inbox as a separate button on the view mode options rather than as an item in projects view too.
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by RobTrew View Post
I think that's probably right - singletons are the anomaly - perhaps the inbox should only display items which don't have a context.
I like that idea. It would work well with my workflow. I prefer to keep my singletons only on the context list, but I know some like to have a "project" that contains singleton actions. I am glad that Omni has added that option for those people.
 
I'd have to try this idea for awhile. My initial reaction is that it might force processing that I did not want to do yet. For example, I may have an idea for a new project and quickly enter a half dozen steps to be completed. Then I might decide to start the project in a week. With my current workflow, I would set a start date for a week hence. I would also set a review date for the same date. The review date would prompt me to assign contexts to the actions during my morning review. In this case, I've consciously made a decision to defer processing of these items. I wouldn't want them in my inbox.

Two changes to how actions with a project but no context are handled would satisfy my needs:
  • Actions entered in QuickEntry with a project but no context should go to the Inbox by default. (Making the current direct-to-projects behavior an option.)
  • The Context View should include a "None" context. When "None" is selected in the sidebar, or no sidebar selection is made, then actions without a context would appear in the main context view. This would let users create an Unprocessed Actions perspective, mimicking the functionality Rob is proposing adding to the Inbox.

The "None" context is a nice analogue for the default top-level Singletons bucket that some have proposed as a sibling of the Projects folder.
__________________
Cheers,

Curt
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by curt.clifton View Post
  • Actions entered in QuickEntry with a project but no context should go to the Inbox by default. (Making the current direct-to-projects behavior an option.)
  • The Context View should include a "None" context. When "None" is selected in the sidebar, or no sidebar selection is made, then actions without a context would appear in the main context view. This would let users create an Unprocessed Actions perspective, mimicking the functionality Rob is proposing adding to the Inbox.

The "None" context is a nice analogue for the default top-level Singletons bucket that some have proposed as a sibling of the Projects folder.
I like the idea of having a separate place for contextless actions. But I absolutely abhor the idea of having it visible in the context view. I say leave them in the inbox, but maybe in a sub section of the inbox so it doesn't clutter up the actual incoming actions. If a project is assigned to any of these tasks, the task could also appear in the project view under that project (so as to allow sequential planning even if some tasks aren't yet fully defined), but putting it anywhere in the context view in any form whatsoever just sounds like a patently bad move to me (for reasons I've already elaborated on at length in other threads). If the "no context" context is always inactive (not even allowed to be made active through preferences), that would be an improvement, but I still think this particular solution causes more problems than it solves.
 
I spent the last few minutes thinking of some very complicated ways to solve this problem. My favorite was something I called a "sandbox" that behaves like the inbox, but doesn't receive new items. Instead, it could receive the results of a search (items without context, all flagged items, everything due today, etc.), and display them in with both context and project shown. This may still be a good idea, but it looks like a pretty major change.
Then it occurred to me: What if the phrase "no context" was added to the selection drop-down in context view for "active" versus "all" contexts? Then all the no-context items could be displayed, and dragged into the appropriate context, if you like the drag and drop method.
There remains a problem with signalling to the user that they are no longer in normal context mode (current behavior when no context is selected is to show everything). The drop-down could change color, for example--this mode should perhaps be a bit annoying...
This allows those who don't want to see it to simply not select it--it wouldn't be visible in normal operation. I think that beats the "none" context in the list--especially as we are looking for an automatic selection process which behaves differently from any of the contexts you can see.
As always, YMMV.
 
As usual, I agree with Curt, especially on the no-context-in-context-view idea. And fortunately for us, I'm pretty sure Ken's said that they're planning to implement that. For those that don't want their contextless actions cluttering up context view, he said the None context would be inactive by default.
 
 


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