How I Use: BetterTouchTool and OmniFocus Together

When you use an application daily, it’s important to ensure you have a system in place for using it as efficiently as possible. As OmniFocus is one of my Second Brain tools, I need to navigate it like a ninja. 

The keyboard shortcuts are great, however, my fingers aren’t always on the keyboard. It would be great to switch between different contexts and perspectives by using gestures on my trackpad. 

That’s the point where we say a big fat Hello to BetterTouchTool. Developed by Andreas Hegenberg, BetterTouchTool allows you to configure trackpad gestures that mimic certain keyboard shortcuts or system actions. As an example, if I force-click in the top right-hand corner of the trackpad from any application, I lock my MacBook when I’m leaving my desk. Triple-tapping with three fingers in Safari will close all tabs apart from the one I have open. I have gestures configured for exporting individual emails from Airmail to DEVONthink Pro Office

The key to using a tool like BetterTouchTool is not to overload it. If you have to spend a lot of time thinking about which gesture maps to the shortcut you want to use, you’ve just negated the value of the application. My advice is to start small, just one or two gestures at first and use them repeatedly until you don’t need to think about them - muscle memory can kick in. At that point, add some more. 

That’s what I have done with the OmniFocus gestures in the screenshot below:


2 Finger Double Tap - Open In Project View - quite often when I am in my Dashboard view, I’ll see a task yet may need to see how it relates to other tasks within that project. Also, I may need to add some notes to the Project Title, dependant on the task. A quick double tap on the trackpad opens this view up for me - very handy. 

TipTap Left - Focus - ah, Focus mode. Possibly one of the features that still keeps me with OmniFocus and stops me looking elsewhere. When I work, I try to focus on a certain Area of Responsibility at any given time, so I use the Focus mode a lot. This will only show my actions that are Available/Remaining for a given folder or project. I’m currently writing this while focused on a folder called MyProductiveMac. I can’t see any tasks that are related to Home, Coaching, Business Development etc. I find Focus mode invaluable and using a simple tiptap gesture to enable is great. With two fingers on the trackpad, I keep the right one pressed down whilst tapping with the left and I’m in Focus mode. TipTap again to leave. 

Dashboard/Contexts/Projects/Next Actions - you’ll see that tapping round the trackpad in a clock-wise manner through the corners, shows me my four most used perspectives. Once I’ve focused on a Folder/Area Of Responsibility, I can tap in the relevant corner to work from my Dashboard perspective (hot list), Contexts (energy levels/how I’m feeling), Projects (boss mode planning) or Next Actions (first available actions, both hot and not for each active project). 

2 Finger Swipe Right - Notes - I take a lot of notes within my actions. Quite often, I’ll have sent an email that requires a response from the recipient. When this happens, I’ll quickly swipe right with two fingers to open the notes, put in a Date Stamp using TextExpander and drag the email across from Airmail. This gives me a clickable link to the core message when the action reappears on it’s defer date. Swiping again closes the note. 

There are more actions that I am going to setup over the coming months, however these certainly work for me currently. I fly through the application and while it’s not essential to use BTT as the keyboard shortcuts are great, if you find yourself using the trackpad more than the keyboard, it could be a real help.