How I Use: TextExpander and OmniFocus Together

For those of you who aren’t familiar with TextExpander, it’s a utility that runs on macOS, iOS (and Windows!) that takes small snippets of text and expands them into much larger pieces. For example, I can type in an abbreviation such as xsig1 and it will transform into an email signature. I can (and do) use similar snippets for letters to clients, creating date stamps, sending messages, filling in forms and much more. 

I also use TextExpander when creating tasks or updating notes in OmniFocus. If you use OmniFocus (or any task manager for that matter), I’m sure you find yourself repeating the same text again and again. Phrases such as Follow up on or Create Report for, as well as Send Email to or Phone are very common to us all. You’ll have your own set of common prefixes to tasks based on your own vocation. 

Myself, I use TextExpander together with OmniFocus in the following ways. It’s not extensive, but a peek behind the curtain as to how I manage things:

1) Common Verbs - every task that goes into OmniFocus needs to start with a verb. If it doesn’t, I have to then spend time thinking about how I’m going to process the task. Also, having a common set of verbs gives you an option for setting new custom perspectives. You can have a perspective called Research that only contains tasks with Research in the name. 

I downloaded a set of these verbs from Tim Stringer’s site, Learn OmniFocus. Simply click the link and within the TextExpander application, select File and New Group From File (or hit the shortcut ⌘+O). With a bit of tweaking to prevent duplicate abbreviations with the set I already had, I found a perfect setup.

Also, Tim uses x as a leading character for abbreviations in the same way I do, so there were no amendments required! 

2) Date Stamps - as a Project Manager, I need to know exactly what has happened at any given time andwhen it has taken place as well as when it is going to be resolved or delivered. Date stamps are crucial for this. Every time I take action on a Project, I amend the notes section within the Project with details on the action taken. Every time. Without question. This gives me a full audit trail of communications and actions that have occurred. These are always accompanied by a date stamp. I’d go as far as to say that the date stamp is by far and away the most used snippet I use within TextExpander

Also, when creating, or amending a task that is related to a response I am waiting for from somebody, I always create a note within that task itself that has a date stamp and, if required, a link to the original email I have sent that demands a response. Linking to emails from applications such as Airmail Is easy within OmniFocus. 

3) Creating ‘Waiting For’ emails - here, I use a snippet that prompts for some further data entry. When I create an action in OmniFocus that involves following up on somebody, or awaiting a response, I type my abbreviation and the text appears with two single entry fields. This is usually: 

Waiting for Response from: (Name) regarding (Subject Matter)

I fill in the Name and Subject Matter, followed by an entry within the Notes section that provides a link to the original email (if required) or a summary of when the conversation took place that generated this task. 

Whilst the use case for section 1 above is fairly obvious, I have to say that using Date Stamps and creating Waiting For tasks really does take you to the next level when you are talking about accountability and being efficient within the job that you do. 

Another great set of abbreviations can be downloaded from our friend David Sparks. There are snippets there for OmniFocus as well as other use cases too. Check them out. 

How do you use TextExpander and OmniFocus together? I’ve opened the comments up and would love to hear from you.