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.

Copy and Paste with BetterTouchTool

BetterTouchTool is an application that runs on OS X and saves me a lot of time on a daily basis. By using the trackpad/mouse/keyboard to perform repetitve actions, you can easily find yourself whizzing through tasks and projects.

I've written about if before, yet I still find new ways to use this application. This one is a VERY simple use case, yet yields great results. By assigning gestures to the often used Copy and Paste commands, you can own your editing project like a boss.

Once installed, the gesture is going to be need to be configured within the Global application. That's because the shortcut commands for Copy and Paste are pretty much generic amongst all applications you install on your Mac. Some shortcuts are considered sacred and it would be folly to change them on an application by application basis. ⌘C and ⌘V are no exception. Select Global on the left hand pane and click the Add New Gesture button.

In the Touchpad Gesture window, you can select a gesture that suits your style and needs. Personally, I use the 2 finger double tap to mimic the Copy command, followed by the 3 finger double tap to replicate the Paste command. Entirely down to you of course how you run with this.

This is obviously a very basic example of how to get stuff on the clipboard with BetterTouchTool - however imagine what you could do if you used a third party clipboard manager, like Copied – Copy and Paste Everywhere on your Mac. With a quick gesture, you can start to copy text and manipulate how it appears on the clipboard - in Rich Text, Markdown, HTML as an example. What could happen if you assigned the gesture to a Keyboard Maestro macro that will perform some all-singing, all-dancing actions with your selection? You are limited by your imagination with this tool.

Yet it all starts with a simple idea. If you've never used BetterTouchTool before, I recommend you start with a simple gesture shortcut like Copy and Paste and slowly, those ideas will start to come.

Voilà and BetterTouchTool

One of the functions I find myself repeatedly carrying out on my Mac is screen capturing. Whether I'm writing posts for this site, creating documentation for clients or just gathering resource materials for fun projects I'm working at home, I am leveraging the keyboard shortcut for Voila (my screen-capture software of choice) many times daily.

The only issue I have with this is the built-in shortcut (⌃⌘4) is kind of fiddly for my hands to reach. Now I know that I can change the shortcut within the app itself (Preferences, Hot Keys), however as you can see from the screenshot, there are a LOT of shortcuts for Voilà and I've tended to find over the years that when you have a large amount of shortcuts within an application, they tend to run and follow a bit of a pattern, to help aid remembering them. I'm loathe to change these.

Thankfully, BetterTouchTool was built with this exact scenario in mind. By mapping a trackpad gesture to a keyboard shortcut, I can invoke the screen-capture process within Voila with the simple click of a button.

Below, you will see the gestures I have mapped. If you look to the left of the screen, you will see that these are Global gestures. This is because if I was to assign the gesture specifically to the Voilà application, then the gesture wouldn't work when I'm actually in an application that I would like to capture!

I decided to leverage the power of the FORCE Touch trackpad I have for these gestures and have assigned a Corner FORCE Click Bottom Left to bring up the Capture Screen Selection crosshairs. From here, I just select the area on the screen I would like to capture and then away I go. If I Corner FORCE Click Bottom Right, then this will allow me to choose a whole object on the screen to capture. This is great for when you want to capture a whole application window, rather than a freeform selection.

This is just a quick post to show you how easy it is to create Screenshots at the touch of a button with two very cheap, powerful applications.

I've only just really started to dive into Voilà, yet I am so impressed, I've started outlining a post or two on how much power there is within this application.

(Disclaimer - there is a new version of Voila in the pipeline for release VERY soon - purchasing through any of the links I have on this site allows you to upgrade for free when the next version is released).

BetterTouchTool and DEVONthink

When I'm working with my main client, I find myself using the email archive feature of DEVONthink Pro Office many times daily. This is owing to the fact that the search engine within DEVONthink Pro Office is second to none and I find myself having to do a LOT of email searching daily.

I also need to open a lot of these emails in order to request more information, open attachments or perform other actions. To do this, it's a lot easier to open the emails within (or whichever is your mail application of choice) than within the DEVONthink Pro Office application itself. There is a menu shortcut to do this (right click, Open With, Mail (default) however when you have to do this as many times a day as I do, this can get quite onerous (yes, I know, first world problem....but then I'm a first world person!)

A quick bit of digging showed a keyboard shortcut for this (⬆⌘O) which saves some time. However, as my regular readers will know, where there is a keyboard shortcut, there is a BetterTouchTool gesture that will perform the action ever faster!

So that's what I did. I configured BetterTouchTool to open any given file within whenever I double tap on my touchpad with four fingers.

Such a simple hack, but one that I use at least ten times a day, so cumulatively saves me a lot of time.

While we're on the subject of BetterTouchTool, I'd like to raise the point that it's now a paid for application with a 'pay-what-you-want' subscription model. This has been met with some...curious..comments on the developer's site, which I find baffling. Thankfully, most people realise how much time and effort goes into an application like this and how much time it saves.