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OmniFocus 2 Contexts and Perspectives Explained

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OmniFocus

An OmniFocus Premium Posts customer recently wrote into us, asking about the difference between contexts and perspectives:

I am struggling with contexts and perspectives. I just don’t see the difference. I went through the process of setting up several of your recommended perspectives (from OmniFocus Premium Posts), but they seem to work the same as contexts. For example, clicking the “errands” context and “errands” perspective shows me the same information. What am I not getting?

Here’s what we wrote back:

Perspectives are shortcuts to specific information. OmniFocus 2 comes with 6 built-in perspectives that are on located in the program’s sidebar:

  • Inbox. Shows items that are temporarily stored and retrieved from here
  • Projects. Shows all of your tasks sorted by projects in OmniFocus
  • Contexts. Shows your tasks sorted by the contexts (person, place or tool) you have assigned them
  • Forecast. Shows tasks due sorted by date and also displays your calendar events
  • Flagged. Shows all flagged tasks
  • Review. Shows all projects and lists that are ready to be reviewed

And 2 more built-in perspectives you can be found in the Perspectives drop-down menu.

  • Completed. Shows folders, projects and actions that have been completed in the past.
  • Changed. Shows groups actions by the last date that they were edited (“changed”)

As you can see, Perspectives show specific information based on your needs. You may have also noticed that Contexts are actually a type of Perspective… sort of like how bourbon is a type of whiskey.

So when someone asks what the difference between bourbon and whiskey, the answer would be something like this:

“Whiskey is a type of distilled alcoholic beverage made from fermented grain. Bourbon is a type of whiskey (distilled alcoholic beverage) made from fermented grain that is mostly (51% or more) corn.”

And when someone asks about the difference between Contexts and Perspectives, the answer should be something like this:

“Perspectives are shortcuts to sets of specific information. Contexts are a type of perspective that show specific information about the people, places or tools associated with particular tasks and projects.”

Additionally (and this where further confusion can come in), the Pro version of OmniFocus 2 allows you to create your own Custom Perspectives based on your needs.

Let’s keep stretching my alcohol analogy.

Whiskey is available in a variety of blends that give drinkers various tastes, aromas, and other characteristics so drinkers can have the libation that suits their particular palate. Custom Perspectives give OmniFocus users a variety of information based on various characteristics so users can focus on specific the information that suits their particular needs.

So maybe you are at work and only want to see work related projects, you can set up a Project-based Perspective that would only show you your work Projects. Or maybe you didn’t sleep well last night and you don’t have much energy. You can create a Context-based Perspective that would only show you the tasks that you have have assigned a low energy Contexts to.

We explain all of the different Perspectives and show you how to create your own Custom Perspectives here in OmniFocus Premium Posts (see Post 3.5 on Perspectives).

Hope this answers your question on the difference between Perspectives and Contexts. Let me know if this helps clarify things.

So there you have it.

  • Contexts are a special sub-type of perspective (bourbon).
  • Perspectives are simply one way to look at the information you have stored in OmniFocus 2 (whiskey).

And if you want to get started with both, be sure to check out OmniFocus Premium Posts.

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1 Comment

Posted by Sean Oliver  | October 22, 2014 at 12:31PM | Reply

I have found it helpful to think of perspectives as a lens. You use perspectives to see & focus on a particular group, section, or segment of your tasks.

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