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OmniFocus HotSpot: Drag, Drop and Forget Files with OmniFocus and Hazel

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OmniFocus hotspot

Here’s a simple yet oh so effective way of getting tasks in your OmniFocus inbox for files you need to review.

I came up with this solution because I started to forget files that I wanted to review. On a daily basis I download a ton of PDF reports, Excel spreadsheets and documents that I need to look at at some point, but sometimes I’ll forget about it because they aren’t stored in OmniFocus.

Call me lazy, but when I want to create an inbox item, name it “review this file: (filename)” and have a link to this file in the item’s note section I have to take a lot of steps. I’ll open the quick entry box, write it down, find the file somewhere, drag it into the tiny notes field….it’s too many steps and inefficient.

Luckily, I found a way to automate this and I will show you exactly how it works and how you can use it.

Here’s a quick video I put together that will show you how it works with a combination of an Applescript, Hazel and OmniFocus. It’s super simple.

Click here if you want to see the YouTube version of this video.

Now that you know how it works, let me show you how you can set it up. Here’s what you need:

  • OmniFocus
  • Hazel

Next is a designated folder where you will dump all your files. I like to call it the “hotspot” folder (I even gave it a custom icon to make it standout). I suggest you put it in your Dropbox folder (mine is /Dropbox/Hotspot/). Within the Hotspot folder, create a new folder called “Processed”. This is where all files will be moved once Hazel has processed them (this will avoid any duplicate processing).

Now you need Hazel to monitor this folder. Add the Hotspot folder to Hazel and then add a new rule. Here’s what it looks like:

The simple Hazel rule for getting stuff in your OmniFocus inbox.

The simple Hazel rule for getting stuff in your OmniFocus inbox.

As you can see, it will execute an Applescript. Here’s what it does anytime a file gets added to the folder:

  • Creates a new inbox item.
  • Names it: Review “FILENAME” (with the actual filename in quotes)
  • Adds the date of when this item was processed in the notes section.
  • Adds a link to the file in the notes section (you can click on it and it will open the file).

I have to give credit to David Sparks. I got this Applescript from one of his old posts (can’t find it at the moment) and I modified it slightly for this purpose. The script is included in the Hazel rule (download link is at the bottom of the post).

You can drag and drop any file in there and it will be processed.

Taking it further

This Hazel rule and Applescript can easily be modified to fit your needs. You can get really creative with this:

  • Assign a specific folder where all financial files go. Then have the script assign the right project/list (such as “Finances”) and context right away (that way you skip the inbox).
  • Based on the file name, you can have the Hazel rule do different things. For example, every filename that starts with “en “ will be imported into Evernote or every file that has the .eml extension (emails) will get a different entry name (“Review email XYZ”).

The basic idea is that you can literally dump files in this folder and the Hazel rule will determine what to do with it, and you’ll have a reminder in OmniFocus to review this file.

If you know some Applescript, I hope you can work with this. I would love to see people get creative with this.

Next Actions

Here are some links to get you started:

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{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }

Joe Bahgat May 9, 2013 at 6:45AM

Awesome tip Thanh! As I was reading it via Feedly I wanted to turn it into an Omnifocus task, which prompted me to > open in Safari > open bookmarks > click “add to Omnifocus,” and then save the task in my inbox. There has to be an easier way?! Any ideas?

Reply

Thanh Pham May 9, 2013 at 10:58AM
Peter van Teeseling ( May 9, 2013 at 8:39AM

Great stuff. Thanks for sharing.

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ScottWu ( May 9, 2013 at 10:38AM

Thanks, for this. I have a question – does the file actually get put in the OF database of is it a link to the file? I don’t want my OF database to get too large. Thanks again!

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Thanh Pham May 9, 2013 at 11:09AM

It’s a link to the file.

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Joost May 9, 2013 at 5:04PM

Thanks, for this. Is it possible to put “the Context @Reading” in the script. For example (set theContact to “@Reading => isn’t working) or something like that.

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Austin White May 10, 2013 at 11:28AM

Great tip Thanh ! I have the similar drag and drop process and this will speed things up a lot.

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Neal May 11, 2013 at 10:52AM

Thanks Thanh. Since many of us have moved to the iPad, how do we accomplish the same file handling on iPad?

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Thanh Pham May 12, 2013 at 2:50PM

It’s a little tricky on the iPad – I’m not sure it’s quite possible.

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Danny May 15, 2013 at 9:52PM

Thank you for this Thanh. As I am new to Mac and Omnifocus and, still trying to find my way around, I do have some questions. First, the is the “Hotspot” folder you use in DropBox a local sync folder or stored in the cloud. Second, which folder does the Hazel Rule get added to?

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Thanh Pham May 16, 2013 at 5:39PM

It’s a local sync folder but it doesn’t matter – any folder works. The Hazel rule has to use that folder.

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Danny May 17, 2013 at 3:22PM

Thank you for your help. That works great!!

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Ben May 28, 2013 at 7:14AM

Hi Thanh,
this is really awesome. I’m kinda new to all that applescript- and hazel-stuff. Could you probably provide me with getting a file a project, a context and a start date? Or isn’t that possible to do with applescirpt?

Cheers,
Ben

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Thanh Pham May 28, 2013 at 3:13PM

I think it is but I’m not sure how to do it myself.

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Stephen June 12, 2013 at 8:49AM

That’s very handy – thanks a lot. I’ll add that one to my repertoire … :)

I also use a slightly different approach which I plan to combine with yours. I often get emails with links to newsletters to download which go into my downloads folder where a Hazel rule picks them up and moves them to Dropbox->Read and Review. Reading the R&R folder is a scheduled part of my OF workflow.

I have Documents from Readdle(free!) on my iOS devices and they allow me to have folders permanently synced between iOS and Dropbox so I one have called Reviewed. I open my Read and Review folder and when I’ve read the newsletter I move it to my Dropbox->Reviewed folder whether on my Mac or iOS. Documents then automatically syncs this to Dropbox.

I have a Hazel rule for my Dropbox->Reviewed folder which looks out for the newsletters that I regularly read and then moves them out into my newsletter archive for future reference. This automatically clears it from my iOS devices on the next sync and it all works very nicely.

Certainly OF, Hazel and Dropbox show that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts!

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Not Ratched June 13, 2014 at 1:59PM

I was psyched to read this, but the script returns “Expected end of line but found identifier.” I just copied and pasted. Anyone else have this issue?

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Jos v.d. Voort v.d. Kleij June 26, 2014 at 10:40AM

Hi this does not seem to work in OF2 Pro: any suggestions?

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Joe Buhlig July 31, 2014 at 10:00AM

Love this! I just set it up with OF2 Pro and it works like a charm!

I modified it a bit to rename the file to my own conventions and move it to a different folder.

I wanted to make it even easier on myself so I created a service in Automator that I can invoke with a keyboard shortcut. Now I just select the file and hit the shortcut! It automagically renames the file, moves it to the right folder, and adds the task to OF2 with the link to the file!

Love it! Thanks for the great idea!

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Deepika Wadekar September 18, 2014 at 12:17PM

coudn’t make it

want to configure my Gmail Id with Omni Focus Mail Drop.

I am trying here to do that but not getting in.

anyone can help me?

Reply

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