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How to Use Location-based Contexts in OmniFocus 2 for iPhone (Screencast)

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Omnifocus 2 for iPhone
Location-based notifications are great for instantly bringing all your relevant location-based tasks to the top of your OmniFocus task list. In this post, I’m going to show you how to leverage location-based notifications to easily filter appropriate tasks based on context in OmniFocus 2 for iPhone.

(If you’re unfamiliar with concept of contexts as they relate to David Allen’s GTD system, I recommend OmniFocus Premium Posts which includes a detailed section on how to set up contexts for use with OmniFocus).

You might use location-based notifications to put together a shopping list, or defer work-based tasks until you get back to the office (a practice I have recently adopted to help me “leave work at work” and be fully engaged when I’m at home with my family). Location-based notifications have revolutionized the way I use OmniFocus and made it much more useful for me.

For example: if I think of something work-related I need to do while I’m at home, I “quick capture” the task to my OmniFocus inbox with a context of “Office” and a notification fires when I get to the office the next day. I get it off my mind and into a trusted system, but I don’t want to really do anything about that task until I get back to the office. I don’t need to be reminded and I don’t want to get that notification until I am in the space to do something about it, so location-based notifications tied to the context of “office” help me to filter those things out and defer them until I’m in a space (mentally & physically) to do something about it.

How to set it up

You can watch the screencast that has step-by-step instructions or you can read along with the text underneath the screencast:

Here’s how you set up location-based notifications for your OmniFocus contexts:

First, you must have at least one context created in OmniFocus. You can do this in OmniFocus 2 for iPhone by pressing the “Contexts” button and then pressing the “Add Context” button (if you already have your contexts created, you can simply press on the context and press on it again to view the information screen for that context).

Contexts are VERY important!

Press here…

... then here.

… then here.

Next, name your context (in this example, I’ve named my context “Grocery Store”).

Name your context

Name your context appropriately.

After you’ve named your context, press the “Location” tab, and press “None”. This will allow you to choose a location for this context.

There are several ways you can do this:

There are 6 ways to assign a location to a context in Omnifocus 2 for iPhone.

There are 6 ways to assign a location to a context in Omnifocus 2 for iPhone.

  1. Here: Selecting “Here” makes your current location the location for this context. You would use this if you were already at the store, for example.
  2. Anywhere: Selecting “Anywhere” makes this context always available. This isn’t very useful for this application of contexts, so we’ll skip over this one for now.
  3. Search: Selecting “Search” allows you to enter a keyword to search for, such as a business name (like your local grocery store, like I’ve done in this example).
  4. Address: Selecting “Address” allows you to enter the exact address if you know it already, such as your home or office address.
  5. Contact: Selecting “Contact” allows you select the address for one of your Contacts. For example, if you want to ask your mechanic a specific question next time you have your car in, you could set a task with a context of “Garage” or “Autoshop” and select the location from the mechanic’s address if it’s in your Contacts.
  6. Pin: Selecting “Pin” allows you press and hold to drop a pin at the location of your choice and use this as the location for this context. Dropping pins is a great way to remember certain locations you’ve never been before or don’t know the name of.

Once you have the location for this context, you can choose to not receive location-based notification (the default setting), receive notifications when arriving, or receiving notifications when leaving. For this example, I’ll be making a shopping list so I’ve selected the “When Arriving” option as getting our shopping list as we’re leaving the store won’t do us any good.

How you set up notifications is important!

How you set up notifications is important!

You can also change the distance from the location you want OmniFocus to notify you from. According to the OmniFocus 2 for iPhone manual, the small dot is approximately 200 meters (or 650 feet) from the location, the middle dot is about 500 meters (1/4 mile), and the large dot is about 10 kilometres (6.2 miles).

Now that our context is set up to notify us when we arrive at the location, we can begin adding tasks using this context. The iPhone version of OmniFocus is great for this as the iPhone is a great tool for “capturing” tasks. To do this, just press the “Add Task” button in the lower-right corner.

Now we just have to fill in the details. We can do this now, or if we want to just “quick capture” we can store it in our inbox to be processed later. This is extremely helpful when you think of something you need to do (or something you need to get from the store) and don’t have time to fully process that thought but don’t want to forget it.

To finish creating the task, put in the task name (in this case, the name of the item on my shopping list), select the project (“Shopping List”) and select our new “Grocery Store” context.

That’s it! Now when you go to the grocery store, an iOS notification will pop up reminding you to get “Spaghetti Sauce”.

Location-based notifications in action.

Location-based notifications in action.

There are obviously many possible uses for location-based reminders using contexts in OmniFocus 2 for iPhone. I’ve only touched on a couple examples in this post and would love to hear about how you’re implementing them in the comments.

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Posted by K5  | February 7, 2017 at 3:19PM | Reply

Hi Mike,

I had been meaning to adjust my Locations-based contexts for a while now. I had forgotten how to change it, and was reminded periodically of tasks when I would pass our old house. Thanks for your post/video. Even 3 years later it’s useful.

By the way, my wife and I used to live in Ripon, WI. It’s great seeing all those local addresses we were familar with, in your examples. :-)

Posted by Christian  | March 23, 2015 at 9:50AM | Reply

You can edit the contexts when you select them from the list and then tap the first item in the list (which should be the context’s name).

Posted by Doug McCaughan  | March 3, 2015 at 4:07PM | Reply

Ditto! I cannot edit a context to add a location or change a location. The only way I see to get a location associated with a context is to create a new one.

Posted by Alex Wilson  | July 29, 2014 at 7:57AM | Reply

How on earth do you later go back and change the location? I have several that have run amok. They are notifying me when I am no where near their location even though I have them set for the 500 meter setting.

Either way I should be able to edit them. The only thing I can figure out right now is to create a new context with new details and reassign them.

Posted by Mike Schmitz  | July 30, 2014 at 9:43AM

Hi Alex, thanks for reading! Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to reproduce your issue on my iPhone 5S. Editing locations seems to be working fine for me, but the Omni Group support staff is top notch so I’m sure they’d be able to help you isolate the issue.

Posted by harringg  | June 15, 2014 at 8:31AM | Reply

How does having GPS always on affect betters life?

Posted by harringg  | June 15, 2014 at 4:32PM

“batteries life”

Posted by Mike Schmitz  | June 16, 2014 at 4:54PM

In my own personal experience, it doesn’t seem to have much of an effect. I tend to use my iPhone 5S pretty heavily and leave location services on all the time, and I can usually get about 2 days worth of heavy use before I have to plug in. I personally don’t think you have to worry too much about it. IMHO there are a lot of other things that can potentially have a much greater negative impact on battery life.

Here’s an Apple resource on how location services works in iOS 7 if you’re interested in digging in deeper:

Posted by Randy  | May 19, 2014 at 5:45PM | Reply

Thanks for a good, basic intro to location-based on contexts. Here’s a more advanced question:

Is there some way (using “Search” I’m guessing) to have the reminder pop up anytime you enter any one of a chain of stores. For example, if I want to be reminded to buy aspirin the next time I go into any Walgreens Drug store, will OF search for Walgreens and notify when I’m close to one? Or, does that function only work for one, specific Walgreens’ address?


Posted by Mike Schmitz  | May 19, 2014 at 9:58PM

Hi Randy, thanks for the feedback! The answer to your question is “sort of” – when you use the “Search” method of saving a location to a context, you have the option to “Assign Search to Context”. The catch is that when you do this, notifications for the context are turned off (according to the Omnifocus 2 for iPhone manual, check out pages 30-32 for more info:

So you could save the search to the context (“Walgreens”) and then when you press “Nearby” on the Omnifocus home screen it will find the nearest Walgreens for you. My example doesn’t work in that instance because it won’t notify you when you get there, though.

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