A lot of OmniFocus Premium Posts customers and OmniFocus users have been emailing us with one of their biggest challenges: they love OmniFocus but are forced to use Windows at work. What to do?
Well…you actually have a lot of options. Some workarounds are limited while others can make your workflow seamless. It really depends on the IT restrictions at work (firewall, forbidden web services, policies, etc) and how flexible you are.
None of these solutions are close to ideal (the best solution is to use a Mac at work) but some come pretty close. Some fixes only allow you to send stuff to OmniFocus (which is good enough for some people) whereas others want to use OmniFocus as their preferred task manager.
Just pick and choose the option that works for you. With that said, here are seven options available to you.
NOTE: If you want to know how to use OmniFocus effectively, check out our OmniFocus Premium Posts. It will show you how to set up, maintain and use OmniFocus the right way.
1. Bring Your iPad or Laptop to Work
If you got assigned a PC, you can always bring your iPad or Macbook to work. Some IT departments frown upon bringing your own gear but if yours is flexible, this is probably the best option.
For people who bring an iPad, we would recommend that you use an external keyboard for your daily work. It makes everything a lot more streamlined. We recommend either the Logitech’s Ultrathin Keyboard Cover or ZaggKeys Pro.
Some companies restrict internet access too. To work around this, just use the 4G/LTE connection on your iPad (if you have it) or tether your phone’s internet connection. The latter can be a little advanced but you basically share your phone’s data connection with your iPad. See this Apple documentation for how to do it.
2. Use Mail Drop
We’ve mentioned this tip before in our 10 simple OmniFocus tips. When you sign up for Omni Sync and use it as your sync solution, you’ll get a unique email addressed assigned.
Just email this address with your subject line as your OmniFocus entry and you’re all set. It will appear in your OmniFocus inbox seconds later.
Once you have this working, it’s really just a matter of making it easy for yourself to email this address. You want to make it frictionless for yourself to send email.
Assigning a shortcut to compose an email, and having a TextExpander snippet for your OmniFocus email address or a contact in your address book is the way to go.
Think of it as emulating the quick entry box you have on the Mac, except on Windows. That’s how easy and frictionless you want it to be.
3. Use Siri and Reminders on Your iPhone
An easy way to just capture stuff into OmniFocus is by using Siri on your iPhone. When you integrate Apple’s Reminders with OmniFocus, you can capture thoughts very quickly with Siri.
To set it up, open OmniFocus, go to Settings (gear icon bottom right) and then enable Reminders.
Now you can start capturing by using your voice knowing it will end up in OmniFocus. Just invoke Siri, say “remember to ….” and you’re set.
The disadvantage of using Reminders is that you need to launch the OmniFocus iOS app to retrieve items from your Reminders list. Otherwise, the stuff on your Reminders list will just stay there until you open OmniFocus on your iPhone/iPad.
This is a not big issue if you use the OmniFocus iOS app a lot but it’s something you want to keep in mind. If you go to your Mac and don’t see the items in your inbox, it’s probably because you “forgot” to open OmniFocus on your iPhone/iPad to sync it up.
Fortunately, there is also a workaround for this. Daniel Jalkut wrote a little script that can check Reminders in the background and then important stuff from Reminders into OmniFocus.
You can read more about it here. This is a little advanced so I wouldn’t recommend it to everyone. If you have trouble having the script run a certain interval (Daniel recommends using OS X’s cron) you can always use Lingon or Keyboard Maestro to make it a little easier.
4. Use iCloud Reminders
To follow up on the previous solution, once you have that set up, you can also access Reminders from the iCloud website.
When you go to iCloud.com and login, you’ll see the Reminders web app. From here you can add items to your list and they will be added to your OmniFocus inbox too!
Again, the downside of using Reminders is that you have to open the OmniFocus iOS app in order to get all the things on your Reminders list eventually in OmniFocus.
If you enter stuff from iCloud Reminders and never open OmniFocus on your iPhone/iPad, you won’t see these items in your OmniFocus inbox on your Mac. That’s something to be aware of.
5. Virtual Machines
This option is a little advanced but it’s a great option: use a virtual machine. For those who don’t know what this is, you can have simultaneously Windows and OS X running on the same computer.
For example, you will start your computer in Windows, and then start OS X as a separate application window. So you can actually see OS X as a “separate program” while you are in Windows.
You can do this with programs such as VMWare Fusion or VirtualBox. For this to work though, your computer needs to have enough hard drive space, enough RAM and a fast enough processor. Most computers younger than two years should be good enough out of the box.
Plus you’ll need to have a copy of OS X and be comfortable enough to install it.
This is a great option but really targeted for those who are tech savvy and are comfortable running another operating system on the same computer.
6. Remote Access
For those who can’t or don’t want to use virtual machines, here’s the next best thing: remote access.
This is where you leave your Mac turned on at home and remotely access it from your workplace. Most IT departments don’t like this but if you have the option, we recommend this one to most people.
You install one of these apps on your Mac and then configure the access control. Once it’s set up, you install the client app on your Windows computer and then login.
Yes, it is secure as long as you use a strong password.
This option is great as long as you have a fast internet connection at home and at work.
7. Text files, Dropbox and Hazel
This tip is from Jason Verly, an avid Asian Efficiency reader, and it’s so geeky and efficient. You can find out about the tip right here.
What you want to do is set up Dropbox, Hazel and a text file to get tasks into OmniFocus. In his example, he uses “of.txt” as the text file.
All you have to do is create of.txt (that is in Dropbox), enter all the stuff you want in OmniFocus, and save it. Dropbox will sync the file and on your Mac and Hazel will detect that the file is there. It will open the text file and import all data into OmniFocus with each line as its own task.
This is a quick and easy way to capture stuff into your OmniFocus inbox. You can find all the instructions here.
Pick Your Option
Working in a Windows environment doesn’t have to be a hindrance to use OmniFocus. There are plenty of ways to use OmniFocus as long as your IT department is okay with your approach and you are flexible enough with the workarounds. Which approach is working for you?
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