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How to Integrate OmniFocus When You Have to Use Windows at Work

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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.

OmniFocus Mail Drop

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.

Enable Reminders in OmniFocus on iOS.

Enable Reminders in OmniFocus on iOS.

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

Reminders on www.icloud.com

Reminders on www.icloud.com

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.

Host OS X on your PC.

Host OS X on your PC.

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.

With programs such as LogMeIn or TeamViewer this is easily doable.

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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32 Comments

Posted by Ben Arnold (  | June 27, 2013 at 12:25PM | Reply

These are great tips, but I’m more concerned about workflow. How do I do my daily/weekly review? I have a MacBook Air at work, but basically am a Windows System Administrator. I *try* to use Omnifocus for my to-do management, but the reality is I’m always logged in to my Windows desktop and always forget to get the MacBook Air out of my bag.

Posted by Thanh Pham  | June 27, 2013 at 12:32PM

I think if you supplement your workflow with an iPad, that will simplify that workflow. That way you can have your tablet with you as you are on your PC all day.

Another way to look at it is that you see the PC/Windows as a different “context” in your OmniFocus setup. This is a different mindset to go about working, but what it does is it makes your Mac/iOS setup your “control center” and all Windows/PC computers are a subset of that (you can even create a context “Windows” in OmniFocus and use that in your workflow).

Posted by Evan  | June 27, 2013 at 11:30PM | Reply

Someone actually made a tool that lets you set a hotkey on Windows that opens a quick task entry box that then syncs via Dropbox over to Omnifocus. I’ve since moved to just using Maildrop, but I wrote about it a while back:

http://www.40tech.com/2012/02/26/how-mac-only-omnifocus-can-accept-tasks-via-a-quick-entry-dialog-box-on-your-windows-pc/

Posted by Dan Sauvé  | June 28, 2013 at 9:40PM | Reply

I’m stuck using Windows 7 at work now unfortunately (after 8 years of being able to use a Mac, seems like a step backwards, eh? :) and have found that Spootnik sync (http://www.spootnik.net/) to be very reliable. Setting it up to run in a single-site browser (using Chrome works great for me) it’s pretty good and the closest I’ve come to getting an Omnifocus quick-entry panel that doesn’t disrupt my workflow on Windows.

Posted by pippo  | August 5, 2013 at 11:32AM | Reply

Good post.

But the real issue is when you want to check your to do list while on the go – and the assumption here is that you either have an iPhone or on iPad handy. Which is not always the case.

Anyone figured out a way how to mail to yourself a pdf with a summary of tasks daily?

Posted by Vincent  | September 7, 2013 at 4:10PM | Reply

Here it’s the Virtual Option.

Need to work with Windows (for Visual Studio). This I’ll run in Parallels (a better option then VMWare Fusion I think). And so I’ve the best of both worlds!

Posted by Faisal  | September 12, 2013 at 7:41AM | Reply

I use windows and wanted Omnifocus on my computer a while back when I was searching for a new tool. I came across http://doit.im/ which seemed to be the closest thing for a PC. It also is web enabled (so cross platform) and has both iOS and Android apps to go along. It is fairly customizable and worked well for me.

Posted by KarChun  | September 21, 2013 at 1:53AM | Reply

i use a combo of method 1 & 5.
pre-requisite: jailbroken iPhone with Veency installed and TightVNC portable app.

When i’m working on windows machine, i’ll tether my laptop to iPhone via cable/bluetooth. Using TightVNC to control my iPhone (like a virtual machine). I can access all my apps (including Omnifocus) on the laptop and use Omnifocus as though as it’s installed in my laptop.

Posted by Tay  | October 14, 2013 at 5:49AM | Reply

Only works if you have Omnifocus 2 for iPhone.

#1. Set up Omnifocus app so that it can capture task via Reminders
#2. Go to iCloud.com and enter your task in Reminders
#3. Wait for it to sync and voila!

You can now use Omnifocus via the web / PC with internet connection.

Posted by Doug  | December 14, 2013 at 11:23PM | Reply

In an era where more and more companies are getting hit by malware, more IT departments are going to get get smart and stop BYOD, especially if that device has WiFi and Bluetooth, and which ones don’t. As a result, any to do management app, if it wishes to remain competitive, will have to have a decent web app. Omnifocus needs to do better than relying on spootnik to fill this void in their product line. Next time you talk to Omnifocus, please encourage them to do this. I love Omnifocus, but I work in a location where a decent web app is needed and spootnik barely handles it.

Posted by Steven Landau  | April 3, 2014 at 10:25PM

I just spend a few hours developing plans with evernote for a team. Data collection is fine, but delegation and tracking of progress, no thanks.

I want a multi-user online omnifocus, with both private and public tasks.

Steven Landau
Vice President
SPEC Process Engineering & Construction
17A Street
Burlington, MA 01803  USA
“The Engineers who Build”
http://www.spec-eng.com
Skype: SPEC_ENG

Posted by CBG  | May 24, 2014 at 5:38PM

Have you taken a look at ?

Posted by CBG  | May 24, 2014 at 5:39PM

Posted by Pete Schunk  | March 6, 2014 at 3:26PM | Reply

I use Omnifocus on my iPad and Omnifocus 2 on my iPhone, which works great. The problem I now have is that the owner of the company would like to be able to view my progress from his PC. Is this possible? and is it possible for me to add and edit projects from my PC at work?

Posted by Joshua  | March 30, 2014 at 10:12PM | Reply

I’m using omnifocus over 7 years. I have bit of a problem since I force to use windows machine for certain project. Is there any omnifocus windows client? I’ve tried spootnik before but it isn’t what I’ve been looking for.

Posted by Andrew  | April 25, 2014 at 5:47AM | Reply

LIke Joshua, I am also interested in a windows version of Omnifocus, or at least an alternative – you’ve talked it up guys, I would love to have a go at using this in my everyday life (your site has been a game changer for me, and I will be making a lot of changes to my life in 2014!).

But there is zero chance of me using or changing over to Apple… so, back to a Windows-based alternative?

Posted by CBG  | May 24, 2014 at 5:36PM | Reply

One alternative that hasn’t been mentioned is the ability to sync Outlook tasks to Mac/iOS Reminders via the Exchange Server. If you set up an Exchange account in Reminders, your main “Task List” in Outlook will sync. You can then sync that Reminders list into Omnifocus – this also works for Things or any other Mac-based productivity app that will sync with the main Reminders list.

Posted by Giggs  | June 19, 2014 at 8:42AM | Reply

Too bad for me I didn’t find your article earlier… I had to leave Omnifocus because of that. It’s a shame. However I found a pretty good alternative that is web based accessible from any web browser (no more OS problems, never again!). It is Beesy.me and it works as fine as Omnifocus, if not better. I also managed to convince almost all my collaborators to switch to this solution in order to allow more collaborative work.
Anyway, I wonder when Omnifocus will finally develop a windows version…

Posted by Gwen  | November 21, 2014 at 12:47PM | Reply

Instead of creating an OmniFocus for the PC, how about a browser based version? Then I can do a weekly review with full Contexts from my employer’s OS du jour.

Posted by RR  | January 18, 2015 at 9:41AM | Reply

Am I crazy or Omnifocus has all these suggestions but does not have web access Or browser based login such as todoist and other apps?

If not, than something wrong with the architectural design here.

Posted by Craig Webster  | May 21, 2015 at 9:30AM | Reply

I use Focus GTD app on my Android phone to dump tasks into the inbox. This syncs nicely with Omnifocus and I use my iPad or Mac to carry out the review. A web based Omnifocus would be great though since it would allow me to use my PC at work.

Posted by Iain  | June 22, 2015 at 6:12AM | Reply

Hi,

just to add to the thinking of taking your own device to work. I have also done this but use this tool to share mouse and keyboard, which also reduces the “drag” of adopting this approach

http://www.j5create.com/our-products/wormhole-switches/juc400.html

Posted by Clay Wagner  | July 30, 2015 at 11:46AM | Reply

I use my iPad. I have it on my desk next to my monitor and use it throughout the day. There is the expense of having a Mac version as well as the iOS version but the return on my productivity well outweighs the initial cost. My biggest challenge is my team loves and uses Asana. (Ugh) They want to track my progress and projects. In the end I have to do double entries.
Rather do that, because I am NEVER giving up Ominfocus! (Thanks to your Premium Post)

Posted by Thanh Pham  | July 30, 2015 at 12:39PM

Yeah we haven’t found a good workaround for using Asana and OmniFocus together. I had to do double entries too.

Posted by Bill S  | August 21, 2015 at 10:01AM | Reply

Even if there was just a web based dashboard to see the tasks of the day / week… that would be a start. Anybody know if OmniFocus has ever considered this sort of personal web based dashboard?

Posted by Greg  | September 27, 2015 at 2:50PM | Reply

I implement GTD through Outlook at work, but was thinking of getting OmniFocus for my iPhone (the Good application on my iPhone, which I have to use for work, just doesn’t cut it). Because of security concerns, I cannot use a third-party sync service for my calendar and tasks. When I used PocketInformant on my iPhone, I was able to download tasks, etc., to a flashdrive, import it to my home computer, and then sync Outlook directly from my desktop to PocketInformant on my iPhone over my home network. Is there a similar work around I can use for OmniFocus?

Posted by Dennis  | November 7, 2015 at 3:08PM | Reply

@Greg, would you be willed to share how you implemented GTD through Outlook?

Posted by Randy Degner  | June 3, 2016 at 12:10PM | Reply

Set up your iCloud account to sync with Outlook. In Reminders on your iOS device, create a folder from which you want OmniFocus to capture tasks. Reminders will sync tasks, and all folders, with Tasks in Outlook. Turn on Reminders Caputure in OmniFocus on your iOS device and select the appropriate folder. When you add a new task to that folder in Outlook Tasks, iCloud will sync it with Reminders on your device, which will then be caputured by OmniFocus and removed from Reminders and Outlook.

Posted by Paul Newcomb  | July 7, 2016 at 1:18PM | Reply

For those android users worried about not having iphone/ipad access, check out an app called “Focus GTD” in the play store. It’s no replacement for the official iOS app, but it’s pretty decent.

Posted by Martin Loeb  | August 28, 2016 at 5:52PM | Reply

Dear all, just downloaded Focus GTD on a new Android phone *being myself an apple ios, osx user for some time. The mentioned app is currently not working against the Omnifocus server, as OF has done a major change lately and these guys did not follow.
Wrote a mail to see when they will come back with a workable app.
Any other Onmifocus app that can work on Androd? another question. any easy quick sync for Omnifocus with Office 365?

Posted by ikomrad  | September 9, 2016 at 5:06PM | Reply

None of these ideas answer the question – is there a Windows task management application that is functionally equivalent to Omnifocus? Perspectives, including review, defer date, due date, integration with email and other services, ..

Posted by Doug Duker  | December 4, 2016 at 11:11AM | Reply

This is a great article. In this era of cloud computing the real answer maybe to abandon the OSX version in exchange for a great web app. This would make the functionality accessible in all browsers PC, MAX, Linux, etc.

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