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Collecting with Siri in OmniFocus with Reminders Capture

This article has not been updated for OmniFocus 4.

Update: OmniFocus 2.21, released alongside iOS 11, introduced support for using Siri to access OmniFocus directly. Direct Siri integration is also available in OmniFocus 3 for iOS. To learn more, check out the OmniFocus 3 Reference Manual for iOS: Interacting With Siri.

This article describes an older method of collecting from Siri using the Reminders app, and may still be useful for those looking to use Reminders as a way to migrate tasks from other applications or services into OmniFocus.

OmniFocus for iOS offers a Reminders Capture feature on Siri-compatible devices, which will import information from Apple’s Reminders app. This includes items dictated using Siri into the Reminders app (hereinafter referred to as “reminders”). If you’re using OmniFocus on an iOS device with Siri (iPhone 4S and later, iPad 3rd generation and later, iPad Pro, all iPad Minis, and iPod Touch 5th generation and later), all you need to do is check a few settings on your device and you can start adding spoken items to your Inbox in no time.

To set up OmniFocus so it captures your reminders from Siri:

  • In OmniFocus 3 on your iPhone or iPad, navigate to the Home screen and tap the Settings icon. In OmniFocus 2, swipe down on the OmniFocus home screen to reveal the secret bar and tap Settings (on iPhone), or drag down on the home sidebar (iPad and iPhone Plus) to reveal the secret bar, then tap Settings.

  • In the Capture section, tap Reminders.

  • You’ll see the Reminders screen. Tap Allow Access to Reminders to prompt OmniFocus to request access. If you’ve previously declined reminders access, tap “Open Settings” to enable this capability. Finally, turn on the Reminders Capture switch in the OmniFocus settings. If you only have one reminders list, no additional configuration will be necessary. (If you have multiple Reminders lists configured, you’ll need to select a single list you want OmniFocus to capture from.)

OmniFocus 2 for iPhone — Reminders Capture Settings

OmniFocus 2 for iPad — Reminders Capture Settings

Warning: You should only configure Reminders Capture on a single iOS device. If you rely on iCloud to sync your reminders across devices and you have OmniFocus on iPad and iPhone, you could end up with duplicate entries in your Inbox.

To record a new Inbox item with Siri, try these phrases:

  • “Siri, remember to…” records a task to the system default Reminders list. OmniFocus grabs it from that list if it’s the one you have chosen to capture.

  • “Siri, remind me to…at (date and time)” records a task to the default list, and assigns a due date.

    In iOS 8, you can now use “remember to” and “remind me to” somewhat interchangeably. If you specify a time after either of these phrases, it will be assigned as a due date.

  • “Siri, remind me when I get to (or leave)…” records a task to the default list with a contact location attached. If you choose a specific location, make sure it matches an OmniFocus context location.

Note: Use the small dot distance (200 meters/650 feet) if you would like OmniFocus to capture Siri-transcribed actions associated with that location.

  • “Add … to my OmniFocus list” records a task to a list named OmniFocus if you have one set up in Reminders. OmniFocus captures the task if that’s the list you’ve chosen.

  • Replace OmniFocus with the name of whatever list you’d prefer!

What Gets Captured?

One of our primary goals with Reminders Capture is to avoid losing your data during import. OmniFocus will try to bring along as much metadata as possible, but we don’t have a direct equivalent for everything that can be set on a Reminder. During import, OmniFocus will capture the following bits of information on a task:

  • The title
  • The due date
  • The plain-text notes
  • One alarm (as the due date, if no explicit due date is set)
  • One location (as a location-based context)
  • The repetition rule (if it’s regular or fixed-interval)

OmniFocus avoids capturing a given reminder, leaving it in the original list, if:

  • It has already been marked completed
  • It has any attendees from its source calendar
  • It has more than one alarm
  • It has an irregular repeat interval (e.g. “Every first Thursday”)
  • It has a location that doesn’t match any existing context
  • It has a location, but location-based alerts are turned off in OmniFocus

OmniFocus will try to capture reminders every time the app is opened, and at regular intervals thereafter (e.g. when a sync happens). This way, if you go back and modify a reminder in the Reminders app, OmniFocus can take another shot at capturing that reminder the next time you return to our app.

An Important Note on Reminders Capture

Please note: We’ve designed this feature to migrate as much information as possible from Apple’s Reminders app into OmniFocus. In order to prevent you from having duplicates at the end of this import process, OmniFocus will remove the original reminder from the Reminders app after it has been imported into OmniFocus. If you’ve configured the Reminders app to sync tasks with another service like Outlook or Google, the deleted reminder will also be removed from any other devices you’re syncing with. This means that if you want to use OmniFocus without removing any tasks from the Reminders app or services that sync with Reminders, you probably don’t want to turn on the Reminders Capture option.

If you decide not to use Reminders Capture, fear not! There are still many other methods for capturing data into OmniFocus 2 for iOS.

iOS 9 “Remember This” Limitations

In iOS 9, Apple introduced the ability to have Siri remind you about things you’re looking at in your apps and want to follow up on later. If you’re in the middle of composing an email, you can say “Remind me about this tonight” to get taken back to your draft later on. When you set up a reminder about “this,” an app can offer a deep link back to itself, so you can return to this point via a reminder.

Unfortunately, Apple does not expose these links through the third-party APIs that OmniFocus use to read Reminders data. As a result, we’re met with a few limitations when importing reminders:

  • OmniFocus can’t read the deep links Siri puts on reminders to take you back into an app
  • OmniFocus doesn’t know when it encounters a reminder with a deep link that can’t be read
  • OmniFocus can’t link to a specific reminder within the Reminders app (or even to the Reminders app in general)
Last Modified: Dec 13, 2023

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