Collecting with Siri in OmniFocus 2

If you’re using OmniFocus 2 on an iOS device with Siri (iPhone 4S and later, iPad 3rd generation and later, all iPad Minis, and iPod Touch 5th generation), and you would like it to keep track of the reminders you give to Siri, 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 2 so it captures your reminders from Siri:

  • On your Siri-enabled device, drag down from near the top of the OmniFocus home screen to reveal the secret bar (on iPhone), or drag down on the home sidebar (iPad and iPhone 6 Plus) to reveal the secret bar.

  • Tap Settings in the secret bar.

  • 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 on 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 launched, 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.

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)

The approach OmniFocus takes is to report every reminder it can, as long as it doesn’t fall into one of the “avoids capturing” criteria listed in the prior section. In addition, as of OmniFocus 2.7 (our update for iOS 9) the app now leaves captured reminders in Reminders on a special list. This way, any reminders with extra information unavailable to OmniFocus are still accessible.

A reminder captured under this scheme will have a special blurb of text appended to its note:

In Reminders, this reminder will be both completed and moved to a new list. To reveal it, open Reminders, select the “Captured by OmniFocus” list, and tap “Show Completed” at the bottom of the screen:

Last Modified: Nov 27, 2015

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