Using OmniFocus for Apple Watch

Apple Watch offers great opportunities for making OmniFocus even more useful. OmniFocus 2 for iOS includes a Watch extension designed deliberately for Apple’s most personal device, and brings your tasks into greater harmony with how you move through the day.

We built OmniFocus for Apple Watch to specifically address situations where having OmniFocus on your wrist is the best option, distilling it to the essence of what you need right now.

  • In the Dock — Keep OmniFocus in the Dock for the quickest possible access to the shape of your day. When you’re in the car trying to decide whether there’s time to squeeze in a stop at the drug store before picking up Fido from the vet, OmniFocus comes to the rescue with a summary view of your day.

  • OmniFocus Today — When you have a bit more time (and another hand free), the OmniFocus for Apple Watch home screen fills in the canvas of today’s most essential items so you can plan ahead. Jog your memory about the juice boxes for tonight’s soccer game, or if they’re stowed safely in the trunk, check off that task!

  • Continuity — When you’re using OmniFocus for Apple Watch, you’re not using it alone. Actions you check off are also marked completed on your iPhone, and from there, synced with your other devices. And views carry over, too! Get set up for a meeting by visiting the Weekly one-on-one context on your phone, then put it away — it’s available right there on your Apple Watch.

  • A Relevant Presence — OmniFocus for Apple Watch is with you when you need it. Notifications — shared with iPhone — give you a gentle reminder on your wrist, just as you’ve set them up to do. Never miss an item on a grocery list, and never miss a thought for that new novel — raise your wrist with the OmniFocus app, and with a Force Touch and a tap, speak to add the idea to your database.

To get started with OmniFocus for Apple Watch, see the Setting Up OmniFocus for Apple Watch section below.

A note about OmniFocus and Apple Watch Series 3 (GPS + Cellular)

Alongside iOS 11, Apple released the first Apple Watch devices equipped with cellular connectivity independent of your iPhone. These devices allow you to make calls, send texts, and receive notifications from your iPhone over LTE, even when your phone isn’t with you.

However, OmniFocus is not able to sync on the Apple Watch using cellular data without the iPhone connected, as the Apple Watch hardware on its own is incapable of managing our database model. While this type of app independence isn’t yet possible with the power of the current Apple Watch, hopefully there’ll be advancements in this area as the device evolves in the future!

What’s New in OmniFocus for watchOS 3?

With the release of iOS 10 comes watchOS 3, which includes Dock access for your favorite apps, new complications, improved performance, and more. We got started right away developing a new version of OmniFocus for Apple Watch to go with it. To access it, you’ll need three things:

  • iOS 10 on your iPhone
  • OmniFocus 2.17 for iOS or later, also on your iPhone (a free update from previous versions)
  • watchOS 3 on your Apple Watch

After installing iOS 10 on your iPhone you can update your Apple Watch to watchOS 3 over the air — follow the instructions in the Watch app to get set up. If you’re new to Apple Watch, see below for more detail on setting things up for the first time.

With iOS 10, OmniFocus 2.17 (or later), and watchOS 3 installed, open the Watch app and make sure OmniFocus is enabled, and you’re good to go!

In this update to OmniFocus for Apple Watch you’ll be able to add the app to your Dock (a new feature with watchOS 3), use the Digital Crown to scroll between views in the new and improved continuity slot, and customize your watch face with any size of complication that Apple Watch supports.

Adding OmniFocus to the Dock

watchOS 3 (available as a free upgrade to Apple Watch along with iOS 10 on your iPhone) adds the Dock, a new way of keeping tabs on the Apple Watch apps you use most. Click the side button to open it, and swipe left and right to navigate between summaries of frequently used and recently accessed apps. A row of dots below indicates the number of apps currently pinned there.

Adding OmniFocus for Apple Watch to the Dock, from the Dock in watchOS 3.

To add OmniFocus to the Dock, open the app on your Apple Watch and then open the Dock. OmniFocus appears in the list of recently opened apps, and if isn’t already pinned, you’ll see a button labeled “Keep in Dock”. Tap it and voila! Easy access from anywhere on your Apple Watch. To change the order of apps in the Dock, press and drag left or right. (To remove an app from the Dock, swipe up on it.)

Adding OmniFocus for Apple Watch to the Dock, from the Watch app in iOS 10.

Alternatively, you can use the Watch app on your iPhone to edit the contents of the Dock. On the Watch app’s home screen, scroll down to Dock settings and tap it. Here you’ll see which apps are in the Dock, and tap Edit to add, remove, or change the order in which they appear.

OmniFocus for Apple Watch displays its home screen in the Dock for a quick summary of what’s on your plate, along with whatever view you’ve chosen for the continuity slot (this reverts by default to the Next Up view after an hour, per Apple Watch specifications for the default Dock display).

Dialing In with the Digital Crown

New with watchOS 3, OmniFocus for Apple Watch adds multiple views to the continuity slot at the bottom of the home screen that you can switch between with a turn of the Digital Crown (or a vertical swipe of the watch face).

Up to three views are available, depending on how you have set your Today & Watch settings in OmniFocus for iOS (and whether OmniFocus Pro is installed).

The three different views available in the scrollable continuity slot with OmniFocus for Apple Watch on watchOS 3.

  1. Continuity — as with earlier versions of OmniFocus for Apple Watch, this view shows the same thing that you’re looking at in OmniFocus on your iPhone. (This mode is blank if you are viewing a screen on the iPhone that is otherwise already represented on the OmniFocus for Apple Watch home screen.)
  2. Next Up — this view shows the next item of relevance to you. This is generally the soonest due item (or oldest overdue item, if nothing is due today) in the perspective(s) chosen in OmniFocus for iOS’s Today & Watch settings.
  3. Custom Perspective (Pro) — with the OmniFocus for iOS Pro upgrade installed, this view shows the custom perspective you’ve chosen in OmniFocus for iOS’s Today & Watch settings. If you haven’t chosen one (or if you’re not using OmniFocus Pro), this slot isn’t available.

For more on customizing what appears in Next Up or choosing a custom perspective, see What Today Means to You.

Setting Up OmniFocus for Apple Watch

If you haven’t already paired Apple Watch to your iPhone, that should be your first order of business. On iPhone, open the Apple Watch app and tap Start Pairing.

Pairing your Apple Watch with your iPhone using the Apple Watch app in iOS 8.

When your iPhone and Apple Watch are successfully paired, you’ll be able to choose the apps you’d like to use there — OmniFocus among them. Scroll down in My Watch until you find OmniFocus, then tap it to view the individual settings. OmniFocus is set to show on Apple Watch by default, but if you’d like to change that you can do so here.

Once setup is complete on your iPhone, press the Digital Crown of your Apple Watch to access the home screen, where you’ll find the OmniFocus icon waiting for you. Tap the OmniFocus app icon to open the OmniFocus app on your Apple Watch.

Using OmniFocus for Apple Watch

We identified a few main situations where the personal, lightweight experience of Apple Watch can help OmniFocus users be more productive and worry less. OmniFocus for Apple Watch is carefully designed to work great in those situations.

Just the Facts, In the Dock

When you’re on the run (perhaps literally) and you’d like the quickest possible overview of tasks that matter to you today, click the side button of your Apple Watch to access the Dock. Then swipe horizontally until you see OmniFocus. (If you haven’t added OmniFocus to the Dock, you’ll find instructions here.)

As a mirror of the app’s home screen, the OmniFocus Dock summary contains the most important information about your upcoming work in one place. It accounts for times when you’re all caught up, too — either way, it’s a useful reminder when you have the nagging feeling that there’s something you’re forgetting.

Surveying Your Day with the OmniFocus Home Screen

When you have a little room to breathe, tap OmniFocus in the Dock or the OmniFocus icon on the Apple Watch home screen to visit the OmniFocus app itself.

The OmniFocus home screen shows a more detailed overview of your work, in a format deliberately tailored to today’s priorities. Because of the way it’s designed, the home screen acts as its own sort of ‘focus’ zone on what you’ve set as your most important tasks. This makes it great for viewing and updating the status of your day, without adding complexity that demands more of your attention.

The OmniFocus Apple Watch Home Screen, and viewing a color-coded list of your OmniFocus actions on Apple Watch

The top row is a condensed version of your Forecast, which counts items by due date. The second row counts the items you’ve marked with a flag and the unprocessed items in your inbox.

Tap any count on the home screen to open the list it represents. Each action shows a color-coded status circle — just like on OmniFocus for Mac and iOS — so you can immediately see which items are due, flagged, repeating, or completed.

Viewing a set of items from the OmniFocus for Apple Watch home screen is a great way to check off multiple items on a shopping list or work through a series of meeting notes, for example. Changes you make on your Apple Watch happen on your iPhone, too, and sync from there to any of your other devices with OmniFocus.

Always Within Reach — OmniFocus Across Devices

When you establish a relationship between your Apple Watch and your iPhone by pairing them, you forge the means by which OmniFocus for Apple Watch communicates with the outside world. Changes you make on one device are automatically synced with the other, and changes that appear on your iPhone get synced with all of your other sync-enabled OmniFocus devices.

Pairing your Apple Watch and your iPhone also enables a two-way workflow between them:

  1. The flow from OmniFocus on your iPhone to OmniFocus on your Apple Watch (which happens automatically);

  2. The flow from OmniFocus on your Apple Watch to OmniFocus on your iPhone (also called Handoff).

This connection provides the special feature of continuity between OmniFocus on your iPhone and Apple Watch in the continuity slot on the OmniFocus for Apple Watch home screen.

If a certain list or Perspective is especially important to you right now — groceries, nearby actions, or your daily review, for example — open it up on your iPhone. The same list appears on the OmniFocus for Apple Watch home screen, in the continuity slot at the bottom. As you navigate around OmniFocus for iPhone, OmniFocus for Apple Watch keeps up so you can put any project, context, or custom perspective right on your wrist.

Continuity in OmniFocus for Apple Watch

Even with the iPhone put away, the list remains on Apple Watch so you can have easy access to it anywhere. And all the grouping and sorting of your OmniFocus lists are preserved on Apple Watch, so your items are organized by project, context, date, and so on, just as you are used to seeing them.

Handoff from Apple Watch to iPhone as it appears on the iPhone lock screen.

If you need to work with your items in more detail, the continuity goes both ways. Swipe the Handoff icon on your iPhone’s home screen to go directly to the same list, Perspective, or individual item you were just viewing on your Apple Watch.

Staying in the Loop with Notifications

OmniFocus for Apple Watch is designed to be an app that lives with you on your wrist. It doesn’t try to replace OmniFocus on your iPhone or your Mac; instead, it takes a single role seriously and does it as well as it possibly can, by showing information on things you’ve defined as most important in the here-and-now.

This includes notifications, which work on your Apple Watch just like notifications on your iPhone. “Item due” alerts have the same options to complete the item right then or snooze it (deferring the reminder — but not the due date of the action itself — for another 15 minutes).

An OmniFocus notification on Apple Watch

Since OmniFocus for Apple Watch is relying on settings for alerts set up on your iPhone, the same level of control over location-based notifications is available there. So, for example, your Apple Watch can let you know — gently — that you’re forgetting that casserole for the potluck when you leave your house, or remind you as you’re leaving the office that Kristina mentioned something about tickets for tomorrow’s soccer game.

To get notifications working on your Apple Watch, open the Apple Watch app on your iPhone and scroll down in My Watch until you find Notifications. Tap it, and scroll down to the Mirror iPhone Alerts From section; make sure that OmniFocus is turned on.

How to set up mirroring OmniFocus alerts on your Apple Watch.

Because the Apple Watch app only controls which alerts are mirrored from your iPhone, you’ll also want to be sure that your iOS Notifications Settings include alerts from OmniFocus on your iPhone, too.

Make sure that Notifications from OmniFocus are included in the iOS Notifications Settings.

Interacting with Tasks

Much of the power of OmniFocus for Apple Watch comes from a design that shows you just what you choose for the near term — a scope designed for the customizable display on your wrist.

Making changes to your items is something we treat with similar reverence. We chose tools that make sense for editing on a personal, immediate device, that can be used quickly, conveniently, and efficiently — staying out of the way unless and until you need them.

Completing Actions

Completing actions in OmniFocus for Apple Watch is simple: wherever you see a status circle, tap it to complete the associated item. This is great for checking off lists viewed from the home screen, or completing items in the individual action view.

Note: Actions are the only items that can be marked complete in OmniFocus for Apple Watch. When you’re in need of more detailed control, the iOS and Mac apps are designed to be your trusted system for making other, more complex changes to the state of items in your database.

Adding Inbox Items

Adding items to your OmniFocus inbox is a top priority no matter which device you’re on. Since the Apple Watch doesn’t have a keyboard, a space-age alternative is available: you can use your voice to record the titles of new actions. Force Touch anywhere within the app to reveal the menu, then tap New Item and start speaking.

Dictating the content of a new item in OmniFocus on Apple Watch

Items added to OmniFocus in this way appear in your inbox, just as if you’d tapped the New Inbox Item button and created a task in OmniFocus for iOS. They’re transferred to your iPhone and tucked away safely until you have time to review them.

Note: If you have Reminders Capture set up on your iPhone, you can add OmniFocus items from anywhere on your Apple Watch. Speak to Siri as if you’re adding a reminder and she’ll make it so! See this support article for details on setting up Reminders Capture.

Flagging Actions

If you’re viewing the details of an action, you can flag (or unflag) it. Force Touch to show the menu, and tap Flag Item. This is a great way to promote a task to a more visible level of importance right away, without going to the trouble of assigning a due date or updating a context.

Flagging an action from its Menu in OmniFocus for Apple Watch

When you’re in a meeting, in transit, or otherwise pressed for time that can be devoted to OmniFocus on your iPhone, flagging important actions on your Apple Watch is a good way to remember that they’ll need some attention soon.

Viewing Action Details

The greatest amount of detail in OmniFocus for Apple Watch can be found by tapping the title of an action in any of the app’s list views.

Viewing the details of an action in OmniFocus on Apple Watch

  1. Screen Title — When navigating deeper in the app, the colored text at the top of the screen — the screen title — tells you which screen you’re viewing.

  2. Action Title — When viewing an action in detail, its title is prominently displayed here.

  3. Project — If the action is assigned to a project, the related project is shown here.

  4. Due Date — Likewise, if the action has a due date, you’ll see it here.

  5. Status Circle — Finally, the large status circle provides an easy target for tapping to complete it.

What Today Means to You

OmniFocus 2.7 for iOS added a Today & Watch setting to its settings screen that offers the ability to customize what today means to you. On Apple Watch, the setting you choose here governs the items that are displayed in the Next Up view of the continuity slot as well as the OmniFocus Complication on your watch face (if you choose to use it).

The options for this setting include a variety of high priority categories that you can choose to represent items most important to you and your workflow. Due Today is the default selection; however you can choose one or more of the following:

  • Overdue
  • Due Today
  • Due Soon
  • Deferred Until Today
  • Flagged
  • Inbox Items

With the OmniFocus for iOS Pro upgrade, you also have the option of choosing a custom perspective instead of the above presets. The custom perspective count appears in your Complication instead, and can be selected as one of the views in the continuity slot on the home screen of OmniFocus on your Apple Watch.

Adding Complications

A variety of Complications — “widgets” you can add to your Apple Watch face — are included with OmniFocus for Apple Watch on watchOS 3. You can choose one for your preferred watch face in a few simple steps:

  1. Force Touch the Apple Watch face to get to the face selection screen.
  2. Tap Customize.
  3. Your watch face may have several screens that display different areas of customization. If so, swipe through them to find the Complications screen.
  4. Tap the Complication you’d like to update.
  5. Use the Digital Crown to scroll through the available Complications until the OmniFocus Complication appears.
  6. Press the Digital Crown to confirm your choice and exit customization.

An Apple Watch face with an OmniFocus for Apple Watch Complication enabled.

Additional Resources

See a preview of OmniFocus for Apple Watch on the OmniFocus product page.

For more general information on using your Apple Watch, see Apple’s great video tutorials.

The official OmniFocus Forums are also a great place to find out more innovative uses for OmniFocus, and interact with passionate OmniFocus users.

The OmniFocus for iOS documentation provides an introduction to the app as a whole, and Inside OmniFocus highlights specific ways that some experienced users have customized OmniFocus to suit their needs.

Last Modified: Oct 2, 2017

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