Monday, September 25, 2017

OmniFocus and Siri on iOS 11

Ryan Christoffel:

In iOS 11, Siri can fulfill all kinds of OmniFocus-related requests. Many of these will be similar commands to what you might use for Reminders, only with ‘in OmniFocus’ added to the end. For example, “Add ‘Write the history essay’ to my School list in OmniFocus.” There are three main areas of functionality:

  • Task creation: This includes the ability to add tasks to certain projects and create time or location-based reminders. You can even create a new project entirely.
  • Task completion: Simply put, you can mark items as complete with your voice.
  • Searching: This allows Siri to display a visual representation of different lists of tasks, such as ones due today, ones created today, or all tasks belonging to a certain project.

I went to try these and found that the new Siri features didn’t work because I was using OmniFocus 2.19.1, the last version supported by the “legacy support edition.” The current version is 2.21.1, but to get it I needed to download the “universal” version of app. Then I went to Preferences > Synchronization > Show Sync Details… > Unregister to prevent the old version of the app from bogging down syncing.

My primary concern is being able to dictate longish notes and have them show up as new tasks in OmniFocus. Previously, the best way I found to do this was to say “Make a reminder.” Then Siri would prompt me for the text, and I could dictate a complete sentence. This was much better than the “Add ___ to my reminder’s list” formulation. The problem with both of these, though, is that Siri would look for anything in the text that sounded like a day or a time, remove those words, and then try to stick them into the reminder’s due date. So it would mangle what I said and then assign an unwanted date.

Now, I can say “Add a task in OmniFocus.” This seems to bypass the unwanted parsing, and it also saves a step by creating the task directly in OmniFocus instead of using the shared Reminders list, which sometimes led to duplicates being imported.

There are still some problems, though. Sometimes, when I say “Add a task in OmniFocus” it will not go into the mode where it lets me dictate. Instead, Siri will say something like “I found 25 reminders” and then show a list of some OmniFocus tasks. I have no idea why this happens since the Siri screen shows that it understood what I had said.

Also, the length limit for OmniFocus seems to be even shorter than for Reminders. After a sentence, or even a long clause, even if I’m careful not to pause, Siri will decide she’s done listening, truncate my task, and throw away everything else I said.

This can be avoided by manually creating a new task in OmniFocus and tapping the microphone button. Then I can say as much as I want. But, as far as I know, there’s no way to initiate this via Siri.

Previously: Adventures in Siri Failures: Reminders Edition.

Update (2017-09-26): Gok:

You can use hold-to-talk to prevent recording from stopping. Hold down the Siri button (hardware or software) until you’re done.

However, I mostly use this feature in the car, where I don’t want to have to hold down the button.

Update (2024-05-28): I’m now using iOS 17, and “Add a task in OmniFocus.” does not bypass the unwanted parsing. There does not seem to be a way to make a task with literal text.

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[…] also use Siri and Reminders to enter tasks into OmniFocus. This works better for me than using Siri with OmniFocus directly. The problem is that if I then enter a […]

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