Drafts is a simple yet extremely versatile iOS editor and capture tool popular with many who use their iPhone and iPad for more than WhatsApp, playing games or watching movies. It is my favourite scratch pad to capture thoughts but also longer notes for later processing.
Drafts starts up at the blink of an eye and is ready to go: Just start typing. The versatility comes with the Actions you can build yourself or install from the Drafts Actions Directory. You can add all sorts of Actions for many useful workflows and Apps, but for a start, lets look at the best Actions already available to work with OmniFocus.
Simple Capture with Drafts
In 80% of all cases I use Drafts to capture a single word, topic or a fully defined todo I want to add to OmniFocus for later processing. It is just simpler and faster than actually opening OmniFocus itself. In the Drafts Actions Directory there are a number of options available for this workflow.
Agile Tortoise, developer of Drafts, already provides an Action that takes your entries to OmniFocus via the iOS Reminders App: It adds the task to a specific Reminders list and calls OmniFocus afterwards. If you turned on Reminders Capture in OmniFocus' settings and pointed it to the same Reminders list, it'll simply pick up the Action and add it to your Inbox.
Independent of your Drafts Action, using Reminders offers a couple of advantages:
- You can use Reminders (or Apps like Fantastical which integrate with Reminders) as another capture method
- If dictation is your thing you can also use Siri to add tasks to OmniFocus via Reminders
The Agile Tortoise Action creates a todo from each line of your Drafts document. If you prefer slightly different treatments of your draft there are a number of variations available to you:
- OmniFocus List via Reminders by maddenwalker allows you to define a note delimiter, for example "|" (pipe) with the text in the same row after it becoming the note of your task
- FantastiFocus by @richturton leverages Fantastical and its natural language parsing to get your todo into Reminders and later into OmniFocus
If you prefer the direct path to OmniFocus there are Drafts Actions that use the OmniFocus URL scheme to do exactly that. Again Agile Tortoise provides an out-of-the-box Action which actually allows you to select a part of our Drafts document and add this selection to your OmniFocus Inbox. The way selection works in Drafts will cause Actions to default back to add the entire text in case you have not made any selection.
A variation of this Action, also from Agile Tortoise, takes the first line of your draft as the task title and adds the rest of the document as a note to OmniFocus.
If you want to add multiple todos — represented by the lines in your draft — straight to OmniFocus the OmniFocus List Action by @y_sotomayor has you covered. It also offers a delimiter option to add task notes in the same line.
Now that you have some simple workflows lets look at a more complex use case: Processing entire meeting minutes looking for todos which need to be added to OmniFocus.
Add todos from meeting minutes to OmniFocus
SimplicityBliss reader @jmvfr has developed a set of wonderful Actions which look for any lines in your meeting minutes captured in Drafts that start with @ and a space. These lines are recognised as todos and added to OmniFocus. By using ":" as a delimiter in the same line, you can also add notes
- Process Notes to OmniFocus via default Reminders list uses your default Reminders list to bridge into OmniFocus
- Process Notes to OmniFocus via "List in Reminders" uses another Drafts Action — yes, Draft Actions can call other Drafts Actions — which allows you to use a different Reminders list than the default one
Chaining: Extract todos and save the note
The master level of Draft Actions is chaining different Apps together to automate a complex workflow which a single touch.
Building on @jmvfr's work @edexistant created the Process To Evernote and OmniFocus Action which looks for the todos marked with an @ + space at the start of the row, add them to OmniFocus and then save the entire meeting minutes to Evernote.
If you do not use Evernote to store your meeting minutes and prefer Byword then Notes > Byword & OmniFocus is your Drafts Action. Also from @jmvfr it extracts the todos with the now known @-method, creates a Byword document with the entire minutes and even adds a link back to the Byword document in the todos notes in OmniFocus.
Finally, if you like GitHub Markdown style checkboxes, want to store your meeting minutes in Evernote with proper checkboxes for the todos and add them to OmniFocus at the same time you should try @rosscatrow's Save to Evernote and OmniFocus Drafts Action.
Some more complex workflows to close off: All of them out of the hands of @jmvfr and all requiring you to first export your OmniFocus 2 database to CSV in iOS (Settings → CSV → Mail OmniFocus Database.zip) and follow the rest of the instructions.
- OmniFocus 2 > iThoughts (w/o completed) gives you graphical representation of your OmniFocus data as a mind map in iThoughts on iOS
- How productive have you been lately? Done Last X Days counts the number of completed Actions over a defined number of days, last 30 days by default
- OmniFocus 2 > Markdown represents your OmniFocus data as a Markdown list in Drafts
Modifying and Creating Actions
You may want a combination of some of the above Drafts Actions or Action Steps. Luckily it often takes only a simple change in the Drafts Action composer — perfectly doable with little or no scripting skills. If you want to make more substantial changes you should read Agile Tortoise's documentation or learn more about iOS Automation in general with the rich resources at MacStories.