Quickly search everything in OmniFocus with one shortcut key

Without a tool like OmniFocus, staying on top of my responsibilities would be tough. With hundreds of items active at any time, sometimes things get misplaced.

“Haven’t I already created that project? What was I waiting on from David? What else do I need to discuss with him? Who did I lend that Pink Floyd CD to?” Questions like these dictate a comprehensive search before I can answer them.

Find in OmniFocus

photo credit: adapted from stockvault

If I’m not exactly sure where I’ve filed a task, I search all remaining tasks instead of rummaging through multiple projects or contexts. This happens several times each day. The manual process is a little fiddly. Switch to OmniFocus, display the right perspective and hit Option-Control-F to activate the Find tool. It took me a while to realize, but Keyboard Maestro can take care of all this with a single keystroke.


You’ll need the following:

  1. OmniFocus Pro. This solution relies on a custom perspective, a feature only offered in the Pro edition.
  2. Keyboard Maestro. Chaining the separate steps into a sequence is straightforward in Keyboard Maestro.

Update (26 Aug 2016): I’ve found a different way to achieve the same result in the Standard edition of OmniFocus. Details here.

View all tasks with a custom perspective

Custom perspective configuration

Custom perspective configuration

First, create a custom perspective that shows everything in your OmniFocus database.

  1. Choose Perspectives > Add Perspective… from the OmniFocus menu.
  2. Enter a name for the perspective (eg. All).
  3. Select Click to record shortcut and type a keyboard shortcut to activate this perspective. I use Control-Option-Command-A.
  4. Set the remaining options as shown in the screenshot.

I’ve set values for Filter by availability and Filter projects to include all remaining tasks. Blocked, on hold, and deferred items are included in the view. Change these values if you want to restrict the search to active items only.

Search the perspective

Now you can search all tasks without your hands ever leaving the keyboard.

  1. From anywhere in OmniFocus, press Control-Option-Command-A (or whatever keyboard shortcut you assigned) to display all incomplete tasks.
  2. Press Option-Command-F to activate the search field in the toolbar.
  3. Type your search term and press Return.

Next, we’ll connect these steps into a single action with Keyboard Maestro.

Automate searching in OmniFocus with Keyboard Maestro

I was late to the party with Keyboard Maestro, but it has become an indispensable part of my toolkit. This is a simple macro to:

  • launch OmniFocus if it’s not already running;
  • switch to OmniFocus;
  • press ^⌥⌘A to activate the custom perspective we created earlier; and
  • press ⌥⌘F to activate the search box.

Just enter your search term and press Return.

"Find All" Keyboard Maestro macro details (click to enlarge)

“Find All” Keyboard Maestro macro details (click to enlarge)

If you don’t want to re-create the macro from scratch:

  1. Download the archive file and double-click Keyboard-Maestro-Macros-master.zip in your Downloads folder.
  2. Open the Keyboard-Maestro-Macros-master folder.
  3. Double-click OmniFocus – Find All.kmmacros to open the macro in Keyboard Maestro.

You can assign whatever macro trigger key (1) you want. The perspective name (2), and perspective shortcut key (3) must match the entries you used when you set up the perspective.

I use the seemingly asinine hot key combination of Control-Option-Shift-Command-F. There’s little chance of a conflict with other keyboard shortcuts, but execution is difficult unless you’re a contortionist.

Using Karabiner, Seil and some of Brett Terpstra’s magic, I’ve remapped CapsLock to act as the Control-Option-Shift-Command combination. I just press CapsLock-F to activate the OmniFocus search from any application. Substitute whatever keyboard shortcut makes sense to you.

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9 Responses

  1. Mat says:

    Isn’t it ridiculous that you need the pro version and a serious tweaking via keyboard maestro to enable stupid global search in an easy way in OF?

    • John Scullen says:

      Hi Mat

      I did some further experimenting and you can achieve a similar result in the Standard version without using a custom perspective.

      1. Select the Projects perspective in the sidebar (or choose Perspectives > Projects from the menu bar).
      2. Select any project in the sidebar.
      3. Press ⌘A (or choose Edit > Select All from the menu).
      4. Press ⌥⌘F to activate the search box.

      It’s still harder than it should be and you need a third-party tool like Keyboard Maestro to automate the sequence.

    • John Scullen says:

      Updated to work with the standard edition of OmniFocus. See REVISITED: Quickly search everything in OmniFocus with one shortcut key for details and to download the macro.

  2. Zhenkai Jiang says:

    What I heard and have been using is go to “Changed” perspective, and search from there. Still not intuitive given the fact OF v2 has been released for very long time now. Really disappointed no matter how many excuses they managed to work out.

    • John Scullen says:

      That’s another option, Zhenkai. The Changed perspective also shows completed tasks by default. You can change this behavior in the view options, but I like seeing the things I’ve marked off here.

      An All Remaining Tasks perspective would be a useful inclusion. I can also see the developer’s point of view. They can’t endlessly add new perspectives so they’ve made a way for people who want that level of power to create any perspectives they need.

  3. someguy says:

    There’s a simpler way. Make your custom perspective, open it and type a character into the search bar. Then open the View (eyeball) popup menu and click “Save.” Now your perspective will always open with the character in the search bar. Set your KM macro to do two steps: (1) Open the Persepctive (2) Press ⌥⌘F to activate the search box and highlight the contents. Now you just type your search and Return.

  1. August 25, 2016

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  3. August 26, 2016

    […] the only one who has moments when I’m not sure where (or if) I stashed a task in OmniFocus. The original post generated more interest than I expected. It didn’t seem right that such a handy function should […]

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