Creating a project management solution with MailTags 4, Mail Act-On 3 and OmniFocus Pro 2

Mailtags allows you to create tags in Apple Mail, which organise projects and tasks with tickle dates and alerts. Mail Act On lets you create rules for messages when you send them, or even before you send them. Finally, OmniFocus manages tasks and projects with or without a GTD background.

This trio can do more than just managing projects or tasks inside Mail. In fact, using Mail Act On and outbox rules, the OmniSync server and OmniFocus you can create a simple but powerful project management system for your Mac and your iOS device. This is how you start:

  • In the Mailtags preferences, activate the option to import and synchronise the OmniFocus projects. These won’t be coloured with a label but for project management that surpasses the mail client that’s not important.
  • In the outbox rules, which you will only see appear when Mail Act On has been installed, create a rule that works before the message is sent. It will look like this:

 

MailTags, Mail Act-On, OmniFocus project management tutorial
The original Outbox rule containing the “Before Delivery” action.

This rule basically commands Mail to change the delivery account to IT Enquirer and add a BCC field with the OmniSync Server email address that I created when I started using OmniFocus 2 before the message gets sent. The conditions for the rule to kick in are the subject line containing either the word “Editor” and “review” and a MailTags keyword. The subject words are the two words I always use when asking for a review opportunity (e.g. a NFR licence, which most journalists will be familiar with).

The one thing I have set up not to automate is setting the @Waiting keyword, because sometimes I won’t be hoping for a new project to start when I use both “Editor” and “review” in the same subject line. The tag, on the other hand makes it clear I am waiting for an answer that, when positive, shall start a review project.

Next step is to create a rule that removes the @Waiting keyword from the reply I’m expecting. This rule goes in the Mail Act-On rules group.

Mail Act-On, MailTags and OmniFocus tutorial
The Mail Act-On rule that will be called by an Inbox rule.

The Mail Act-On rule is applied to messages coming in — Inbox rules — and in this case take action to the message that was the originator of the answer, i.e. the prior message. It is meant to avoid Mail BCC’ing all subsequent replies to the OmniSync Server.

Mail Act-On, Mailtags and OmniFocus tutorial
Prior message will have its MailTags @Waiting keyword removed by the Mail Act-On rule called upon.

The OmniSync Server BCC address itself serves as the easiest way to integrate Mail with OmniFocus 2 Pro. Messages sent to this server address are ‘forwarded’ to your OmniFocus 2 Inbox. When OmniFocus Mac or iPad receives the message, it takes the subject line as your Task Subject and the message body as a Note. You can add some shortcode to fill in other OmniFocus field as well, but I don’t use those because I’m dealing with outsiders and I don’t think it’s relevant nor polite to stuff my message with code.

The entire rules system and OmniFocus integration is pretty much an automatic method to get tasks added to OmniFocus 2. In my case, I could BCC the OmniSync Server address at a later stage of the communication, e.g. when I’m sure I’ll be receiving the project assignment. However, I use OmniFocus not just to track my tasks but also to remind me of the answers I am still waiting for, so I set it up this way.

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