Building a Book

Introducing ‘Build Your OmniFocus Workflow’

For the past three months, I’ve been toiling away on a new project: a book. It’s called Build Your OmniFocus Workflow and it’s about – surprise – OmniFocus. I wrote it with my new friend, Rose Orchard and I couldn’t have asked for a better co-author.


Rose approached me after saying she wanted to write a kind of guide to using OmniFocus and I expressed interest in doing the same. We did some preliminary planning, had a chat and quickly settled into the writing process. Rose wanted something like an all-encompassing guide to OmniFocus and how to use it. I agreed. Having spent countless hours on The Omni Group forums reading and answering questions, I felt like I had a good idea of what kinds of problems people have using the software. Even more importantly, we both have been OmniFocus users for a very long time and know it perhaps better than we should.

We didn’t discuss much about who would write what but easily settled into what was most natural. I handled most of the bootstrapping involved in the first couple chapters, explaining the ins and outs of how the various bits work. Rose concentrated more on workflow techniques and, importantly, automation and interaction with other apps and services. Our skill sets were perfectly complemented.


By mid-November we had decided on a rough date for publishing the book. We weren’t finished writing and even more importantly we needed to make some decisions about the book design: cover, typography and page layout. Rose had few opinions on the matter and left it to me to obsess over. I couldn’t have been happier.

From the beginning I had been toying with different typefaces looking for one or two that were appropriate, beautiful and legible. Not knowing if we’d sell three or three hundred copies, we also had to be conservative and find something that was affordable. After far too much vacillating it was finally decided: Dover Text.

There were a few factors that led to choosing Dover Text, not least of all its beauty. I also loved that the sans and serif were proportioned to each other allowing us to mix them effortlessly in a single line, especially. Even more than that, though, were the hands: ☞. I had never seen anything quite like them before and I was in love. I still marvel at them and am very proud that they’re all over the book for pointing out (at) tips and tricks.

With the typeface decided, setting the design of the book became easy. Until that point I was in love with ultra heavy italics (and still am), but Dover Text, neither sans nor serif, has a bold italic. This pushed me to find different ways to establish a visual hierarchy and I think it results in a much nicer design.

What to do about the cover, though. We both knew we couldn’t produce a nice cover for the book. Fortuitously, the OmniFocus 3 beta that put the two of us together also brought us in contact with a graphic designer, Josh Hughes, designer of a fine set of icons for use in OmniFocus. We asked and he agreed to make a cover for us. Once we were able to give him a title, he set to work. Upon seeing his initial candidate designs were were stunned by how perfect the dot design was. With it finalised, I had one more detail to improve: I wanted to bring the cover art into the book somehow. After a brainwave, I decided to place a line of dots after the chapter header, which finalised the book design.

Whilst I faffed about trying to be an aesthete, Rose was doing some real work, making the web site work. For this I am eternally grateful. The software running it and the payment processing are working perfectly thanks to her work.

It’s done, for now

All told the process took us almost precisely three months by my reckoning. It has been a phenomenal experience. We’re overwhelmed by the response to the book and hope that it’s helping people. Because I’ve enjoying doing it so much, I’m happy to say we’ll keep working on it, adding new information on features as they’re available. I’m looking forward to it.

16 December 2018