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Note: This walkthrough is now out-of-date.  Check out an overview of new features here.

Creating Your First Action


First things first - lets add a reminder to set-up OpenLoopz just in case we don't want to do this Walkthrough right now!

From the Home Screen, press the 'New Action' button. You should see a screen like this:



Enter 'Do OpenLoopz Walkthrough' as the action name and then press the 'Menu' button and select 'Save'.

Now you will be back at the Home Screen but it's still empty - ugh? 



This is intentional!!!  Unlike most todo/task management systems, the main screen is not just a list of all your actions - that would be boring!  In OpenLoopz, the Home Screen shows you what you need to see based on your context.  So, if you are currently at work, you will only see work-related actions.  If you are in your local store, you will see your shopping list.

The action we just entered didn't appear on the Home Screen because we didn't specify a context.  Contexts are a bit like categories or tags but the way you will used them in OpenLoopz is a major element of the Getting Things Done concept. 

Moving on, did you notice that your status bar now shows a basket icon?  That is the in-basket, another important Getting Things Done concept. 

When you create an action without organising it (i.e. without specifying a context or a deadline) it goes into your in-basket.  The idea is you can get all your thoughts and ideas out of your head and into OpenLoopz without worrying about organising them - the GTD way is to empty your head quickly then you can review your in-basket later when you have more time and assign a context or deadline to each action (thus, removing them from the in-basket).

You can view your in-basket at any time from the notifications window. 

So our action is currently sitting in the in-basket.  Select the in-basket from the Android notification window:



There should be one action in the in-basket so select the action to view it.  The View Screen looks like this:





We want to associate the action with the 'Next Action' context so first select the 'Edit Action' option from the menu.

There are two ways to choose a context.  You could type the name of the context into the context edit box, but it's also possible to select it from a list which is what we will do here.

Press the button with the little arrow on it to the right of the context edit box and you should see a list of context like this:



Now tick the 'Next Action' context and press OK to return.

Now that the context is specified, we can save the action and return to the View action screen:


Note that the screen now states that the action is associated with the 'Next Action' context.  

Now you can press the back button twice (to leave the view screen, then leave the in-basket screen) and you should be back at the home screen.

Aha!  Our action is now visible on the Home Screen:



By making the action a 'Next Action' we've given OpenLoopz a hint that we want to know about that action now!

While it's fine to use the Next Action context in this way, usually Next Actions are associated with 'projects' which are fully supported in OpenLoopz.  We will talk about Projects later.  First, lets get to the interesting part and make an action that depends on your current location!



What is a Next Action?

Having a 'Next Action' context may seem rather trivial at first - after all, it's just a category or tag right?  Well, functionally that's true but in practice there's a little more to it than that. 

Next actions are usually used within projects.  A project is simply an action that is broken down into sub-actions and there is usually one next action per project.

For all your projects you need to decide which action is the next thing you need to do to move the project forward and assign that as the next action.

When you have several projects, the Home Screen will show you the next action for all your projects.  That way, you are always making progress - a bit at a time - for all your projects.  This is one of the core ideas of Getting Things Done.

We will walk through the steps required to create a project a bit later on.

Creating A Location Context

OpenLoopz supports 4 different types of 'context'.  The Next Action context we saw above was a 'standard context' - which is really just like a tag or category. 

Location contexts are associated with a geographical position.  Actions associated with a Location Context only appear on the Home Screen when you are within range of the place the context is associated with.  Location contexts can be linked to one than one place, so you could have a 'At Shops' context and link it to all your local stores.

For this walkthrough, let's create an 'At Home' context - it doesn't matter if you aren't currently at home, just pretend you are!

To create a location-context, press the 'Review Actions' button from the Home Screen and choose 'Contexts', then select the 'New Context' option.  Choose 'Location Context' from the dialog and you should see a screen like this:



Enter 'At Home' as the name of the context.  Now we need to add your current location as a place.  Select the 'New Place' option to load the map:



The map shows your current location by default.  

Map Not Working Properly?

If the map doesn't show your current location, ensure your location settings are correct.

From Android Home Screen select "Settings" then choose "Security and location" and ensure "Use Wireless Networks" and "Enable GPS Satellites" are ticked.

Normally you would move around the map by holding and dragging with your finger and using the zoom controls.  When you find your location you would tap on the map to place the pin and set the location of the place.  However, as we want to use the current location we don't need to do any of that so we can just choose the 'Save' option and specify a name for the location in the Place Title Dialog - 'Home' will do.

Back at the 'Edit Context' screen all we need to do now is tick the name of the place to associate it with this context then select the 'Save' option.

Your context is now created so let's create an action and see if this fancy location stuff works!

Navigate back to the Home Screen by pressing the back button twice.  Now, create a new action called 'Spring Clean'.  

This time, rather than selecting the context from the pop-up list, try typing the context name into the edit box:


As you can see, OpenLoopz will provide suggestions as you type.  Once you have selected the 'At Home' context, save the action and you should be taken back to the Home Screen:




Your new action is displays because you are in the location that the At Home context is linked to.  If you leave your house and go to work (for example) the 'At Home' context will disappear!

Projects, Sub-Actions and Contacts

In GTD, there is the concept of a project.  A project is like a container for related-actions.  In OpenLoopz, there is no distinction between a project and an action.  A project is just an action that has been broken down into sub-actions. 

Let's create our first project.

We will arrange a surprise birthday party for a friend - let's call him Fred.

We start by creating the project.  As a project is just an action, we can just create an action as usual by pressing the 'New Action' button from the home screen.   Type 'Arrange Party For Fred' as the action title, then save the action.

Later on, we decide that we want to break down the party action into smaller sub-actions.  We realise that the first action is to book the venue so we can just create another action as usual.

From the home screen, press the 'New Action' button and enter 'Book Venue' as the title.  Rather than choosing the Save option, we can make this action a sub-action of the party action by choosing the 'Add As Sub-action' button:



By pressing this button we are given a list of action to choose as the parent action:


Select 'Arrange Party for Fred' to make it the parent action.  Now, 'Arrange Party for Fred' is automatically considered to be a project. In OpenLoopz a project is just an action that has one or more sub-actions.  The terms "project" and "parent action" are used interchangeably.  

You will now be back at the Home Screen.  Let's take a look at our new project.

Press the 'Review Actions' button and select 'Projects', then select the party project from the list.  The 'Action Details' screen is displayed and now it shows the new sub-action that we just created:


Let's add a few more sub-actions to this project.  We can do that from this screen by choosing 'New Sub Action' from the menu. 

Create two new sub-actions, one called "Buy Present" and another called "Invite Ian".  When finished the "Action Details" screen should look like this:


Now you can return the Home Screen by pressing the back button 3 times until you see it on screen.

Have you noticed that your in-basket counter on the status bar has increased to 3!  By taking a look in the in-basket (accessible from the notifications window by dragging down the status bar) you can see that all the project sub-actions are in the in-basket:



If you think about it, this makes sense because the sub-actions aren't organised yet (i.e they don't have a deadline or a context).  The project action is special so it doesn't appear in the in-basket - it's just a container for other actions.

To clear the in-basket we can assign a context to each sub-action.  Select the 'Invite Ian' action from the in-basket, then select the 'Edit Action' option from the menu.

What context should we apply to 'Invite Ian'?  Well, it will probably be a phone call so we could create a 'Phone Call' context - it's quite nice to have all the actions you need to do while on the phone together in one context.  However, for this walkthrough we want to demonstrate the use of a Contact Context so we will create a special context called 'Ian'.  All actions related to Ian will be assigned to this context.

Select the 'New Context' option, choose 'Contact Context' and enter 'Ian' as the title.  Now tap on the big Android icon and you will be taken to your phones contact list.  Locate Ian's contact entry from the list (or just pick anyone - it doesn't matter for the purposes of this walkthrough) and select his entry to return to the 'Edit Context' screen, which should now look something like this:



Select 'Save' to go back to the 'Edit Action' screen.  Remember to enter the the 'Ian' context into the contexts edit box or select it from the pop-up list.  When done, press the 'Save' button to return to the 'Action Details' screen:


Now you can see a picture of Ian and you can even select it to quickly jump to Ian's contact details:


Press back as many times as necessary to get back to the Home Screen.

Notice your in-basket counter has gone down by one because 'Invite Ian' action is now associated with a context so your action is considered to be organised as far as OpenLoopz is concerned.

Okay, a quick recap.  We started by creating a project to arrange a party then we created three sub-actions.  We assigned one of those sub-actions to a new contact context called 'Ian'.  We will come back to the reason for that at the end.  Right now, we need to assign a Next Action to the project.

To set the next action for the project we need to find it first!  This is easy - just select 'Review' then 'Projects' for a list of all your projects.

Select the party project to view its details:



Now, we need to decide what the next action is.  It's probably a good idea to book the venue before we start inviting people so let's make that the next action. To do so, you need to long press on the 'Book Venue' action until the context menu appears and select 'Set As Next Action' and you will see the action colour changes to indicate its now the Next Action for this project:



Now find your way back to the home screen and you'll see 'Book Venue' is in your next actions list:


When you have more projects, your next actions list will contain one entry for each project so you will always be in a position to make progress on all projects!

Summary

This concludes our whirlwind tour of OpenLoopz. Many features have not been covered here including:
  • Notifications
  • Scheduling
  • Stale Actions
  • Time Contexts
  • And More!
Please refer to the documentation (included in the app and replicated here) for information about all the features of OpenLoopz.

There is also a slightly less fancy walkthrough included in the app which walks through the steps involved for creating each type of context and it is also replicated on this site here.