Keeping it neat and tidy

Hazel - Not a wood type or a girls name but a way to keep your mac files and folders in order. While it is possible to use Automator on your Mac to create folder actions I have been using an application called Hazel because it is easier to set up and use. Hazel will tidy up for you and also do more than that. It even works with Automator and Applescript if you want to get really nerdy.

The basics of Hazel is that it will filter files based on various criteria, which could be name, date added, opened, modified or created. Or it will filter on the kind of file, comments, keywords, size, contents and more. I think you can already see that it is a very powerful tool.

hazelLets look at a case study first to see what it does better. First of all set all of your downloads to point to the downloads folder if they don’t already. Set up Hazel to monitor your new downloads folder. Set up whatever rules you need. As the last rule, set up a rule to match “Any File” and have it move the file to your Desktop.

Hazel will go through the rules in turn, for example, sending JPG, PNG and any other image files to the pictures folder. Music files can be sent right into iTunes, PDF files can go into a special folder for those and so on with all the types of files that are likely to be downloaded. The last rule will move any files not caught by the rules, onto the desktop for manual filing away. I wouldn’t do that myself as I prefer a clean desktop, I would just look in the downloads folder now and then.

I often download images from web sites and I have them sent to an images downloaded folder by Hazel. Then I have a rule on that folder that will move any files that have been in there for more than a week into another folder called Older Images. This way it is easier to find the newer files when I am looking for them. I also have the images all sent into iPhoto at the same time as the first rule. It all starts with me dragging an image file onto the desktop. Yet my desktop on my Mac always stays clean. Many of the Mac users interviewed on Mac20Q Podcast have raved over how good Hazel is on their Macs.

Hazel will also deal with left over files when you are deleting an application. It will let you know if there are any support files left over and ask you if you want to delete them. Growl support will let you know what is happening anytime you tell it to, with notifications. It will also manage the trash by deleting files in the trash based on a size limit or by an amount of time in the trash for a file.

You can tell Hazel to add comments or keywords and put the colour labels on to the file. So if a file coming in is of a certain type and has a keyword in the name of it. You could tell Hazel to deal with, for instance a bank statement by giving it a new name, a keyword, labelling it with a blue label and moving it into a special folder.

To get you started off you get a set of rules that you can apply to the downloads folder, and it helps you see how it works. I have made Hazel run an application on a file once it had been sitting in a folder for five minutes which converted it to another type of file. Then I had it delete the original to tidy up after itself. That could be useful for when you download AVI movie files that you convert using Handbrake to iPad compatible versions.