Which Hazel?
July 31, 2008 1:42 PM   Subscribe

I am a Mac owner who bought Hazel, an application that will do a number of different tasks to your files based on certain rules. (Think of it as Outlook rules for your Mac desktop.) However, I've really found myself stumped as to what to do with it, and it's basically just been sitting on my machine unused. If you have it, what do you do with it? If you don't have it or have a Windows machine, do you have any good ideas for rule logic, or automated rules, to apply to files on your desktop, anyway? Looks like it'll auto-run AppleScripts and Unix shell scripts, too. Basically looking to tap other people's minds on this one since my own seems to be balking at this particular mental problem. Thanks.

(Not Pepsi Blue. I'm in no way associated with the Hazel people.)
posted by WCityMike to Computers & Internet (8 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Hazel exists to kind of automate the cleanup of cruft that happens on people's OSX computers. And I'm not talking about cruft like registry cleaning on Windows, I'm talking creative cruft -- the equivalent of the little pile of dust and pieces that ends up in the corners of every creative craftsman's workshop.

In my case, my desktop is littered with files. I have about twenty screencaptures named nothing but 'Picture #.png", a dozen or so PDFs that I downloaded and read and forgot to put away, a couple of text files that are works-in-progress for blog entries, and a whole mess of OmniOutliner files that are my attempts to get organized. And that's not even counting the little folded up stickies I have everywhere.

Hazel is designed to be a maid that will clean according to your rules. It's up to you to define those rules. I haven't bought it (mostly because I like clutter in my creative space) but if I did, I'd have it bring up that I haven't done anything with certain PDFs or images in a week, I'd have it file the omnioutliner files with their projects in my documents folder by matching keywords, and I'd have it keep an eye on how many stickies I've got floating around and ask me if I really need all that many. Basically, Hazel is all the things you hated about your mother or nanny, which is I guess why they gave it a woman's name. ;)
posted by SpecialK at 1:54 PM on July 31, 2008

I'm a fan of Hazel. I use it to replace a series of AppleScripts I wrote to manage downloads and mail attachments.

For stuff I download from the internet, I route files into folders based on functional type (Docs, Apps, Music, Movies, etc.). For mail attachments, I first run through some filename-based filters to organize some PBEM game files, then hand it off to the filetype filter.
posted by mkultra at 1:56 PM on July 31, 2008

A productivity website called Kinkless had a series last year on cleaning up and streamlining desktop usage, and the last post had a video demonstrating some uses for Hazel.
posted by danb at 2:36 PM on July 31, 2008

I just use it to put pictures into ~/Pictures, music into ~/Music, movies etc etc...
posted by pompomtom at 2:47 PM on July 31, 2008

If you have Safari or Firefox or whatever to download to a 'Downloads' folder or the desktop, then you end up with a big, crufty folder containing zips, dmgs, documents, media files etc. Having Hazel watch that folder and sort out files by filetype keeps it from getting crufty. (Generally, you won't need to keep installers that are available on the internets.)
posted by holgate at 3:28 PM on July 31, 2008

(1) I love the fact you bought a tool and now are wondering what to use it for. That's such a man thing to do.

(2) It sounds so cool that now I am going to download it... even though I dunno what I need it for either.

(3) Okay one thought.... I guess if I could just label or prefix things with my billing codes, I could let Hazel tidy and sort and backup things into the right project folders automagically after they're more than a week or two old. I now spend a good 30 mins every Friday just "filing" stuff from my desktop. Hm...
posted by rokusan at 4:02 PM on July 31, 2008 [1 favorite]

I made a comment in this previous question that explains my own use of Hazel. Here's an edited version...

I use Hazel - I got it free in the Mac Update Promo bundle not long ago.

I have a folder called Organisatron on my desktop - yes, I am a complete dork.* I set Hazel rules on this folder, and then whenever I want to clear the desktop off, I can drag and drop stuff from the desktop into this folder and Hazel sends it whizzing off to where it needs to go. For instance, I have it set so that any music files get send to Music, images to Pictures, and documents to... surprisingly enough... Documents. (You can get more specific than this; I also just set up a rule to move any Address Book Backups, if they haven't been opened in the last day, to an Address Book Backups folder in my Documents.)

Also, on looking through the Hazel prefs, I see you can create rules based on Source URL. I assume this means that you could set it so that documents downloaded from Site X would be sent to a particular folder in your Documents, and documents from Site Y to another. You can also make Hazel create subfolders following a specific naming pattern.

You can also set Hazel to empty your Trash regularly, and according to specific rules. This is handy if, like me, you rarely remember to do it.

Probably the most useful function of Hazel for me, though, is the Import to iTunes rule. It's always bugged me that iTunes doesn't have a 'monitor folder' setting like Windows Media Player used to. So now, if I move any music files from my Desktop into Organisatron, Hazel moves them to the Music folder and then imports them into iTunes within seconds. I did have a nightly applescript running to do this, but this is much neater and happens whenever it's needed, rather than nightly.

I'm sure there are many more advanced features of Hazel, but these are just the ones I use. Have fun exploring it, it's a very handy programme.

*And yes, it has a special geeky icon, too.
posted by badmoonrising at 8:39 PM on July 31, 2008

I use Hazel in a pretty basic way, but it's fantastically useful for what it does. These are the 3 main rules I have setup:

- I have a rule that moves any files on the desktop that have not been changed in the last 3 days to a "old desktop" folder

- I have a rule that moves any files in my downloads folder that were downloaded more then 4 days ago to an "old downloads" folder after doing some processing (throwing out dmg files for example

- I have a rule the prunes my applications folder, by moving apps that I have not opened in more then 2 months to an old apps folder (with some specified exceptions)

As someone who downloads and deals with many files during the course of a day but for the most part only interacts with each file for a short period of time, all of these rules help to keep this all of these random files out of site when I don't need them.

Also, one thing that may not be obvious is that while at first glance you would think you could do most of this stuff with just Applescript if you wanted to, what you would realize if you tried is that apple does not provide you with all the file meta-data you'd need--just one example that's key for the rules above, OS X does not track the date you downloaded a file (Yes, it tracks creation and modifications dates, which are sometimes the same thing but not always). Hazel fills this gap by adding several extra file attributes to all files (such as "date added"), so you can then build intelligent rules on top of them.
posted by dyslexictraveler at 11:15 AM on August 4, 2008

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