Subscribe / Unsubscribe Enewsletters | Login | Register

Pencil Banner

How I went paperless with Hazel and Evernote

Katie Floyd | March 5, 2013
Evernote has become my paperless filing cabinet for everything from receipts to tax documents. One of the things I use it for most frequently is to file the monthly statements for my phone, cable, and other accounts.

Evernote has become my paperless filing cabinet for everything from receipts to tax documents. One of the things I use it for most frequently is to file the monthly statements for my phone, cable, and other accounts.

In the past, those statements would arrive by mail, and I'd use my trusty ScanSnap to scan and file them in Evernote. Today, most statements are available online, and I'm able to skip the paper altogether. Instead, I download a statement and import it into the appropriate Evernote notebook along with the appropriate tags. Then I just delete the original.

That process isn't necessarily difficult, but it is tedious and repetitive. Multiply it by the half dozen or so statements I receive in any given month, and it's easy to see why I decided to automate the process.

The key to that automation is Hazel, a utility and System Preferences pane that can monitor a specified set of folders and perform actions on files in those folders based on rules you've defined.

To show you how it all works, here's how I use Hazel and Evernote to automatically file my monthly cable bill.

Identify and rename

The process starts by downloading the PDF of my bill from my cable company's site to my Downloads folder. This part is still a manual task, but it's my last hands-on involvement with the document.

I have a Hazel rule that monitors the Downloads folder and looks for my cable bill. A Hazel rule must be based on something unique about the document you want it to act on. In this case, I use Hazel's SourceURL/Address criterion: My Cox Cable bill is the only document I regularly download from cox.net, so I start my rule by looking for any document for which the sourceURL/Address contains cox.net. It may take some trial and error to find unique criteria for the documents you want Hazel to identify, but you can usually come up with something.

When Hazel spots a bill from Cox Cable, I want it to do three things: rename the document, import it into a specific Evernote notebook with specific tags, and finally delete the original document.

Renaming is the first action Hazel performs on documents matching my cable-bill criteria. The first part of my new filename is based on the date the file was downloaded, which is likely the same month as the statement itself. I format the date YYYY.MM, using leading zeros when appropriate to keep the format computer-friendly and easily sortable. For monthly statements like a cable bill, I usually don't include the day (DD), because it's irrelevant.

The second part of my filename includes a description. For the cable bill, it's pretty simple: A March 2013 cable bill would be named 2013.03 COX.pdf.

 

1  2  Next Page 

Sign up for CIO Asia eNewsletters.