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Automate your Mac: four smart hacks for managing files

Christopher Breen, Matt Gemmell, Joe Kissell, Brett Terpstra | Sept. 2, 2014
Managing files and folders is one of the most obvious--and easiest--chores to automate on your Mac, thanks to specialized tools like Hazel, as well as generalists like AppleScript, Automator, and Keyboard Maestro.

Keep the User Library folder unhidden

Tools: AppleScript, System PreferencesStarting with OS X Lion (10.7), Apple for some reason decided to hide the yourusername/Library folder. But I frequently need access to files in it, and it's cumbersome to use Apple's officially supported method of locating it (holding down Option while opening the Finder's Go menu, and then choosing Library). There are lots of ways to view or unhide it. But as soon as you update to a new version of OS X, it'll be hidden again, forcing you to repeat those steps. I sidestep that hassle by means of an AppleScript that runs automatically whenever I restart my Mac.

To implement this yourself, open AppleScript Editor and, in a blank window, type: do shell script "chflags nohidden ~/Library".

Save the script, choosing Application from the File Format pop-up menu and entering a name. (I call mine Unhide Library.) You can store that app anywhere; I use /Applications. Next, open the Users & Groups pane of System Preferences, click Login Items, drag the Unhide Library app to that list, and close the window. Now, whenever you restart your Mac, that folder will be unhidden. — Joe Kissell

Tag files by age

Tool: HazelI use my Desktop as my primary inbox: When I save a new file, it goes straight to my Desktop. Then, at the end of the day, I review it, tagging and moving files as necessary. I use Hazel to make this easier, by having it color-code files according to how old they are. Specifically, I mark brand new files with green tags. When those files are two-days old, I swap in an orange tag. After one week on the Desktop, files get a red tag. Any red files that sit for more than two weeks get automatically moved to an archive folder, which I revisit monthly, unless I've manually applied a blue "protect" tag.

To do all this tagging, I created a series of Hazel rules, based on the Last Modified date. The Green rule looks for files created that day and applies the green tag to them. The Orange rule looks for files tagged green that haven't been modified within the last 2 days and tags them orange. Red looks for orange- or green-tagged files unmodified in the last week and retags them accordingly. And the Archive task looks for any file not colored Blue that has been sitting unmodified for over 2 weeks. — Brett Terpstra


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