end kvetch

Macs, productivity, &c.

Autofile: Using Hazel to Enhance Your Digital Card Catalogue

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Earlier, I described my transition to a digital card catalogue filing system. While I could certainly file everything manually or use Quicksilver, I wanted a snazzy, alternative method.

hazeltitleI was playing around with Hazel and I realized that I could use it to route folders and files from a specified landing spot to the proper folder in the card catalogue. The rule is extremely simple and, as long as you are careful about how you name folders that you drop into the autofile folder, it’ll work like a charm.

Before I begin the instructions, I’m going to suggest that you grab a cup of tea or something; you’re going to have to create twenty-six rules and it’s probably going to take about twenty minutes.

The Process

First, you’ll need Hazel. It costs $22 but there’s a two week trial available. Install Hazel and create the folder you’ll want to use as your autofile dropbox. I created a subfolder in my To File folder and, very creatively, called it Autofile (I also began the file name with a space so it would always be at the beginning).

Now, add your autofile dropbox to the list of folders that Hazel watches and create a new rule. The rule simply needs to say that if the file’s name begins with A, it should be moved to the A folder in the card catalogue.

autofile

Optionally, you could also configure it to give you feedback via Growl when an item is filed. However, I’m good with it just making the move silently.

That was the easy part. Now, duplicate the rule so you have one for each letter. If it helps, play the Jeopardy theme song while you work.

autofile-2

Once you’re done, not only will you have a great sense of relief, you’ll have a fully functioning automatic filing system. Just drop a folder or file into the autofile dropbox and within seconds it will be whisked off to the proper location.

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Look Under “K” for “Kvetch”: A Card Catalogue for Your Computer

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Recently, I was browsing Productivity501 and I came across a post by Arjun Muralidharan about a simple alphabetical system for your computer (specifically, your Mac).

The Old System

As of an hour ago, my filing system was based on two branches: documents and pictures. While, for some things, the distinction was clear-cut (essays or digital photographs, for instance), the line had a tendency to blur. Many of my projects have graphics associated with them and, while I could split every project into two segments, that’s not particularly intuitive. In reality, the Documents folder usually ended up containing documents and any graphics associated with them while the Pictures folder contained only projects that were entirely graphical.

The New System

So, I decided to try out Arjun’s system and start filing things alphabetically rather than by media type. I replaced my Archive folder (which contained the two branches I mentioned earlier) with an Index folder which contains another folder for every letter in the alphabet (twenty-six for those of you keeping track at home). Then I began to mercilessly rip my older directories apart, removing folders from their subject-related comrades and placing them into alphabetized group (for example, under the old system, I had a School folder which contained a subfolder for each class which I take. Now, the classes are spread across the filing system based on their name.

index

A short while after I’d implemented the new system, a friend needed me to pull up an essay I’d written for one of my classes. I attempted to use Finder to locate the file, but the new system threw me for a loop. At this point, I realized that I needed to reconcile myself with Quicksilver.

The Return of Quicksilver

Since the souped-up version of Spotlight included in Leopard accomplished many of the same things that I used Quicksilver for in Tiger (admittedly, I never got used to using its more advanced features), I had gotten rid of it when I upgraded. The new system is a bit unwieldy when accessed from Finder, but Quicksilver and its ability to search and drill down into folders quickly went a long way in smoothing things out (the larger folder previews also allow me to take full advantage of the fancy icons I use to further clarify the contents of folders).

quicksilver

(The lovely theme pictured above is Julius Eckert’s Showcase theme).

The Ribbon

I also decided to use DragThing to create an easy-acess “ribbon” for my card catalogue. I created a new dock set to display only the object name (i.e., no icon) and dragged all my letter folders in it. Then I turned the absurdly long ribbon into a drawer that sits right below my menu bar. When I click the screen edge, it comes sliding out and I can click a letter to jump to that folder. If I use Quicksilver effectively, I shouldn’t need to use the ribbon much, but it’s still pretty cool.

ribbon

(The ribbon uses StefanKa’s very attractive SimpleOne theme).

Arguably, since you’ll be searching for (almost) everything rather than retrieving it manually, you could do away with the lettered folders (which, really, are just a vestige of the paper filing systems this is based on) entirely and just throw everything into one big bin. You’d lose the ability to minimize certain letters groups and it wouldn’t be nearly as cool, but it wouldn’t take nearly as long to set up.

TIP

pse commented on the the original post at Productivity501 saying this:

Actually generating the folders just takes a few seconds if you use Terminal to do it: Type

cd Reference; for i in {A..Z}; do mkdir $i; done

and you are all set.

This will create all twenty-six folders in your home directory.  Simply sweep ’em up and put them in the folder you want.

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