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.

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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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Getting Things Done (When You Really Have To)

Sorry I didn’t get around to it sooner, but here’s my article that appeared on Dumb Little Man.  By far my favorite part of this all was the picture of Judge Judy that was added because of my line “turn off Judge Judy and do it that instant, you’ll thank yourself later.”  In a bout of irony, I was planning to work on my novel but I didn’t end up doing it.  You know what I did instead?  Yeah, I watched Judge Judy.  And it was awesome.

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The Phoenix O’ Productivity Rises Again…Then Suffers A Debilitating Illness

Apparently The Phoenix O’ Productivity is my most popular post (curteuousy courtesy of my friends at Google Analytics) so I’ve decided to post an update (this is in lieu of a new installment of The Malcontent which would cover the same topic but is too format for my tastes now).

First off I put I desk in front of my window and now I can look out at the back yard and “be inspired” (inspiration doesn’t seem to be my problem, it more the motivation to do any work). Then I took some ideas from David Seah (davidseah.com) and made myself a “Nothing Better To Do” Jar (in theory, I put tasks in it and when I have…nothing better to do I pick one and do what it says), the only problem is I never take anything out of it (I just put a nice “Dymo” label on it though, maybe that’ll change things). Also from David are the PCEO (Printable CEO) forms which can be used to track time, manage to-dos, etc., I printed some of those out and used them (they’re so pretty, I couldn’t resist).

For several days all was well in Officeland (haha, off Iceland) but then the horrible barbarians of laziness laid siege to the castle– I remembered that productivity was work.

So now I basically play online games and occasionally come up with an idea for a story which I right down but never get around to working on (I also have scotch tape stuck to my elbow, it makes my mosquito bite less itchy).

(Also, OmniFocus has still not gotten back to me on the beta program…maybe they have enough testers).

Update: I forgot the mention that Quicksilver and I have reconciled ourselves. We have come to the agreement that I won’t use it as a replacement for Finder/RapidoLaunch but I will still give it the respect that it deserves.

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My Producivity’s #1 Enemy

Today I discovered iSwiff, a flash game/movie(?) player for Mac OS X (the only good operating system). I have hopped around the free online game sites and downloaded some that I can now play from my desktop (presumably without internet access (speaking of access, what the hell is IBM thinking? Using a word no one can spell as the number for their concierge (a word that no one knows the definition of). And, really, what the hell were the pioneers of the English language thinking? Two ‘c’s in a row, one hard, one soft? Does that make sense to ANYONE?), we’ll see if that presumption holds to be true. Regardless, increased accsess access (I’ve typed it twice in the last minute and I still can’t spell it) to games right before final’s week can’t be a good thing. Oh well, I was going to fail math anyway.

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The Pheonix O’ Productivity


Productivity and organization have always been big for me. A couple months ago I got onto a major GTD/hPDA kick (I even went so far as tracking my time. Then it died down (I just didn’t have time to be productive). Now my passion for the productive has been re-illuminated thanks to kGTD and Ethan Schoonover. I have reorganized my workflow (see screenshot) made myself a new hPDA and subscribed to the Merlin Mann podcast (and, of course, I’ve subscribed to the feed for Ethan’s wonderful blog.

I signed up to be a beta tester for OmniFocus (the new task organizer app for Omni, based around kGTD) some time ago, but I have not gotten an invitation yet (although, supposedly they are up to date with everyone who signed up before Memorial Day. It looks like OmniFocus is a lot like iGTD (except it will cost $40, rather than being freeware) but I like the look and some of the organizational features of OmniFocus more. (I must say that I have become a total Omni convert, and to think I was going to delete the preinstalled copy of OmniOutliner that came with my computer).

During my first kick I tried out Joe’s Goals but it fizzled out pretty fast. So, today I wrote some new goals and now I am going to try it again (don’t tell anyone, but I don’t think it will work).

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The Only Reasons I Stay Productive

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Sadly, I am not a naturally productive person (organized: yes, productive: no) so I rely on numerous digital crutches to help me.

What Works

The main two applications I use to track my growing list of to-dos are iCal (can’t wait ’til v3) and Schoolhouse (a homework tracker, and so much more). I generally use iCal to schedule my MANY social engagements (note sarcasm) and misc. to do items while Schoolhouse is for my homework (what else?).

In order to maintain some degree of mental togetherness I also use Sidenote to keep all my floating brain snippets caged up in one place. (For those of you unfamiliar with Sidenote, it is like Stickies except everything is kept in a tidy drawer that can be hidden from view, ideal for people (like me) who are lacking in miserly when it comes to desktop real estate).

What Doesn’t

iGTD has been getting a fair amount of press (in the blogosphere) lately, so I tried it. I was delighted by its frequent updates (I live for updates) but it was just too data heavy and I didn’t really get anything from it that iCal couldn’t give me (plus iCal looks better). Sadly, after several weeks or trial I had to delete it.

Many Mac users swear by Quicksilver but when I tried it (after finally giving in to the raving reviews) it just didn’t work for me. I have been with Macs for a long time and I’m just too used to Finder for launchers to do me much good. (Yes, I know Quicksilver is more than a launcher but the only other feature I ever really found useful was the built-in iTunes controls). Bottom line is I’m just too used to my mouse/trackpad to start filtering my workflow through key sequences.

One tool that I have NEVER seen any use for is Event Maker (and other iCal event creators). Although I will be one of the first to admit that iCal’s event creation process can be a bit frustrating it just isn’t worth it to open up a whole new application to make it easier. By the time I have found and opened the app I will have already sorted out my problem with iCal.

Straying away from the digital realm for a moment, the hPDA is an interesting organizational/productivity tool that I used for some time before it fizzled out. I was mainly using it as a paper Sidenote for when I was away from the computer, but a combination of the inability to synch (honestly, paper manufactures need to get on that) and my increasing attachment to my computer rendered it more or less useless. (However, I do still use it when I AM away from the computer or when pulling out the laptop would be overkill).

Also, for some strange reason, spending hours in Excel charting my time use just didn’t make me more productive….

What Keeps Me Unproductive

I consider Adium to be the best chat client ever (and therefore the best at distracting me from my work). I am almost always online and I am usually being distracted/kept up too late by messages.

Vienna is another of my productivity-sapping loves. For those of you that have not aware, Vienna is a news reader (like News Net Wire Lite, except it takes less then ten seconds to say and is about 100x better in every other way too). I now call upon all you users of NNWL to switch to Vienna and see how you like it. It is basically Net News Wire (the non-free version) except with a better interface and (even) more features (plus a cooler name).

Safari and the internet are the biggest culprits when it comes to reducing my productivity (I’m sure I’m not alone there) but I figure the time I would otherwise be spending trundling back and forth to the library probably balances it out.

Finally, although I love you so, Growl, you are the one who pulls all these elements together into one big unproductive web. Without your little boxes I would never know when Vienna had new articles or when I had gotten email or when someone was IMing me. (On the other hand, knowing my personality, I would check every ten seconds for new badges on my (hidden) dock.)

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