OS X’s Folder Actions let you attach AppleScripts to specific folders so actions are performed automatically as soon as you add items to the folders. Once you know the basics of how Folder Actions work, you’ll inevitably start wondering what cool things they can do for you. Here are three interesting Folder Actions to try out.
1. Print files automatically
As much as you may dream of a paperless office, you may still receive documents you need to print. If you only have a single printer, and don’t need to tweak settings for different types of documents, you can create a Folder Action that will automatically print any files you add to a folder.
One of the great things about OS X is that it’s like the real world. You store your files in folders; when you don’t want something, you put it in the Trash. But on your Mac, a folder isn’t really just a folder, and that’s not a bad thing. Take for example, Folder Actions. With this handy feature, you can attach AppleScripts to specific folders and have these scripts run automatically whenever you add files to the folders. That means that you can automatically get an alert when files are added to a specific folder, change the Finder labels when you put them in a folder, or unzip archives. Here’s how Folder Actions work, and how you can use them to save time.
Turn on Folder Actions globally
To use Folder Actions, you must first turn this feature on globally. To do this, right-click or Control-click on any folder and choose Services -> Folder Actions Setup. (If you only have a few Services, you may not have a Services menu and will instead see the Folder Actions Setup menu item at the bottom of the contextual menu.) When you choose Folder Actions Setup, a small window opens showing a list of AppleScripts. Select Enable Folder Actions in the window and then quit (Command-Q).
The following is an excerpt from David Sparks’s ebook, Paperless (2012, available from iTunes or as a PDF from the author’s website), in which he explains his "paperless" workflow. File-naming is just one part of that workflow, but it enables him to find files and to automate the process of managing them.
I once actually named my scanned water bill Invoice.pdf. What was I thinking, naming a file Invoice.pdf? Looking at my water bills folder, there was no standard naming format; for some files, such as Invoice.pdf, there was no way to tell if it was even related to the water utility. To make matters worse, my telephone, electrical, and waste management folders for the same year also had files in them called Invoice.pdf. So I had multiple documents from about the same time with exactly the same name. Just swell.
The fact that I am a reformed sinner explains why I’m about to get all anal retentive about naming files.
Google+ may not have taken the social networking world by storm the way Google hoped, but it does offer useful tools for the workplace and project-oriented groups. Hangouts, the company’s online video chat technology, offers a simple way for people to get together and meet, no external software required. The video service also integrates with Google's other free tools, so that you can talk while working together on a Google Doc or share your screen to troubleshoot a problem.
As we waltz through our digital lives, we tend to accumulate files and folders, and folders full of files. While a portion of this accumulation is the kind of effluvia that we won’t need next week, much less five years from now, for many of us a large chunk of it is data that will be as important tomorrow as it is today. Think long term business projects, financial files, and databases, for example. If you’re an organized person, you’ve created a logical file structure that allows you to locate files many years from now. If you’re not so organized, you have to search for what you want.
OS X’s Spotlight feature provides the means for doing this. Just press Command-Spacebar and enter the name of the file you seek in the resulting Spotlight field. But what happens when you can’t recall a file’s name? You could enter a search term that seeks a particular text string within the file—finances 2012, for example. But this method could turn up a large number of results, leaving you to weed through scores of files. Worse yet, you may not recall a line of text that will produce your file via Spotlight.
Thankfully, you can tag files to give your future self a leg up with such searches. Automator makes this very easy. Here’s how:
They arrive by Twitter, by RSS, and by email. They're passed around on social networks. They’re embedded in online articles and blog posts. I’m talking about all of those links to things you'd like to read but can’t. Making time to read everything you find on the Web the moment you find it is hard, so you probably don’t read it at all—unless you use a read-it-later service like Instapaper.
Instapaper makes it easy to save online articles for later reading: Just click a bookmarklet in your browser, and the story you’re looking at is saved, stripped down to just its text and essential images. You can then access your saved articles on the Instapaper website or using the Instapaper apps for iPhone and iPad.