If you have a lot of files and folders to manage in OS X—and who doesn't?—there's a really handy utility called Hazel that can help. It enables you to automate all kinds of file-management chores, from copying and moving files to renaming them, importing them in to apps like iTunes and iPhoto, or running them through AppleScripts and Automator workflows. Here's a brief introduction to how it works.

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Show transcript

Hazel is a really useful utility that we recently reviewed. It’s a great tool if you have a lot of files and folders to manage and keep organized.

It installs itself as a preference pane in System Preferences. If you open it up, you see two windows: On the left there’s a list of folders, and on the right a list of rules that are being applied to those folders. So, for example, I have a rule in my downloads folder called Add MP3s to iTunes.

If we open that rule up, you see that there are two components to it: First there are conditions. You can define conditions by pretty much any attribute that OS X keeps track of. Then there are operators—Is, Contains, Matches, that sort of thing—and then the actual criteria. In this case, I’m looking for any file with the extension MP3.

Below that you have a section where you define the actions that you want Hazel to perform on files that match the conditions you just defined. In this case, I’m saying take any file with the extension MP3 and import it into iTunes. You can combine multiple conditions and actions to create pretty complex rules.

You can also create folders specifically for use with Hazel. So, for example, I have this Archive Issue folder. What it does is look for any folder and, when it finds one, it archives it then moves that archive to my Print Old folder. So what I can do is drag a folder for a given magazine issue onto this Hazel folder, and it’ll be archived.

While Hazel is pretty easy to use, it does have some tools that are particularly powerful. For example, if you’re renaming or adding a comment to something, or even if you’re searching for files, you can create patterns using tokens, which are these blue lozenges representing different file attributes. You drag the tokens up here to the text box and you can then rearrange them as you wish. Again, you can use these for almost any attribute OS X keeps track of.

Also, you can use AppleScripts and shell scripts to find files, and you can use AppleScripts, Automator Workflows, and shell scripts in your actions.

So if you have a lot of files and folder to manage, I suggest you give Hazel a look.

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