Hazel is the ultimate automated file management tool

For years I have struggled on maintaining PDF copies of various important documents (bills, statements, paperwork, etc.). I would occasionally have a day of organizing, but I was wildly inconsistent with how I named my files and folders. It was incredibly frustrating when I needed to find a particular file and had to search multiple folders & naming schemes to track it down.

Yesterday I began trying out a utility I had heard about over the past few years: Hazel. Created by Noodlesoft, it is the ultimate automated file management tool. I am blown away by what I can do now in a totally automated and consistent manner. In 24 hours it has supercharged my file organizing and archiving.

For example, if I wanted to download and save PDF copies of my paycheck, in the past I would do this:

  1. Login to the payroll site.
  2. Click on the link for the latest paycheck to view its PDF.
  3. Download the PDF (which is placed automatically in my Downloads folder by Safari)
  4. Navigate to the Downloads folder
  5. Open the file
  6. Find the pay date on the file
  7. Rename the file in yyyy-mm-dd – Paycheck (Chris).pdf format
  8. Move file to whatever my Paychecks folder I happened to find first.

Now with Hazel, I just do the following:

  1. Go to my payroll site.
  2. Click on the link for the latest paycheck to view its PDF.
  3. Download the PDF (which is placed automatically in my Downloads folder by Safari)

Then, without intervention, Hazel does its magic by monitoring the downloads folder and matching files with all of the following criteria in seconds:

  • The file name (my payroll site is very consistent with its file name format)
  • Whether my name or my wife’s name are in the contents of the file.
  • Searches the contents of the PDF for the word “Regular” so I know this a normal paycheck vs. something else (like a bonus).
  • Automagically figures out the pay check date by searching for the third date in mm/dd/yyyy format listed in the file. Thanks MacSparky for the tip on how to do this!
  • Renames the file to yyyy-mm-dd – Paycheck (Chris).pdf, using that pay check date from the step above.
  • Sets various tags (Paycheck, the current year (again, based off of that pay check date), etc)
  • Moves to a dedicated paychecks folder

Suddenly I have a huge automation win! I cut out at least 5 manual steps from this process, saving as many as 5 minutes per paycheck and now have the following:

  • My file names are all in a consistent, predictable format.
  • My files are all tagged properly.
  • My files are all in the correct folder.
  • My files are all dated properly.
  • My files are now very easy to search for thanks to the file name and the tags.

Now multiply this across the many different documents you download in today’s world and you can see how tens of minutes a week or even a couple of hours per month can be saved using Hazel.  Toss in some of this magic for documents you scan and suddenly this is a gigantic time & frustration saver. Not to mention the enormous frustration that is now gone of finding the right folder and file name format. It doesn’t seem like much, but it can add up quickly. Quickly enough I’m buying a license today.