Using Drafts & Hazel to add notes to DEVONThink

I’ve been experimenting with DEVONthink for the past couple of days as a replacement for Evernote and numerous files semi organized across my devices. So far I’m warming up to this approach, however I had a major problem: how to get notes I take on my iPhone or iPad into DEVONthink on either my personal or work computers. DEVONthink’s sync capabilities are notoriously limited and I’ve heard mixed reviews about their iOS app. I ended up potentially solving the problem of adding content to DEVONthink from iOS by using this by using Drafts for iOS and Noodlesoft’s amazing Hazel app on my Mac.

First, I created two folders in the two syncing services I am using:

Dropbox folder name: DEVONThink_Home
Google Drive folder name: DEVONThink_Work

Within Drafts, from the actions menu I copied the Save to Dropbox and Save to Google Drive actions. I then renamed those actions to be Dropbox – DEVONthink and GDrive –> DEVONthink respectively.

Custom actions to save a Drafts note into Dropbox or GDrive.
Custom actions to save a Drafts note into Dropbox or GDrive.

We then need to get these newly copied actions saving the note I take into the correct folder, which I set in the respective action’s settings. It is also here where I set the default title by taking the first line of each note, giving me some hint of what it means.

Draft settings for DEVONthink import folder in Dropbox
Draft settings for DEVONthink import folder in Dropbox

Next on my Mac, I create a Hazel rule that monitors the DevonThink_Home (or the Work version in the case of my Work computer). If any file is dropped in there, Hazel immediately moves it to the global inbox in DevonThink and adds a tag Drafts_iOS.

Hazel rule for DEVONthink import
Hazel rule for DEVONthink import

One stumbling block that I couldn’t figure out is how to find the DEVONthink Inbox folder for use in this action. The path to that folder is:

Path to the DEVONthink Inbox Folder
Path to the DEVONthink Inbox Folder

I tested this integration briefly and in maybe a second or two, the note in Drafts was synced up to Dropbox, to my home Mac, and into DevonThink.

First try. I’m impressed.

I can see some potential future directions to take these workflows. I can use a lot more intelligence on Hazel’s rules to detect things like titles formatted a certain way and containing keywords, then automatically dropping the file in the correct folder in DevonThink instead of the inbox. It also would be neat to send a URL to DevonThink and have it automatically clip the page, although I haven’t figured out how to do that yet.


YNAB: Cleaning up downloaded OFX and QFX files with Hazel

With You Need A Budget (YNAB), you can import a QFX or OFX file from your bank to help reconcile your transactions. However if you are like me, you probably now have a bunch of stray QFX or OFX files hanging around in your download folder. After this list reached 50 files recently, it made me wonder…could I use Hazel to automate cleanup of this folder so I don’t have to worry about it myself?

The answer is yes. A simple rule with two conditions are all that’s needed.

Hazel with OFX rule

This Hazel rule is simply matching whether the extension is a OFX file and whether the date added to my computer is not today. If both match, the file is moved to the trash. I have a similar rule for QFX files. Since I never use the QFX or OFX files after the day I download them, there is incredibly low risk with this rule. And one more bit of my computer life automated.

Computer Fixes

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.