How-To: Combining Hazel and Dropbox to Automate File Management


Look, I’ll be the first to admit it: I’ve got a horrible memory. While I’ve moved as much of my life to the cloud and my iDevices as possible, the reality is even though I’ll put a document in my Dropbox folder meaning to “do something” with it, I won’t. e-Books are a good example. Cory Doctorow releases his books under Creative Commons and so recently, during lunch at work, I grabbed the e-book file for one of his books, put it in my Dropbox account meaning to import it to iTunes when I got home. The file sat forgotten for three weeks.

Thankfully, Hazel is becoming my electronic assistant that just takes care of these tasks for me. Simply put, Hazel takes the idea of mail rules and applies them to the entire system. At its core, Hazel is a watchdog. You tell it to keep an eye on a folder, and if certain criteria are met, perform an action. We’ve covered Hazel before, but I wanted to focus specifically on combining it with Dropbox.

I have a rule set up to watch an e-books folder in my Dropbox folder and import those otherwise-forgotten files into iTunes. Since I leave my MacBook on a lot, when I get home the files are already imported. Even when I’m on my MacBook this is handy. I just throw the e-book into this folder and it’s a fire-and-forget solution.

Evernote is a central tool to my workflow. Research materials, presentation images, class notes and materials all go into Evernote. However, because of Keynote’s integration with iPhoto, it’s also beneficial to have images in both places. I’m always keeping my eye out for images I can use in presentations. One nice feature about Hazel is you can have it execute Automator workflows when a certain condition is met. So, if I throw an image into my Dropbox Photos folder, I can tell it to automatically add the image to both my Evernote and iPhoto libraries. This is very handy when combined with the iOS app. If I’m researching a story and take some snaps with my iPhone, I can use the Dropbox app to upload the photo, and Hazel will do the rest.

I also have  a Dropbox “landing folder” for documents I want to add to Evernote. Goodreader on iOS can write to Dropbox. Using the “open with” feature I can easily get most files into Goodreader, which can then write them to the landing folder. Hazel will take care of importing them to Evernote.

I’m also finding it handy to get files off my Boot Camp directory into the cloud. I’m not really in the mood to set up Dropbox on the Windows partition — even though Dropbox can be set up to only sync selected folders, I’d rather not have it installed. So, the directories I want to get the contents copied into the cloud, I just have Hazel set up to monitor that folder as well and copy the files to Dropbox.

Hazel has a free, 14 day trial and will set you back $21.95 when you get it. I’m finding it’s proving indispensable when I put a file on Dropbox, but want to do something with it after it’s up there.


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