Hazel: $42 (single user); $65 up to 5 users); $20 (upgrade)
Best Prices Today – Hazel
Apple’s Smart Folders and Folder Actions have brought some smarts to macOS. Smart Folders let you see the results of a query as if they were the contents of a folder and automatically update those results whenever files or folders change. Folder actions allow you to connect scripts to folders that run whenever the contents of the folders change.
But as smart as these two options are, they don’t combine to enable the kind of workflow you might need for day-to-day work or to improve efficiency. Hazel fills this gap by combining observation of the contents of folders, including the system’s special Trash folder, with rules and actions.
Depending on what it finds, it can warn you, delete files and folders, move them to other locations, rename them using a template, tag and add comments, or import them as media in the Music, Photos, or TV libraries. Rules can also produce notifications with optional audio alerts and upload files to several types of FTP and web servers. It can take advantage of Apple’s Smart Folders by allowing you to monitor these virtual collections as well as static folders. No coding knowledge is required to use Hazel.
Hazel can automate any task related to changing the contents of a folder. This can include notifying you when files are added or removed. The app comes with a few pre-made rulers attached to your home downloads folder, a common catch-all location that helps demonstrate its usefulness.
In Downloads, you might want to:
Color items over four weeks old.
Automatically delete disk image files older than one year.
Alert you when the folder exceeds 50 GB.
Automatically import downloaded movies, music and pictures into TV, Music and Photos.
Move PDF files containing financial information to a selected folder elsewhere.
To add rules, start with an already added folder or smart folder or add one by clicking the Add Folder button (single folder with a +) in the toolbar. Hazel 5 added folder groups to help manage a large number of watched folders: click the Folder group button (two folders with a +). With a folder selected, you can manage existing rules or click the Create Rule button. Click the Status button to see which files and folders were ruled and when. A Pause/Play button allows you to pause and resume rules in a selected folder. Individual rules can also be unchecked to disable them.
The rules are similar to Apple’s approach to smart folders, photo albums, playlists, and other saved searches. You start by defining one or more conditions that define what you are looking for in this folder. For example, you can search for all files and folders added more than four weeks ago. Clicking on the + (plus) to the right of a condition allows you to add others.
With multiple conditions, you define whether you want matches to apply only when all, one, or none of the conditions are met. Similar to Spotlight searches, holding down the Option key reveals a “…” (ellipsis) button to the right of all conditions which, when clicked, adds nested any/all/none conditions for further refinement. Rules that include Matches as a contextual option allow you to use patterns. You can set up a pattern to find all photos that start with IMG, end with .jpg, and have a series of numbers between any value.
Hazel allows renaming of files and folders based on tokens, lists and tables – something might immediately know what you need if you recognize why it’s useful. Selecting Rename in the actions area allows you to select the attributes of a file. Hazel lists the most common; click Other to display other Spotlight-based metadata that you can drop into the filename.
The corresponding options require close study of Hazel’s well-written and detailed manual, a big plus for an application that delivers so much power to those who want it, but can be overlooked by users with simpler needs.
You can use Hazel for complicated series of actions. For example, you might want images that match a certain pattern to be processed through an external script, uploaded to a web server, and imported into Photos. It can also give you ‘negative’ information: an alert when something expected doesn’t happen. You might want to ensure that a backup completes every night or that a file is updated at a certain time. If this doesn’t occur, Hazel can alert you via a notification or a script that sends an email or SMS.
In addition to its Rules and Actions, Hazel also incorporates Smart Trash and Smart App Delete features via Hazel > Preferences > Trash. You can choose to have Hazel automatically delete files from the Recycle Bin when they reach a certain age, sort of a selective empty Recycle Bin, or delete files when the Recycle Bin exceeds a size you set. You can also enable App Sweep, a feature similar to AppCleaner and other utilities that find support files, background software, and other items associated with an app. When you delete the application, it offers to delete all these files, because they are no longer needed.
Hazel 5 requires macOS 10.13 High Sierra or later. The company, Noodlesoft, makes older versions available for earlier versions. A single-user copy costs $42; a five-user family pack for households costs $65.
With a supercomputer at your fingertips, you should be able to harness its power for repetitive actions. Even though Apple is increasing hardware performance, the Finder’s sophistication lags behind. Hazel lets you build Apple-based behavior for better automation, sorting, and throughput, as it has done for over 15 years.
We last reviewed Hazel in 2012 when it was version 3. Reviewer Dan Miller wrote, “…if you invest the up-front time that Hazel sometimes requires, you’ll get a cleaner, more organized ride with little or no extra effort.”
With the strong resurgence of the Mac in recent years, we want to celebrate the tools we use and recommend to get the most out of your macOS experience. Mac Gems highlights great nuggets of Mac software, apps that have great utility, focus on a limited set of problems to solve, and are typically developed by an individual or a small business. Stay tuned for weekly updates and send your suggestions to the Mac Gems Twitter feed (@macgems).