Review: Hazel, your Mac’s housekeeper

Keeping your folders tidy and clean is not difficult if you don’t use your Mac but if you do, there inevitably comes a day when the desktop is littered with files, and folders start containing files that don’t make sense anymore. Additionally, when you throw away apps, a lot of associated files stay behind in folders you normally never open. Hazel from Noodlesoft is an app that takes over the tidying of files and folders for you. It also manages your Trash and throws away files that are related to apps when you remove these.

Hazel is a sort of housekeeper for your Mac. It’s a Preference panel, and when installed it has a few standard actions and rules. You can think of Hazel as an easy way to command OS X into doing specific things to folders and files. Easy is perhaps a big word — you’ll still need to think through what exactly you want to do and what each command does before you get something out of Hazel — but it certainly beats writing an AppleScript or even Automator Workflow.

IT Enquirer rating

9/10
URL: noodlesoft.com

Pros
  • extends folder actions dramatically
  • relative ease-of-use
  • accuracy of AppSweep
Cons
  • some actions still need scripting
Price (always approximately): €19.00

Hazel’s main task engine works on folders, but it lets you take the concept of Folder Actions a lot further than Mac OS X’s built-in functionality. For example, with Hazel you can program a folder action to act on a date — e.g. throw away all files that are older than n days — which is something you can’t do simply with Folder Actions. Hazel also comes with rules of which the results can’t be duplicated using Folder Actions at all. A good example is that you can create a new folder if a folder with the same name doesn’t already exist.

I tested Hazel’s rules mechanism by trying out if I could create a Rule system that would offload video and image files from a memory card into a folder that gets created by Hazel when the starting folder — called _New — has been renamed. Renaming in my test workflow, would happen after the memory card has been offloaded.

After a good deal of experimenting, reading Noodlesoft’s support forum (which is quite good), and asking the developer for help (I experienced support to be swift and to the point), and trying out again, I managed to create the rules that do what I describe above. I did also need an Automator workflow; one that actually creates the new folder with the “_New” name.

Hazel allowed me to dig into the memory card’s subfolders to find the movie files, although the root folder of the card contains two folders, one of which only holds a text file. The files were copied or moved immediately after inserting the card by setting a time limit on Hazel’s ‘listening’ behaviour.

Was it simple and easy? Well, yes, but I did need to get my head around the conditionals. It took a while before I fully understood when to use conditions on the current folder, any subfolder/file, all subfolders/files, etc. That sort of logic is somewhat (if not all the way) related to programming logic, something with which I have been struggling all my life…

But Hazel can do more. It can clean out your Trash after a number of days, when the size reaches a certain number of Gigabytes, and even immediately throw away files that are bigger than the limit you set. The benefits of setting your Trash not to empty immediately is that mistakes can be easily corrected without you having to remember when the Trash should be emptied (to keep the size reasonable).

Hazel can also help when throwing away applications. Some apps will litter the system with small files all over the place. If you remove the app from the Applications folder, you only throw away part of that app’s eco-system. Hazel offers you to remove all files associated with the app. In most cases, it will guess right which files are related to the app you’re trying to get rid of. In only a few circumstances did it fail — sometimes when the app comes with an installer Hazel seems not to know which files are associated.

Also, license protection files are not listed by Hazel as removable; which is good, because these files are foten in use by other apps too.

Is Hazel a must-have utility for your Mac? Well, not if you like to work tedious household tasks yourself. If you want to concentrate on other things, Hazel is a godsend. It has a free demo time, and costs only approx. €19.00. Hardly worth doing it all yourself, right?

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