Hazel on OS X as a basic offload application for images and video

Hazel on Mac OS X is your personal housekeeper. Hazel can monitor whatever folders you choose and organize files according to rules you create. We reviewed Hazel recently, but today I want to show you how to create a very simple and basic offload system using Hazel and an Automator workflow.

Offloading is the process of transferring data to a peripheral device. It’s often used in photography and in video/audio production to describe the copying of files on a memory card to a disk inside or connected to the computer. There are dedicated applications available that let you offload multiple memory cards to multiple disks, renaming the target folder and formatting the card automatically if you wish — ShotPut Pro (ShotPut Pro review link icon here) must be the best known one on the Mac.

If you have a copy of Hazel, you can set up a simple offloader yourself, using a couple of rules and one Automator workflow. This is what you want to do:

  1. Automatically create an empty folder on one or several disks. This folder will accept the offloaded files.
  2. Copy the files from the card to the folder.
  3. Create another new folder, ready to accept new offloading jobs, automatically after renaming the folder populated with the offloaded data.

Before we start, it’s easy to see how you could rename the folder using Hazel’s date and time stamping mechanism, but I didn’t want to complicate things further. If you can do the above, you can also figure out how to rename that folder.

The rules

First you’ll create a rule to create the ‘waiting’ folder. This rule holds the Automator workflow, as Hazel is not capable of creating folders by itself. The Automator workflow is nothing more than a “Create folder with name: xyz” step. I use “_New” (without the quotes; the underscore is just to make sure it’s always the first folder I see) as the name of my waiting folder.

Automator workflow

You can create this folder anywhere you want. In my case, I have a folder called “Offloads” inside which I want the “_New” folder to appear. The rule therefore applies to the Offloads folder. The “Ignore” condition is added to make Automator stop spitting out “_New” folders.

We’ll set up the second rule and attach it to the memory card. The whole idea is that Hazel will detect when a memory card is inserted, if that card has a subfolder with a specific name two levels deep, and if there are movie or image files inside that folder to be offloaded.

To create the rule, you’ll need to insert a memory card with some files — images and/or videos — on it. As soon as the card is inserted you can start creating the rule. First go to the subfolder where the files you want to offload reside. Note the subfolder depth, taking the card itself as level zero. So, if your card has a folder with another folder inside where the files are saved, you’ll have two levels.

Also note the name of the folder that holds the files.

First we’ll have to tell Hazel it only has to look for folders within the card. That’s the first rule.

The second rule tells Hazel to dig in two levels deep and to find the files that have been added to that folder today (I’m assuming here you’re offloading the same day as you shot the images or footage). It commands Hazel to copy those files to the waiting folder (_New).

Then finally, you’ll rename the “_New” folder to something else, e.g. the subject of your footage or whatever else makes sense to you. After having renamed the _New folder, Hazel will automatically run the first rule again and auto-create a new “_New” folder, waiting for your next batch of files.

The system as I’ve created it assumes that your memory cards are not renamed to anything else but “NO NAME”. For every differently named card, you must write the card rules again. It also assumes you’re offloading the same day as the files were created.

And that’s it. You can make it much more complex, but this short howto shows you why I gave Hazel such high marks.


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