Hazel 5 automates file management with lists and tables

Hazel 5 is the newest version of Noodlesoft’s file and folder automation tool for the Mac. It, of course, is now compatible with Big Sur, but there’s a lot more to enjoy in this upgrade. It’s become a standalone app with a detachable rule editor so you can see two or more rules at once. Two new features are making Hazel even more powerful than it was already: custom list and custom table attributes. With those, Hazel can do things to your files automatically which you could only dream of before.

The interface improvements are welcome. They don’t only make Hazel look better than it did when it was still a Preference panel, but they also make it more powerful. For example, you can now group rules together for organisational purposes. The detachable rule editor makes creating and editing rules a whole lot more efficient too.

But the big reason why you would want to buy Hazel or upgrade it are those two new custom attributes. It’s insane what you can do with them. Think of adding or changing tags based on one of a many possible character combinations in a file name or renaming a file that contains specific terms or words, or sentences even.

The solution Hazel’s developer has come up with is as elegant as it is powerful: you create a custom list attribute, either by filling the attribute panel with a list of items right there in the panel or by linking to a text file.

Lists are still simple solutions to a problem, but tables are the answer if your problem is more complex. With a table you can query a file for text in one or more columns and act upon that complex condition. For example, you can command Hazel to find files that have a filename that matches a term in the first column as well as a text snippet that appears in the second column and replace that text snippet with text from a third column. Again, the table can be a linked CSV (or tab-delimited) file, or you can create it right in Hazel’s attributes panel.

Using lists and tables is much more efficient than creating many different rules to achieve the same result — if it can be done at all. It’s more efficient in terms of processor time and in terms of avoiding mistakes.

Finally, a boon for people who already use Hazel is that you can now preview a rule, then select another rule within the same folder and instantly see the results for that rule as well.

Hazel 5 is an enormous upgrade but, luckily, the developer hasn’t succumbed to the siren call of subscriptions. Hazel still is available under a perpetual licence-based business model. And it’s dirt cheap for what you can do with it. Hazel can be licensed for 42 USD and upgraded for a mere 20 USD.