About Folders & Rules

Hazel lets you automate the management and organization of your files and folders. You can ask Hazel to watch any number of folders, and for each one, you create one or more rules that detail what should happen to the folder’s contents and under what circumstances.

Hazel can be used to organize almost any folder, but the best candidates are ones that tend to collect files, such as where your browser downloads files, where Mail puts attachments, or a shared Dropbox folder. Hazel can also use Smart Folders (with minor limitations).

What Rules Can Do

Rules in Hazel, much like rules in Apple Mail, specify two things:

  • What to look for in the selected folder ( conditions )

  • What to do when the conditions are met ( actions )

You can have Hazel watch any number of folders; and for each folder, you can create any number of rules. Each rule, in turn, can have one or more  conditions  that, when met, trigger one or more  actions .

Conditions

A Hazel rule can match a vast range of conditions—practically anything you can think of. To give just a few examples, a condition can examine attributes such as:

  • The name or size of a file or folder—for example, “Filename contains  cherry ” or “Size is greater than 100 MB”

  • An item’s creation or modification date—for example, “Date Created is in the last week” or “Date Last Modified occurs after 3:00 PM on a weekend in January or March”

  • The text contents of a file—for example, “Contents do not contain  virtual machine ” or “Contents contain match  any word followed by a three-digit number

  • Metadata such as Finder tags and comments—for example, “Tags contain  Work ” or “Comment is not blank”

  • The number of items in a subfolder—for example, “Sub-file/folder Count is less than 5”

  • Normally hidden Spotlight metadata for photos, music, and other media files—for example, “Resolution width is less than 300 (DPI)” or “Composer contains  Bach

And, multiple conditions can be combined in any way you like—a rule can be set to match any, all, or none of the conditions you specify; and you can even nest conditions to create complex logical tests.

Actions

When your rule matches the condition(s) you specify, it then takes one or more actions. Again, the range of options is immense, but here are a few examples:

  • Move or copy the matched item to another location, or upload it to a server

  • Sort the matched item into a subfolder

  • Rename the matched item

  • Zip or unzip the matched item

  • Change metadata such as Finder tags and comments

  • Import the item into Photos or iTunes

  • Display a notification

  • Run an AppleScript, JavaScript, Automator workflow, or shell script

Example Rules

Putting conditions and actions together, here are a few examples of complete rules you can create in Hazel:

  • When a family member puts a photo in a shared Dropbox folder, import it into Photos, delete the original, and display a notification.

  • When a PDF file appears on my Desktop, move it into my Documents folder and then open it in Preview.

  • When my Downloads folder contains a  .dmg  file that’s larger than 100 MB and older than one week, move it to the Trash.

  • When I put a Word file in my Research folder that contains the text “earnings report,” apply the Finder tag “Finances.”

  • When a scanned document appears in my Images folder, run an AppleScript that opens it in PDFpenPro and performs OCR (optical character recognition) on it.

In cases where a folder has numerous rules, or the conditions and actions are complex, it can take some planning and experimentation to achieve exactly your desired results. For a detailed explanation of Hazel’s logic when processing rules, read  Understand the Logic of Rules .


Anatomy of a Simple Rule

To illustrate how Hazel rules are constructed, let’s look at a simple example. This happens to be one of the sample rules you can install by going to the “Folders” pane, clicking the Action   menu, and choosing “Load Sample Rules.” (For a more thorough orientation, see  The Hazel Preference Pane .)

In this example, the “Pictures” rule is attached to the Downloads folder. You can display the rule either by double-clicking it, or by selecting it and clicking the Edit   button. Then you’ll see something like this:

This rule looks for files in the Downloads folder with a kind of “Image” and, for each one it finds, moves it to the Pictures folder (that is, Macintosh HD   Users   your-username   Pictures).

Here’s what each element does:

  • Name (1):  The rule’s name can be anything you like. This one is simply called “Pictures.”

  • Note (2) : If you want to make notes or comments about the rule—perhaps explaining what it does or why you constructed it a certain way, click the Note   icon, enter the note, and then click the X   icon (or just click anywhere outside the note bubble). When a rule includes a note, the Note   icon turns blue.

  • Conditions (3):  The conditions area, outlined in green in the image above, specifies what has to be true in order for the rule to be triggered (and thus for the action(s) to run). This rule has only one condition, created by choosing options from a series of pop-up menus: “Kind is Image.” (We could add more conditions by clicking the plus   button in the Conditions section.) That is, if the rule encounters a file in the Downloads folder with a kind of “Image,” the condition is true and the action applies to that file.

  • Actions (4):  The actions area, outlined in blue above, specifies what happens to each file or folder for which the condition(s) above have been met. This rule has only one action (again, constructed by choosing options from a series of pop-up menus): “Move to folder Pictures.” (We could add more conditions by clicking the plus   button in the Actions section.)

    Notice the Options   icon next to the action. Some actions offer additional parameters; click this icon to adjust them. (For the “Move” action, options let you specify what happens if a file with the same name already exists at the destination, whether to throw the file away if it’s a duplicate, and whether or how to copy the folder structure when moving a folder.)

Some conditions and actions have more or fewer pop-up menus, require you to fill in blanks, or let you build patterns of various kinds. But they all follow this basic structure, and every condition and action starts with a choice from the leftmost pop-up menu in its row.

SEE ALSO

The Hazel Preference Pane

Work with Folders & Rules

Attributes & Actions