This post does not speak directly to academic tasks such as writing papers or reviewing literature. Instead, I’m going to briefly describe some apps that does useful ‘background work’, which in turn helps me spend less time on being organised and more time on doing my actual work. I’m not offering a full review of these apps, but rather pointing to some options designed to help you organise your files and work flows.
As I’ve said before, I’m a great fan of tagging as a means of organisation. Tags is a nice and user friendly app that easily allows you to tag different file types across your mac, including emails stored in the native mail app and safari web pages.
One thing I like about working with tags is that you can assign more than one tag to a file, and you can subsequently use smart groups in Finder if you want additional folder organisation to supplement the use of tags. It’s a much more dynamic way of organising your stuff than static folders.
Default Folder X
Another app that helps with file management is Default Folder X. First, this app adds an additional part to you Finder window when you save files, where you can add open meta tags, labels and spotlight comments as you are saving the file. Second, this app allows you to associate particular folders with particular apps, so that when you want to open a file within, for example, Pages, Scrivener or Circus Ponies Notebooks, Finder will automatically be directed to the folder of your choice.
Leap is a little powerhouse for those who want to rely on tags rather than folders as a main principle for file management. It’s a swiss army knife for searching, retrieving and tagging your files. It might be overkill for a lot of people – but if you’re looking for a maxed out Finder option which will never put you in a situation of ‘not finding that file’, it’s worth having a look at this app.
Hazel is a little app that works in the background with general housekeeping. You can ask Hazel to automate a lot of tasks that are then just executed without you having to think about them. Some of the things that Hazel does for me include:
- regularly clearing out my downloads folder
- regularly clearing out the camera uploads folder in dropbox
- batch renaming files uploaded to the camera uploads folder in dropbox
- erasing files once a day from a folder where I stick stuff that I’m just temporarily editing or saving
- automatically opening new journal articles that I download in Bookends. I first save them in a separate folder in Dropbox, because I like to keep a separate set of my PDFs without any annotations. These files are all gathered in a dropbox folder and organised by tags. When I tag the files with ‘bookends’, Hazel automatically opens the PDF in Bookends (thanks to Aleh Cherp at blog.macademic.org for this tip!)
These are just some examples – Hazel can do a whole range of things, and also complements the native Automator very well.
TextExpander does exactly what the name suggests, it expands text. For many years, I’ve had a system of abbreviations when I take notes. For example, instead of writing ‘knowledge’, I write ‘kno’, and instead of writing ‘educational theory’, I write ‘edul th’. Especially when you are writing by hand, this saves a lot of time and effort. TextExpander expands these snippets for you as you type. This means that when I’m writing literature notes or academic papers, I can type much faster because TextExpander has all my snippets stored in them.
TextExpander is also very useful for filling out forms or dealing with emails or other forms of correspondence where you typically repeat particular sentences or paragraphs. For example, I have snippets for all my email addresses, my phone number, my postal address and frequently used abbreviations.
Alfred opens and finds stuff for you. It opens applications, finds files, and searches the web for you, activated a little keyboard shortcut. I primarily use Alfred, rather than the Finder, to open apps and files, because it’s very quick and easy.
Do you have other recommendations for apps that help you keep productive and organised? Please leave a comment below.