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Wrapping Up: Miscellaneous Rules for Hazel 3 and the Inbox



Over the past few months I’ve been writing a series of tutorials on using Hazel 3, a file management app for OS X, to develop and automate a dedicated Inbox folder.

If you’ve been following along, any file that gets added to the Mac should be automatically sorted into a specific subfolder in the Inbox so you can act on it. After a set period of time it’ll be archived or deleted. If you’ve got two Macs, the Inbox will also sync between them.

While writing this series I also developed a couple of rules that didn’t fit into the workflows I was teaching. In this tutorial—my final Hazel one for the time being—I’ll cover some of these miscellaneous ideas.


While some of the information in this tutorial will be actionable even if you haven’t read the rest of this series, it’s best to start from the beginning. To get the most from this tutorial you’ll need to have read and implemented the following:

You need a copy of Hazel 3 which you can download from the developer’s website. Hazel 3 costs $29 and if you go to the effort of setting it up properly, is worth every penny. There’s a 14-day free trial, but as before, I recommend you just buy Hazel outright if you’re going to spend the time to get it working.

You also need a folder syncing app. My preference is Dropbox. You can download the app for free from the Dropbox website. Dropbox operates on a freemium basis—you get 2GB of file storage for free, though this can be increased to 8GB. A terabyte of storage costs $9.99 a month.

Syncing Images With Dropbox

As a photographer, I often have to send images to other people. I do all my editing with Lightroom and when I export the photos they’re moved to the @Images folder in the Inbox. Rather than manually copy the images to Dropbox so I can share them, I use a rule that automatically syncs the @Images folder the Inbox Sync folder in Dropbox.

Even better, the rule automatically deletes any images from the sync folder once they’re removed from the Inbox.

The Workflow

Create an @Images folder in Dropbox. I have it inside the Inbox Sync folder that I created in the previous tutorial.

Target the Inbox folder in the Hazel Preferences Pane. Create a new rule called Sync @Images and place it at the top of the list. Have it target a file that's name is @Images and then runs Sync into the folder Inbox Sync followed by Run rules on folder contents.

Any image that gets added to the @Images folder in the Inbox will be copied to the @Images folder in Inbox Sync but once an image is removed from the Inbox @Images folder, it will also be deleted from the other folder.

Tidying Up Messy Folders With Hazel

While the Hazel-plus-Inbox setup is a great way to keep a Mac clutter free, it does little to help an already cluttered Mac. After going to the effort of creating a Hazel workflow that stops any future clutter, it’s worth taking the time to sort all your cluttered files and folders. 

Many of them are probably old and no longer needed. If you’re feeling brave just delete everything and start from scratch. If, like me, you’re a little more cautious when it comes to your digital data, you can use Hazel to help you sort the files you want to keep.

These rules can be run on any folder that contains a large number of unsorted files. They take all the files and sort them into folders based on the date they were created—old files are more likely to be unneeded—and also add tags so you can quickly see how large each file is—old videos waste more space than Word documents.

The Workflow

Target the folder you want to sort in the Hazel Preferences Pane. I’m using the Documents folder. 

Right click on the targeted folder and select Pause “[Folder]” Rules so that Hazel doesn’t do anything before you are ready.

paused folder
The Documents folder is paused so no rules will run.

Add a new rule called Sort Large that targets files with a Size that is greater than 100 MB that the Date Created is not in the last 1 hour

Have it Set color label to red and Sort into subfolder with pattern date created.

date pattern sort large
Setting the date pattern for the Sort Large rule.

Select date created and click Edit Date Pattern from the dropdown menu. Change the pattern so it sorts each file into a folder for the year and month it was created. Select OK.

Duplicate the Sort Large rule and change it’s name to Sort Medium

Change the rule so that it targets files with a Size that is greater than 2 MB instead and assigns them an Orange colour label before sorting them into a folder based on date created.

sort medium
The Sort Medium rule.

Create a new rule called Sort Small. It is a little different. Have it target any file that matches none of the following rules: that the Size is greater than 2 MB and that the Date Created is in the last 1 hour

Have the rule set the color label to Yellow and sort the files into folders as before. The inverse in the selection process is required so that all the small files are matched without matching the newly created folders.

sort small
The Sort Small rule.

Right click on the folder you’re targeting and select Resume “[Folder]” Rules. Allow Hazel to do it’s thing.

Once it’s finished, pause the rules again. Now you’ll be able to easily scan through the sorted files and get rid of any you no longer need. Any remaining, and needed, files will be nicely sorted by date.

You can tweak the rules so that files are sorted into folders based on size—or file kind—and tags are applied for any other criteria Hazel can match for. As before, the rules I used are available for download and you can use them as is or modify them.

Tip: I’ve experimented with using the Dive Into Folders rule that is used on Downloads and the Desktop in the main workflow, however it can create a lot of unwanted results. If you’re sure you want all the files removed from folders, you can add it as the first rule in the workflow. Otherwise folders will be treated as a single file. If a folder contains a lot of files, just run the rules on it.


Hazel is a fantastic app. Over the last four tutorials I’ve demonstrated how to create an extremely powerful workflow to keep all the files on a Mac sorted. You should also have learnt a huge amount about how Hazel works. Once you’ve gone to the effort of setting it up, you won’t know how you got by without it.

There are countless ways to use Hazel that I haven’t touched on—or possibly even heard of. If there are any great Hazel workflows you’re using, or trying to implement but can’t fully figure out, please post them in the comments.

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