As higher education continues its push towards the web, students are handling an ever increasing number of digital files. At many institutions, everything from the class syllabus to daily Powerpoint lectures are distributed online for students to download. If you’re like myself, at the beginning of each semester you take the time to create a folder hierarchy for the classes you’re taking that semester. Once the hustle and bustle of classes starts though, you may find that your Downloads folder quickly become a mess of files that you neglected to drag into the appropriate class folder. Hazel solves this.

Hazel is a small Preference Pane utility for your Mac that monitors a folder of your choosing and executes an action when the contents of the folder match a set of user defined rules. Setting up Hazel to automatically sort class files into their appropriate folder on your computer is a breeze.

After installing Hazel.prefPane, take a look at your Downloads folder. If you’re lucky, each one of your Professors uses a unique naming scheme when distributing class documents. In Hazel, after adding your Downloads folder to the left sidebar, create a new rule for the class you wish to auto-sort. You’ll need to configure the rule so that only the files associated with that particular class will match the rule. In this case, all the files for Biology 373 have spring11-biol373 as a naming scheme, so I would select name contains spring11-biol373 as my filter criteria. Now it’s time to select the actions Hazel should perform if it matches any files. Here I’ve told it move the file to the appropriate class folder and to display a Growl notification of the action. Since Hazel runs silently in the background, firing off a Growl popup is a nice unobtrusive way to know that Hazel is doing its job.

I should note, although Hazel appears to works like magic, everything Hazel does can be accomplished with Applescript or for that matter, Automator. So why pay $22 for the small utility? Simple, Hazel’s ridiculously easy to setup and use.

If you’re tired of organizing your Mac one click at a time, I encourage you to give Hazel a try. As Ron Popeil would say, “Set it and forget it!”