I have a handful of Hazel rules running that look for PDFs on my desktop with certain information and sort them into folders in Documents. This is for automatically organizing things like bills and bank statements (based on stuff from various MPU episodes).
However, I am now looking at going iOS only (iPad Pro and iPhone) so I’m looking how to replace this automation. I understand iOS can’t monitor folders like Hazel can on Mac, but at least looking for something that can look at PDFs in an iCloud folder, rename, and then move them based on certain rules.
Any advice is greatly appreciated!
I don’t think there’s a way to do this at all. I have a Mac mini running 24/7 which also runs my hazel rules. If your machine wouldn’t net you a lot when selling it you might want to consider that for now.
If you weren’t using iCloud, Zapier might get you 20-30% of the way there on what you want to do, but Hazel is one of those Mac utilities that just doesn’t quite get matched anywhere else. There are some similar utilities on other platforms and Zapier is more sophisticated than IFTTT for a cloud integration & operation platform and I’ve not heard of anything more advanced.
If you are okay with a manual trigger, Workflow might get you some way there, but automated access in the app is frustratingly restricted to it’s own Workflow folder (the cloud picker option lets you move outside that but is a manual step).
I’m exactly the same as @RosemaryOrchard in this respect. I have a Mac mini at my house that runs my Hazel rules (as well as act as a host for various scripts, runs special print and data retrieval jobs using apps like Keyboard Maestro and Fake web browser). It’s your most flexible approach right now.
You know, this makes me think there might be a market for a cloud storage service with built-in automation tools.
It depends on the security involved!
Yeah, it sounds like things like Dropbox can be automated pretty well with Zapier (will have to look into this more). Unfortunately iCloud doesn’t provide access to cloud services, and apps only get access to their own folder for automation.
I have thought about this as well. My gut tells me though I want it and perhaps many here want it the market is just not big enough to scale. If someone though has thoughts on what a product like this would look like, to A. Develop, B. deploy, and C. Maintain I would be interested in having a conversation
Wouldn’t it be more viable to try and make a Hazel like automation app that can link to services like Dropbox, OneDrive, Box, etc.
Through authentication APIs a web service can get access to files on those services. You would then just need to build a web service that monitors folders and then can run actions/scripts when new files are detected.
Probably a little more complicated. Particularly in regards to security.
Internet service APIs are by their nature not as extensive as APIS for local interactions such as the file system. Moving files I think all would support. Renaming hopefully most if not all. But much more than that. Perhaps not so much. Would many, for example, expose a way to get the artist of an audio track or the content of a text file? What about those that don’t?
If you need to script anything for internal modification of a file, again a local copy is pretty much required.
Ultimately, you would often end up having to transfer the file to the hazel-ish service to process it. That could be expensive in storage, processing and bandwidth.
Not impossible, but there are some significant overheads (expense and time) to accommodate to get anywhere close to an Internet service like Hazel.
Hopefully one day we’ll see options, but just keep in mind that really, the cloud is just running stuff on someone else’s computer.
I just remembered there is a service called Wappwolf which does some of this. It might be worth looking into to see if it supports your needs.
@RosemaryOrchard, Wappwolf shut down.
Dang it! Oddly enough I’m sure I never got an email that it was happening.
You have all the parts to make this work, unless I’m missing something. If iCloud is your repository for these PDFs, then you only need to point Mac Mini Hazel at a directory that’s synced between your iPad and Mac. From your iOS device, drop your files in that folder where it will sync to the Mac and Hazel will rename/tag/whatever to those files and then move them to their respective folders presumably also in iCloud or whatever sync’ed file service on the Mini.
I did something similar for filing receipts. You have to wait for the files to be synced, so it’s not instantaneous, but it works.
I would second the mac mini option, either owned or in colocation. I myself have a macbook pro and a mac mini. The macbook stays in the office, or is used by my wife, most of the time and I will not be buying a new one.
All my work is done on my iPad pro 9,7” with the logitech create keyboard (best product they ever made!) My iPad goes with me wherever I go, and all my files live in icloud folders. My mac mini with hazel monitors these folders and acts on them when needed. Works like a charm.
iOS is just not ready yet for that type of automation at the moment imo, so I’ll probably be running this setup for a couple more years.
The second paragraph in @benhager’s original post explicitly talks about how we is currently using Hazel on the Mac but wants to switch to iOS + cloud services only. So it sounds like it has been working but that he’s looking for a Mac independent solution.
Unfortunately no one seems to have identified a fully automated Mac-free approach just yet.
Would you be willing to post/share your PDF workflows for Hazel? I have it doing some of this but not to the extent you’re using this for. I would love to leverage your workflows if possible. Thanks!
Yeah, I’d be happy to share some of that. I’ll take some screenshots tonight and post them here!
Okay, so here are some screen shots of the Hazel rule that I use to process documents. My “dumping ground” is the Desktop because I can save files there from my Mac or from iOS via iCloud Drive and the syncing. I have a similar rule setup for each document that I want to sort and process on.
It is certainly no @MacSparky screen cast, so let me know if you have any questions! Sorry it took an extra day, but with 2 kids under 5, tonight rarely ever means tonight.
- I use Contents > contain to find an account number or other uniquely identifying information to identify the document.
- I then use Contents > contain match to find the date of the document. The screen shots show how I parse that based on text in the PDF (usually something like Statement Date followed by a date)
- I then move it into a folder called Bills
- Then sort into a sub-folder based on the current rule
- Then I rename the file to match a standard naming convention. My personal format is the document date, based on the contains match above followed by the document name. This is shown below
Hope that helps you out. Again, please let me know if you have any questions please let me know. I think I covered everything in the screen shots, but I might have missed something.
If you are using Office 365, you can try using Flow https://flow.microsoft.com/en-us/ which is similar to IFTTT.