HOW TO |put folder actions to good use
Automatically print select documents
Each of us is aware of the environmental impact of printing, but for some documents, having a hard copy is a boon – even mandatory in some circumstances. Attach a Folder Action containing the Print Finder Items action to the folder where you store documents of this sort – perhaps the Web Receipts folder that OS X creates (in your Documents folder) when you choose Save PDF to Web Receipts Folder in a print dialog, or wherever you keep purchase orders if you run a business. All documents added to the folder will be sent to the printer you specify here. Remember, you can create printer pools in System Preferences pane: ç- click those to pool together, click Create Printer Pool, then pick that pool in the action to send things to the first available printer.
Rename scanned files in a paperless office
If, however, you’re trying to go paperless, the Folder Action shown above will rename any files you add to a folder to use a common base name (in our case ‘Receipt’, though it can be whatever you want) followed by a date and time stamp based on when the file was created. Note how you can add multiple instances of the same action, each with different settings, to continue acting on a file.
Streamline the sending of invoices
In this example, every time a file is added to a folder called Invoices, the New Mail Message action creates a new, partlywritten email (for you to fill in the blanks) and attaches the file to it. This works whether you manually drop a file into the folder in Finder, or export a PDF from the print dialog in Numbers, say, or an online service. By creating subfolders for regular clients, you can create separate Folder Actions that fill out the message’s recipient.
Compress and upload files
You can extend Automator’s power with actions from third-party developers. For this example we’ve used Peter Dekkers’s Upload to FTP action (free, http://bit.ly/1L1I5Cz). When we add a group of files to our designated folder, the Create Archive action compresses them into a Zip file, and the Upload to FTP action puts the Zip on your server. You could optionally use Rename Finder Items to add a time stamp to the file.
Duplicate to another disk
We’ve almost certainly browbeaten you into at least backing up your Mac using Time Machine (see MF288), which is good, but with some projects – a university dissertation or a big project at work, say – you might want the belt-and-braces reassurance of manually copying files to an external flash drive or hard drive as well. A Folder Action workflow containing only the Copy Finder Items action does just that for you. Leaving the action’s ‘Replacing existing files’ option unchecked will mean a messy proliferation of duplicates on the external drive, thought it does give you a crude versioning system.