Archives For applescript

In a continuing effort to utilize automated tools to eliminate paper from my life and tidy up my filing system, I’ve been working on some additional Hazel recipes to manage the monthly statements my bank accounts produce. This one got a little tricky because I wanted a fully automated solution that would extract the proper date from the statement without any intervention on my part. If I had a digital assistant that could log in to my bank web sites and download the forms for me, I’d be in hog heaven. Sadly, that part still requires my participation.

Here’s the rough sequence of events associated with this Hazel recipe:

  1. I log in and download my financial statements. This is a manual process, but I don’t have to pay any attention to file names. The statements are downloaded to my Downloads folder, and Hazel takes it from there.
  2. A Hazel recipe monitors the Downloads folder looking for statements from my bank. When it finds one, the PDF documents get moved to the Action folder in my Dropbox where I centralize all of my Hazel filing. Why not run the filing rules from within the Downloads folder? If the filing recipe fails to run, I want the downloaded statement to sit in the Action folder where I’ll be more likely to notice the problem. I already have a Hazel rule monitoring my Downloads folder deleting downloads that are older than five days. I might not notice a statement that gets stuck in Downloads before it’s automatically deleted.
  3. The Hazel filing recipe scans through the downloaded PDF statements and identifies bank statements by looking for keywords associated with my bank’s name and the relevant account number.
  4. The recipe continues by using a couple geeky tools to identify the statement date.
  5. The statement PDF get renamed with the statement date and bank name and is filed in the appropriate folder.

Here are the detailed steps starting with #3 above. Step #2 is left as an exercise for the reader, and I’m not going to give you my bank logins to let you do step #1. Nice try.

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I’ve been experimenting with some new paperless workflows and thought I’d tell the Internet about them. You may find this useful. Or not. First, giving credit where credit is due I’ll point you to the Mac Power Users podcast which features paperless workflows and cool automation tricks regularly. The hosts of that show, David Sparks and Katie Floyd, mention the automation tool Hazel nearly weekly, and it forms the core of this workflow. I can also recommend David’s book Paperless which covers these kinds of scanning and filing automation tasks in great detail.

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My reading habits changed the moment I got my hands on an iPad. I’d been considering getting a Kindle for a while but held off in anticipation of whatever magical device Steve Jobs and his minions had in store. I’d installed Amazon’s Kindle app on my iPhone some time before, but the small screen never drew me in enough to make it anything more than a occasional reading device. The Kindle app on the iPad’s big screen made all the difference though, and I now find myself buying 90% of my reading material in Kindle ebook form.

About that same time I read Will Richardson’s post where I learned that the electronic notes and highlights that I was creating in my Kindle books could be accessed online at Wow. To quote Will, “Game. Changer.” I’m not sure I’ll ever buy a non-fiction book in dead tree form again if I can help it. (The inability of Apple’s own iBooks app to make my saved notes and highlights visible in one place is the single biggest reason I have yet to buy a book from Apple.)

Before Kindle, my typical practice was to make my highlights and margin notes in pencil and transcribe them into OmniOutliner so I could have easy access to them later. Effective, but laborious. What if, I thought, I could write some software to “scrape” the web page that displays my notes and highlights and import them into OmniOutliner directly using AppleScript. If nothing else, it sounded like a good excuse to learn AppleScript.

I had the OmniOutliner version working soon enough and added a generic OPML export too for those who don’t happen to own OmniOutliner. By that time I’d started playing around with Evernote and noticed that they had built AppleScript support into their Mac client. I decided to build an Evernote version too.

Enough delay: I’m calling it NoteScraper and making both versions available for download. Please note that there are likely bugs. This software is definitely beta. You can get more information and download the software at the newly minted Savvy Technologist software page.

I hope someone (besides Will) finds this stuff useful. I’d love to hear about it if you do.