Archives For paperless

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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My two previous posts have covered automating actions on files with Hazel and taking notes with the Note Taker HD iPad app. In this post I’ll show you how to automate the process of filing your Note Taker HD notes into a folder on your Mac.

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Ever since getting a new iPad last July I’ve been exploring various note taking apps to determine whether I could successfully make the transition from paper and pen to a purely digital note taking workflow. After purchasing, installing, and spending some time in (Penultimate, Note Taker HD, Notes Plus, and Notability I’ve decided to make Note Taker HD my go to digital note taking system.

Note Taker HD ($4.99 in the iOS App Store) was created by Dan Bricklin who, if you’re as old as Internet dirt like me, you may recognize as one of the PC pioneers who gave the world Visicalc in 1979. In some ways the Note Taker HD interface is decidedly unApple-like. There are many small buttons to tap, but those buttons provide direct access to a host of powerful features. I’d call the interface elegant, but it’s elegant in way that Unix utilities are elegant. That’s not a bad thing, but I can imagine Note Taker HD would have stronger appeal among a slightly geekier set of users. (Hey, that’s me.)

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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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