TL; DR: It’s easy for Mac users to declutter their digital lives with the help of Hazel, a rule-based file organization solution created by Noodlesoft. The simple yet powerful app, designed to support Mac OS X technologies, will automatically organize, archive, rename, and delete files as instructed. With Hazel 5 currently under development and due to come out next year, Noodlesoft is looking to add extra polish to an already-beloved app.
It’s no secret that organization has been trending over the past few years — and one needs to look no further than decluttering guru Marie Kondo for proof. The bestselling author and Netflix star has made a career out of her method for keeping an orderly home, which includes folding socks neatly into thirds, so they stand upright in drawers.
Thankfully, when it comes to organizing our digital lives, there are more straightforward solutions. Hazel, a file organization app from Noodlesoft designed for Mac, automatically sorts files based on user-defined rules. The simple but powerful decluttering tool will organize, archive, rename, and delete files as instructed, saving the user time and ensuring an orderly file structure.
Paul Kim, Chief Noodler at Noodlesoft, founded the one-man software company in 2006 and also serves as its Head Accountant, Senior System Administrator, and Customer Support Specialist.
“When I started to write Hazel, I did it for my own use,” Paul said. “OS X (as macOS was called back then) had folder actions built into the system, but I found them insufficient for what I wanted. It was only later on, as I was developing Hazel, that I realized other people might find it useful as well.”
He was right. Now, 13 years and many happy reviews later, Paul’s passion for Hazel inspires each new release. “As a developer, it’s always great to work on something you actually use yourself, which was not always the case at various companies I’ve worked at before,” he said.
A Simple Yet Robust Decluttering Companion
Paul started his career as a developer for NeXT Computers, a hardware and software company founded in 1985 by Apple Co-Founder Steve Jobs. According to the Noodlesoft website, NeXT Computers later formed the basis of Mac OS X.
Paul also worked for LighthouseDesign, a company that developed software for the NeXTSTEP operating system. Given his industry experience, Paul has observed substantial shifts in the Mac software development space over the years.
“A lot of the attention has shifted over to iOS, and I think this gives a skewed and mistaken view that the macOS market is not doing well,” Paul said. “The reality, at least for indie developers, is that the macOS market is far more sustainable. Trends come and go, but I’ve been more interested in building things that last.”
Paul told us that the macOS development is often impacted by the iOS release schedule, as the two fall roughly on the same timeline. Indie developers often find it challenging to push products forward while also keeping up with Apple’s yearly updates.
“I do keep up and incorporate features that make sense, but, depending on the release and how many bugs Apple introduces, that can end up taking up a lot of time, leaving little time for me to improve my product,” he said. “In some ways, I think Apple’s faster pace is actually slowing down innovation for third-party software.”
Overall, Paul’s goal is to ensure Hazel serves its core purpose — automating files — rather than providing a wide range of superficial features.
“I’ve had requests for Hazel to do all sorts of other things that are probably better suited for a different type of program,” he said. “By keeping Hazel focused, I feel I can solve deeper problems.”
Organize, Archive, Rename, and Delete Your Files
Hazel is intended to offer a balance between simplicity and power. Once the app is installed and set up, its purpose is to take on the organizational burden, so the user is free to handle other tasks. “Hazel does its job so you can do yours,” Paul said.
Users can direct Hazel to organize files based on several variables, including name, date, type, and origin. The app can also open, archive, rename, tag, and upload files. It’s not opposed to taking out the trash, either: Hazel can be set to delete files that have sat in the bin for too long or are too large.
And, because it’s common for support files to remain on a computer after an app is deleted, Hazel’s App Sweep feature is designed to clean up any mess. The software can detect when the user drags a file to the trash before searching for support files and offering to remove them as well.
While the app does include some open-ended features designed for programmers, such as the ability to run scripts, Paul said his focus is on providing as much functionality for the average user as possible.
“One such feature is Hazel’s pattern matching,” he said. “It’s the type of thing that programmers use a special language for, but it’s nice to be able to harness some of that capability so that non-programmers are able to use it.”
The feature allows users to set rules for conditions that match a pattern as opposed to a fixed attribute — such as “match any file with a two-digit number in its name.”
Deep Support for Mac OS X Technologies
Hazel is designed to work seamlessly with your Mac to take advantage of everything the operating system has to offer. This means the app is integrated with Spotlight, Apple’s desktop search utility, allowing users to easily find files organized by Hazel.
It also plays well with iTunes and Photos, making it easy to automatically import audio and music files to desired locations on your computer. And when Hazel needs to capture your attention, it can use Mac’s built-in Notification Center to do so. These configurable notifications include information on errors, file deletion, significant changes, and other user-defined alerts.
Finally, Hazel can be used to trigger workflows in Automator, Mac’s trademark automation assistant. Using Automator to create actions allows users to extend Hazel’s intrinsic abilities without writing code. For example, Automator workflows can be used to resize images, make changes to the Calendar, send files as email attachments, and save text to audio files.
Paul said features like these are the result of user feedback combined with his vision for the product. “If there’s a problem a user has that Hazel should solve, I always take that into account and look for ways of fitting that into the design,” he said. “I don’t care about trends so much unless they help me to solve problems.”
Next from Noodlesoft: Hazel 5
As for what the future holds, Paul isn’t wrapped up in growing the company or achieving some financial milestone: He simply wants to focus on ensuring Hazel remains a useful application.
“I’ve always tried to focus on making a good product, and, fortunately, Hazel has been a big enough success that I can continue to do so,” he said. “I’m not interested in growing as a company, could care less about seeking outside investment, and I have no exit strategy.”
Paul is currently working on the next major release from Noodlesoft: Hazel 5, which is due to come out next year. And while he can’t say for sure what new features it will include, users can rest assured that the latest release will maintain Hazel’s simple yet powerful functionality.