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hazel

Note-ification

(I can get away with a pun in the title at this time of year, right?)

Notesy user Tommy Hightower (thightower) sent in this great technique that he and his wife use to notify one another when they create notes for each other.

With some Hazel and Automator fu he has things configured so that he can create a note in Notesy on his phone and his wife will get a text or email letting her know about it, and vice versa.

Nice Tommy!

This technique can work for any number of people sharing a notesy folder or for any number of people with separate notesy folders. The only prerequisites are that they share the same Dropbox account, and that there’s an always-on Mac synced to that Dropbox account.

Let’s show how it’s done for Alice and Bob, who share the default /notesy folder:

On the always-on Mac, open the Hazel Preferences Pane.

Add the notesy folder:
Add Notesy Folder

With the notesy folder selected, add a rule called For Alice with the following properties:
Alice Rule

This rule says: if Hazel sees a file show up in the notesy folder and its name begins with Alice, rename it to For Alice - <date-created>.txt. You can choose whatever renaming you like here; its purpose is just to try and keep the names unique and to end up with a name that doesn’t match the rule, i.e. it can’t still start with Alice or Hazel will keep seeing it, keep renaming it, and keep emailing it. You could instead use @alice as the name of the note that Hazel should be on the look out for—to make it more obvious that it’s for Alice, rather than about Alice.

If you’re not sharing the same notesy folder, use the Move file action instead of the Rename file action. to move the note into Alice’s notesy folder. The name can still start with Alice if you like, since it will be placed in a different folder, where Hazel isn’t looking for files that start with Alice.

Now Hazel is seeing the note and reacting to it, but we need to get it to do the notification. To do that we need to switch over to Automator for a minute and add a new workflow. You can download a template copy of this workflow to start from or create it from scratch.

Here’s what it looks like in Automator:
For Alice Workflow
Choose whatever Subject, Message and Account that you like. In this example I’ve chosen to use the AT&T SMS gateway address for Alice’s iPhone. That way she’ll get a text whenever Bob creates a note for her. By putting in her actual email address she’d get an email instead. The note will be included as an attachment if you send it as an email; to avoid that CTRL- or right-click the New Mail Message title and choose Ignore Input. At least with AT&T I don’t see the note come through SMS, even with it set to Accept Input, but it’s probably safer to set it to Ignore Input anyway.

Save this new Automator workflow as Notify Alice. It doesn’t really matter where—I have an Automator folder in my Dropbox but you can save it in Documents or your home folder, or wherever you like.

Back in Hazel, add our new workflow to our For Alice rule:
For Alice ||

Press the OK button to save the rule and make sure that there’s a checkmark in its Active column.

Creating a For Bob rule is the same process: create the Hazel rule for notes with names starting with Bob, create a Notify Bob workflow with Bob’s SMS or real email address and save the Hazel rule. Repeat for as many people as you want to share notifications with.

To try it out create a new note called Alice on Bob’s iPhone. Notesy will sync it up to dropbox.com and then the always-on Mac will sync it down from there. Hazel should see the new note, rename it to For Alice - <date created>.txt then send the SMS or email message to Alice.

You could extend the For Alice rule to send an SMS or email back to Bob too: that way Bob would get confirmation that Hazel saw the note and did something with it. That would just require adding another entry under Do the following for an Acknowledgement to Bob workflow, which would just be a variant of the For Bob workflow with a different subject/message.

My thanks to Tommy for sharing this really neat tip!

UPDATE: Tommy sent me a follow-up email regarding using Notational Velocity to create a note using this scheme: since NV does automatic saving, Hazel may see the note’s file before you’ve finished typing it. Since Hazel renames the note, NV will think the note’s been deleted and ask if you want to restore it. His solution is to add another condition to the rule:

New Condition.png

This gives him 5 minutes to finish creating the note before Hazel will act on it. This delays the notification to the recipient too, obviously, but avoids sending a partial note.