Mac Tip 1: Mission Organization Made Easy Using Smart Folders

I think I might make a regular occurence of Mac Tips. Sometimes I come across or use something that may not be common knowledge about Macs or OSX, or it could be so simple to do that most people don’t even think of it. For the first tip, let’s discuss how we can use Mac OS X Tiger to easily keep track of files you need to work on.

One of the great, yet never-used features of Tiger is the implementation of Smart Folders in the Finder.

While Smart Folders can be used to help organize a broad variety of files (all PDF documents, iChat/Adium log files with the phrase "HE AIN’T GONNA EMAIL YOU NO MO’!") how about using Smart Folders to enhance productivity and get to work on documents and projects that you need to finish?

For this example, let’s use Logic Pro documents. Say that I need to edit audio before a client comes in, or I’ve been storing music ideas in Logic for three years. That adds up to a lot of files. Most of them are probably junk, but maybe there are a few diamonds in the rough.

It’s about time that someone recognized which ones have potential and which ones don’t. Why don’t we use another seldom used feature (among switchers) Finder feature? Go ahead and label all your files that need to be worked on as green (or whatever color you’d like)?

So the next step would be to label each file that needs to be finished. This is the most time consuming part, especially if you’ve built up a large library of files you intended to finish "some day." In the end it’ll be worth it as you can finally seperate your good ideas from your bad ideas.

Now let’s go ahead and create a Smart Folder. The Smart Folder will be set up to search for anything labeled as green (or your chosen color) in your projects folder. You can find the option to create a Smart Folder in the Finder menu underneath File. You can also use the keyboard shortcut Option+Command+N to create a new Smart Folder.

iTunes users familiar with Smart Playlists should feel right at home here. Just configure the Smart Folder to find what you need it to find. In this case, I’m configuring it to look for all files labeled as green in my Logic Pro projects folder.

Click "Save", give your Smart Folder a name, and save it to your chosen location. You can even add it to the sidebar easily and treat it almost exactly as a regular folder (add it to the right side of your Dock, use an alias for your Desktop, you can’t copy files into it however.

The above is a rather simple example of what Smart Folders can do for you. Of course, the Smart Folder will be updated dynamically. Remove a label from a file and it’s out of the search, add a label to another file and it’ll be included the next time you use that folder. If you need to you can get really crazy with it with Spotlight comments, file types, file sizes, compressed audio bitrates, images with alpha channels, and a whole lot more. Experiment with it and you may find yourself accidentally becoming organized and optimizing your workflow.