Reading time: 2:45min. | Hazel is a tiny powerful app that helps fix the digital revolution’s biggest (failed) promise: efficient workflows.

A 1990 Macintosh SE was my first computer. The MacBook I’m writing these lines with is the 10th+ iteration of laptops in my life. As with any other craftsman, I see them as machines that are serving my work. From that perspective, reliability and accessibility is my crucial objective when I choose a new computer. Then comes design (I’m looking hours a day at the screen of my laptop, I don’t want to be annoyed or distracted) and lastly the price. As I understand the price tag as the number of euros divided by the hours the machine is serving me the price I’m paying for the computer is foremost a relative quantity which ideally represents the real value. A year more lifespan, endless hours which I do not have to spend in maintenance, can bring down costs considerably — and raise the value. Somewhere must be the economic optimum which I traditionally figure is a 13” MacBook Pro — for my requirement profile. Your mileage, of course, may vary.

When working with my computer, I follow a path of trusted and thus endlessly repeated inputs that IT tech call workflow. So, what makes a regular workflow an efficient workflow? As in any industry, it’s automatisation. Automatisation is the key to our welfare state and anything we have accomplished and attributed to modern life. Without automatisation, we would still be working as hunters and gatherers. And that’s what often we do when working with our computers. We hunt and gather.

When I worked with my Macintosh SE back in the day, and my goal was to send a message to a business partner, I wrote the text, printed it to paper and faxed it to the recipient. I could as well have left out the computer and printer part and penned the message down on the form I will fax. At that time, I figured that IT was, in many instances, a self-serving business. That hasn’t changed much today. But with the evolving internet computers elevated from imperfect digital tools to a digital necessity with an in-build resource of unreal magnitude. That’s the reason why we’re more tied to our computers than ever.

As our dependence on our computers is carved in stone, we should make them more efficient. Since day one software developers are working on that task tirelessly because it’s their solemn reason for existence. Data live now in clouds, applications live on the web, and the competition is a deep jungle. But still, even if we are at the digital forefront, we are hunting and gathering data. Files are created or have to be downloaded and then stored or moved to their assigned places. Mostly we do this manually, which makes us question all these clouds, web applications and cross-linkings that add to the clutter instead of streamlining the infamous workflow.

Hazel is an old-fashioned little program that doesn’t live on the web or in a cloud. It exists on the computer’s hard drive and automates the relocation of files. Think of it as a digital handyman. In my case, Hazel moves files I’ve produced with my photography or video editing program automatically to assigned places which could be folders or other programs like Apple Photos. For instance, when I press renders in my photos editing program, a JPEG version in a reduced file size of the edited photo will automatically end in Photos. I don’t have to upload the rendered photos manually to Photos anymore because Hazel is taking care of that. And there are so many more use cases.

Hazel costs $42. Since installation, Hazel has spared me approx. 20min of manual file relocations. That doesn’t sound much. But Hazel is working for me only a few months now. In a year or two, the time saved will be countable by hours. But the biggest gain is the feeling not to be deceived any more by the promise that computers would keep me valuable lifetime through intelligent automatisation.