Getting things done with Automator and Spotlight

By using Spotlight and Automator, and the new Smart folders in OS X 10.4, you can change all those messy files on the desktop to something useful. And very David Allen-ish!

First, read my previous entry about “Add spotlight tags”. Make the Automator action described and save it as a Finder plugin for ctrl-clicking.

Smart folders

Then, in Finder, make a smart folder called “@home”, one called “@work” etc. One for every category you use with David Allen’s brilliant book “Getting things done”.

Set up the folders like this: In Finder, choose File > Add smart folder. Or use the shortcut Alt-Apple-N. This brings up this window (mine is in Norwegian but you get the message).

GTD with Spotlight and Automator A

Be sure to choose “Computer” (“Datamaskin” in my screenshot) in the header, to make the smart folder search your whole Mac, not just parts of it.

Remove the bottom search term by clicking the minus sign. And click the first menu for the first one, and choose “Other” (“Annen” in my screenshot).

GTD with Spotlight and Automator B

This brings up a long list of things you can use in smart folders. To find the one we’re looking for, type “Spotlight” in the upper right corner. You don’t need to type the whole word, as the list will be shorter for every letter, leaving you with just “Spotlight comments” (“Spotlight kommentarer” in my screenshot).

GTD with Spotlight and Automator B

Choose that one, and “OK”.

Now type “@home” or “@work” or whatever context you’re making a smart folder for, save it and put it somewhere visible. I put mine on the desktop.

GTD with Spotlight and Automator D

Start tagging

Now, everytime you get a new file, just tag it by ctrl-clicking on it, and put in “@home”, “@work” etc. and the file will magically be listed immediately in your smart folder with that context. And it doesn’t matter where you put it on your drives. Put it anywhere!! It will still show up in your smart folder. This is just great!

Also tag files with other keywords while you’re at it. Example: If working with the “Redesign” project at work with your friend Mark, tag the Illustrator file both “Project:Redesign” and “@work” and “Projects” and “Mark”.

If you want to remove a tag from a file, just click it once in Finder, hit Apple-I and edit the Spotlight comments directly.

What do you think?

Do you have any experiences with this? Post them in the comments below! Also read my other posts about GTD and “Getting things done”.