Automating the Mundane

Make your life easier, automate repetitive tasks when possible.

I am a beta tester for Gobbler, as a result I will often send support files to their development team. The process is:

  • Navigate to the appropriate folder
  • Zip the necessary files
  • Upload the zipped file
  • Create an email with all interested parties included
  • Write the email
  • Paste the link to download the zipped support files
  • Drag the file to the trash.

This takes some time, not much but enough that a shortcut was desired.

I used a combination of Alfred, Apple's Automator, Hazel, CloudApp, and TextExpander to make it easier. Below is a walkthrough how this was achieved.

(I'm sure this isn't the smoothest way but I didn't have to learn a lick of code and it works just fine for me.)

 

I press ctrl-space to open Alfred's dialog box, then type "goblog".

This is screenshot represents what is now half of my total efforts, much simpler than before.

 

A behind the scenes look at what Alfred is doing when I type "goblog".

An Alfred workflow launches an Automator app I created.

 

The Automator part is rather straight forward: find the files and zip them.

The Apple Automator app locates the files and creates a zipped archive which is then placed on my Desktop.

 

Once it appears on my desktop Hazel immediately uploads it to CloudApp then moves it to the trash.

CloudApp automatically copies the download url to my clipboard so nothing was needed to add there.

The Hazel rule renames the file before uploading so it includes the current date. This all happens as soon as it appears on my desktop.

 

The TextExpander snippet puts the main email address in the To field then tabs through the remaining fields and completes the information as needed.

Next I open a new email in Postbox and type "em . gobbler" (without the spaces) in the To field.

TextExpander will:

  • Put each email address in the appropriate field
  • Put my Evernote Clip email address in the BCC field to log the email in my Evernote account
  • Populate the subject field
  • Prompt me to write a message
  • Paste the CloudApp download url.

This workflow has saved me much time since its creation so it was well worth the minimal time invested to assemble.

15 Pieces of Solarized Flare

I used the Solarized color palette by Ethan Schoonover to change the look of my OmniFocus and Alfred App interfaces, I am quite pleased with the outcomes.

You can download the themes to try out for yourself if you'd like:

Enjoy! (Or don't, that happens and it's okay.)

Outsourcing the Inbox

The OmniFocus to-do app is a highly valuable aspect of my waking hours. I use it at home and while out... constantly... just ask my girlfriend. However, many tasks I want to address require research, research I prefer to do at home on my computer rather than on my phone. Adding tasks from my phone to my inbox has become even easier since OmniGroup's recent(ish) offering, Maildrop. Maildrop is a way to add tasks via email. I love this feature and use it in conjunction with several other iOS apps.

A few different apps I use for ingesting material are Reeder, Twitter, Mailbox, and (on rare occasion) App.net. Here are how I integrate those with Maildrop:

  • In Reeder I have my Maildrop address set up as the default email when emailing either a link or an article such as a story in Variety that I wish to follow up on. I simply click "email article", hit send, then move on to the next article.
  • In Twitter I will add a tweet to Instapaper to read it later or email it to the Maildrop address if I will act on it later. (I saved the OmniGroup-assigned Maildrop email in my address book as "omniadd" for easy access.)
  • In Mailbox I will forward an email to the Maildrop address unless I need, or want, to have the actual email message retained in which case I'll wait until I'm in front of my computer to act on it. (I know this sounds like an obvious gimme but you'd be surprised.)

Any Maildrop added tasks will appear in my inbox when I launch OmniFocus on my computer thereby streamlining my day and putting tasks where they need to be, when they need to be there. I don't have to mark articles unread in Reeder so they will appear later—creating redundancies. I don't have to hunt down Twitter posts. I can avoid the "later" list in email as much as possible.

On a related topic, another two apps which greatly help and that I really care for are Note (by SquareSpace, whom I use for my website) and Drafts. I use these to add tasks to OmniFocus' inbox quickly without OmniFocus ever opening on my phone. (I have a lot of info in my OmniFocus database and on occasion it takes a while to sync when launched. Yes, the inbox is available even while synchronizing but I just avoid it unless I need it.)

  • I set up Note to send the note to my Maildrop address by default essentially acting as quick-add OmniFocus inbox. (Note is very clean and simple, no fuss.)
  • In Drafts I write out the task and can choose to either have it emailed to the address or I can chose to have it added to OmniFocus by it opening in OmniFocus right away. The nice aspect to this is I can decide after the fact. I can also change my mind and send it to any service I use such as Evernote, Dropbox, etc.

These methods allow me to use OmniFocus how it should be used: as a to-do app and not as a play-with-this-for-too-long app.