3 min read

Automate the Boring for the Win

For the publisher working from home, the right technology is a force multiplier.

For the publisher working from home, the right technology is a force multiplier.

I’m a huge fan of automation. Why do something yourself when your computer can do it for you? Letting my Mac do some of the everyday drudge work frees up my time to be more productive (which I spend both writing and plotting against my players).

Automation requires an upfront investment in time to set up, but pays massive dividends in the long term. I use an app called Hazel from Noodlesoft (perhaps one of the best company names ever) and several of the Mac’s built in tools to run the automations below.

(The apps and resources are all for the Mac. I know nothing about Windows automation, but I’d be beyond surprised if you couldn’t do the same stuff on a PC.)

Here are some of the automation tasks running on my Mac Mini.

Make Covers Images

Raging Swan Press releases north of 15 books a month. Each book requires a PDF cover along with a certain size jpg for the web stores which sell our books.

As you can imagine, making 15 or more jpgs a month takes a lot of time. This is time I could better spend doing something—literally anything—else. I (obviously) have to design the covers, but the rest of the process is ripe for automation.

So, I let Hazel do it.

Hazel watches a certain folder on my desktop. When she detects a new PDF arrive in that folder with the word “cover” in the title, she springs into action. She runs an automation workflow of my own design. It copies the PDF, reformats it to a jpg, resizes it to the correct width and puts the new file back in the folder.

All I have to do is move the files to the book’s folder and I’m done.

I’m particularly proud of this automation as it saves me tons of time, and stops me beating myself to death with the boredom stick and couple of times a week. It took me ages to work out, but the investment in time will be returned ten-fold over the years.

Move and File Receipts

As a business owner, I have to keep extensive receipts. Downloading receipts, manually adding the correct date to the file name and then moving them to the correct folder is a pain in the whatsits.

So, I let Hazel do it.

I have a Hazel rule which watches my Downloads folder for PDFs with the word “invoice” or “receipt” in the file name. When Hazel detects such a file, she moves it to my Receipts folder and adds the day’s date in my preferred format.

This process saves me valuable time every day and means I rarely have to manually move a receipt.

Move and File Article Banners

For every article I write for the Gameatory and Raging Swan Press’s website, I create a banner graphic (such as the one above) using Canva. I then download it to my machine. At this point, the old me would open the final destination folder for the graphic on my desktop and manually drag the image to that folder from Downloads. The horror. This is a boring, mundane job.

So, I let Hazel do it.

Hazel watches my Downloads folder for new graphic files whose title contains certain text strings. (I have a different text strings for Gameatory articles, Raging Swan Press articles and Dark Adventures session summaries). When Hazel spots such a file, it automatically moves the image to the correct folder.

Marvellously, because the file has been moved it then also appears in the “Recents” smart folder in Finder. This means, I don’t even have to navigate to the file’s new home to upload it to the relevant site. (If I wanted to, though, I could just click on the Hazel notification which opens the relevant folder). Instead,  I just open Finder (which I’ve set to open to the Recents view) to access the file.

This process saves me valuable time every day and means I never miss-file an article banner.

Rename PDFs

We produce two versions of every PDF we release: one is optimised for printing while the other is optimised for display on a screen (such as a tablet).

Irritatingly, the software I use for this does not let you specify the name of the new file; instead it just inserts (optimised) at the end of the file name. I then have to remove (optimised) and add _screen instead. This is a boring waste of my time.

So, I let Hazel do it.

She watches my Products folder for new PDFs with (Optimised) in the title. When such a PDF arrives, Hazel automatically changes its name.

Automated Back-Ups

I’ve previously written about my automated back-up strategy. You can read the post here. The short version is: I automate the vast majority of my back-ups so I don’t have to worry about keeping my data secure. You should to.

The Final Word

You might think that a lot of the automations above are somewhat pointless. Let’s say, though, they (along with the others I run) save me a total of one hour a week. That means over a year I save 52 work hours (or almost seven entire work days).

And that’s more than worth the time invested.


Creighton has been Publisher of Useful Item at Raging Swan Press since 2010 and has over 1,200 products available at DriveThruRPG.