Use Hazel and Dropbox and Never Lose Another Presentation

Anyone who travels and speaks at conferences on a regular basis has, at one point or another, forgotten or lost a presentation. If you use a Mac and Dropbox, I’m going to show you how to prevent that from happening.

For me, Dropbox is one of those essential cloud computing tools that makes getting things done easier…

First, you are going to need a Dropbox account if you don’t already have one (see my Dropbox Review post). Having and using a Dropbox account solves so many problems that it’s almost indispensable. The fact that it syncs files and folders across your smart phone, iPad, tablet, laptop, desktop computer, and server is nothing short of amazing. Once you have Dropbox in place, set up a folder for presentations (I named mine “presentations”–I’m all about keeping it simple stupid).

Next, you are going to need a program called Hazel from Noodlesoft. Hazel lets you establish a set of rules to run in the background while you do your regular computing thing. The benefit of Hazel is you can have it set up to do maintenance you don’t want to do. But more on that later.

I do most of my presentations in the cloud using Google Docs. When my presentations are done, usually weeks before the conference (wink), I export the Powerpoint file to my “downloads” folder on my laptop. You want to set up a rule in Hazel to automagically move every Powerpoint file type from the downloads folder to the dropbox presentation folder. Below are the step by step screen shots of how to set up this rule:


  • Add the “downloads” folder to the list of folders that Hazel monitors by clicking the “+” in the lower left of the Hazel dialog window and selecting the “downloads” folder.
  • Create a new rule by clicking the “+” in the middle of the Hazel dialog window.
  • Name the rule.
  • Tell it to look for files with the “ppt” field extension and move them to the “presentations” folder.

This creates a huge advantage that allows me to review, practice, and even make last minute edits to my presentation from my iPad (or even my smartphone if I wanted to) and then email myself or a friend the latest version to transfer to a USB key. Here’s a conference tip: have a dedicated USB key in your travel bag so you always have a backup.

Imagine some other advantages.  Immediately after your presentation, you could be talking with someone who would like a copy of your work.  You can whip out your iPhone, open the dropbox, select and open the file, and email them a copy right on the spot. Handling tasks like this as they come up is one of the core elements of productivity and having a zero inbox.

Hazel has lots of other functions as well. I use it to automatically move stock photos I download to “stockphotos” folder on my computer and eventually onto the fileserver. I set up a rule for files downloaded from certain sites like Shutterstock and Photospin that moves them into a specified folder.

Hazel Rule to move stock photos to specific folder

I like to keep my computer desktop clean, without the clutter of files or folders.

Clean desktop no files or folders in sight

Things that I am working on temporarily live in the downloads folder. However, if left unchecked, the downloads folder would quickly become an unusable mess, so I set up a rule to purge files older than 30 days.

For me, Dropbox is one of those essential cloud computing tools that makes getting things done easier. Adding Hazel into the mix automates some of the grunt work and makes life easier. If you’re looking to work smart and not hard, give Dropbox and Hazel a try.

To be clear, if you sign up for Dropbox through my website, I do earn additional free storage space. However, to be honest, I am a customer and use Dropbox on a near daily basis, so I’m comfortable recommending the product. I hope that, through these tutorials, you get more value out of using these tools yourself. If you would like to give Dropbox a try, there is a free 2GB account.

photo credit: Shutterstock, Photospin, Flickrname

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