Cats are smarter than dogs.

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You can’t get eight cats to pull a sled through snow. Jeff Valdez

Smart Folders seem like a good idea. Just the word ’smart’ makes you feel like someone thinks these are clever. They are not really useful though, taken at face value - gather all the documents in my home folder that are .pdf’s. How is that smart?
Apple seems to think they are important enough to include them in most of Tiger’s flagship applications - Finder,, iTunes, even the AddressBook sports Smart Folders. There must be some useful application for them?

Smart folders don’t influence the physical location of items, they just present a view of the items that match the specified criteria - a view that updates itself in near real time thanks to the magic of Spotlight. Where you may have one file that exists in one folder in traditional filing systems, Smart Folders allow you to view that file in a multitude of ways [ ie. you may be able to view all your music in one folder by specifing a Smart Folder that shows all the files with a extension of ‘.mp3′, but you can also have a Smart Folder that shows all files created with GarageBand. One file can be a ‘member’ of both groups ]. A bit like InDesign’s Find and Change panel, Smart Folders require some thought and a situation to be useful.

As a Designer, you usually have two states a job can be in - Either ‘in progress’ or ‘completed’. I think we could break that down a little further. What about ‘in progress’, ‘completed’, ‘to archive’ and ‘verify’.

In Progress
A job you are currently working on would consitute as being a job ‘in progress’. This job should have some sort of reference number built into the file name. [ ie. 24555 Client Name ] The reference number will help link the files to the job, the client and it’s administration records. It will also help us find that archived job should we every need to revisit or reprint it [ ideally, all jobs should feature the job number somewhere on the finished piece to help with identification ]. Traditionally, any document you work on is stored in your User’s Documents folder. There would be no harm in creating a folder called ‘Work in Progress’ or ‘Clients | Jobs’ or something else that will help separate your files from your downloads or Microsoft User Data in which to house your projects. It is when you reach final sign off that Smart Folders can help your workflow.

Creating a Smart Folder

You Complete Me
By leveraging the power of another application that is being championed in Tiger, Automator, your workflow can be simplfied down to a single conttrol-click [ or right click if you get into one of those new flangled, high-tech, multi-button contraptions ].
Automator simplifies the creation of automated tasks by stringing little pockets of functionality together, one step at a time. Once a workflow has been created it can be saved as a plug-in for the Finder, making it available from Automator sub menu of the standard contextual menu.

We could create a Automator plug-in that assigns a Spotlight comment to the currently selected Finder items. We could then create a Smart Folder that provides a view of all the files with that particular Spotlight comment. As Smart Folders don’t physically move any of the directories, it may be difficult, when visiting your ‘Work in Progess’ folder, to distinguish between active and completed jobs. Now we could use ‘Labels’ but having never been a huge fan of the way in which Apple visually impliemented Labels, I prefer relocating the completed job in a new folder. By adding a ‘Move Finder Items’ routine to your Automator workflow, you can have your completed job moved to a separate folder allowing you to concentrate only on the jobs at hand.

Spotlight based Automator workflow

Ah, chive!
We can simply change the Spotlight comment, destination of the ‘Move Finder Items’ operation and re-save the workflow to create a contextual menu item for when we have archived our completed jobs. Using this workflow, we can re-tag the job and create a new Smart Folder to display the archived work that requires verification. Once checked against the catalogued version, the job can safely be removed from the system.

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