I’ve had a recurring problem for years in Mac OS X.
Whenever I need to do a backup, I find myself repeating a pattern. I select a series of files and folders, and then check their total file size via the Finder’s Inspector palette (Cmd-Option-I) to see how close that is to the CD/DVD disc’s available space. Once I get just the right amount (i.e. 760MB, 4.3GB, or 8.1GB), I then want to isolate these files so as to remember which groups of files will make up their own disc.
The problem with this approach, is that the best way to do this (that I’d found to date) was to create a new folder, and move those files inside that folder. Unfortunately, I don’t always have a pile of empty folders waiting right along side these files ready to hold them. If I then create a new folder, it often loses the selection of the files I had (as the OS now focuses attention on the new folder, rather than the previous selection). As such, I then have to go through the same task I did before creating the folder (manually selecting and sizing different groups of files).
There has to be a better way. I tried a number of different 3rd-party add-ons and applications, but nothing quite did the trick. And, in the absence of all hope, I finally tried Apple’s Automator, which reminded me a bit of Yahoo!’s Pipes.
I then did what any grown man or woman would do… search for it on the Web. Still no luck.
Finally, I broke down, and tried to pipe a solution together in Automator.
It took hours. And several separate attempts.
Maybe you need a CS degree to figure out Automator? I’m not sure. But wiring together such a taskflow proved nearly impossible… at least, wiring together a graceful experience of such a taskflow proved impossible. Certain components in Automator allow variables, but I can’t define the output of one step as a variable that can then be used in another step. Unfortunate.
Eventually, and largely due to a mistake, I was able to get a solution in place by forcing a series of dialog boxes. It’s far from graceful, but now I can right/Control-click on items I’ve already selected, and then navigate a quick contextual menu tree (More » Automator » Move Selected Items to Folder). After several seconds, a pop-up dialog box then asks whether to save it to the Desktop. Instead, choose “Other…” from the “To:” drop-down menu, and then create a new folder wherever you desire in the resulting Open dialog box. Then press the Open button, followed by the Continue button, and voila: your selected files/folders move to their new folder.
You can download this ‘Move Selected Items to Folder’ Automator workflow, unzip the file, and install it on your Mac at “
~/Library/Workflows/Applications/Finder/“. If those folders don’t exist, I imagine you probably just need to create that folder structure to be in business.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m happy Automator exists. Obviously, without it, I’d still be stuck with my broken taskflow. Nonetheless, Automator could stand to leverage some of Pipes’ learnings (such as variable creation and concurrent task operations). (And, not to be partisan, Pipes, of course, could leverage some Automator’s beauty and Recording functionality… maybe via a Greasemonkey script?)
If you’ve had similar taskflow problems, download the workflow, and let me know your thoughts. Also, if you know of a more graceful solution (or can code a more seamless Finder experience), please let me know… I imagine I’m not the only one who’s faced this issue before.