Handy tips to make your computer usable again



One day, Mr T sauntered over to my laptop and sat down on my chair. He wanted to do a quick check on something and didn’t want to power up his own laptop so he decided to use mine. Here’s the conversation that ensued:

Mr. T: What is wrong with your computer?

Me: Nothing. There’s nothing wrong with my computer.

Mr. T: Why is it taking a minute or so just to open one application?

Me: Isn’t it like that? Doesn’t yours do the same?

Mr. T: No.

After what seemed like a few more torturous minutes, he decided to abandon ship, but not before closing all my tabs to reveal my desktop (which I had hoped he wouldn’t do, and I’ll explain why in a minute.)

He gasped. And had to cover his mouth at the horror of it all.

Remember how I was telling you about how I got myself back into the drivers seat after a few months of being unproductive? One the things I wanted to tackle first and foremost was my computer. It handled the brunt of everything – a lot of things came in, but nothing ever got screened out. Just to give you an idea of how messy it was – my desktop was filled with files littered all over the screen’s real estate. And if I downloaded anything new onto my Desktop, it would be sitting on top of another file. Yes. My files were double-parked on top of each other.

It was that bad.

To my defence, I knew where everything was – it was an unorganised mess, but it was my mess nonetheless.

I was ashamed to let Mr T see my desktop because his was spotless. He works the three folder maximum rule and sticks religiously by it. Me? I had files parked on top of one another – leaving just 3 folders on my desktop was a superhuman feat I cannot pull off. But I knew the time had come for me to do something about it when opening applications became a waiting game – and one I had been a willing participant for far too long.

I’ve decided that if I couldn’t get a handle on my files, I had to get something or someone to do it for me.

Enter Hazel.

Over here, I don’t really let on much about how much I am a geek. You know, the sort of person that gets extremely excited at how technology can be leveraged to make my life easier. That’s me. But when I found out that I could have someone file things for me automatically, I was over the moon.

Anyway, back to Hazel.

What it is, is that it’s an application that manages files for you according to the rules you set for them.

So for example, I have a bad habit of letting my Downloads folder run amok. Because it’s the one place where everything goes – bills, images, PDFs, etc., – I forget about the things I’ve downloaded, so it languishes there for months on end, eating up my free space. What Hazel can do for me is to watch my Downloads folder and then organises them for me based what I tell it.

So what I do is to make Hazel search for bills that I’ve downloaded, and sort them into relevant folders, plus rename them with the date of the bill. All without me doing anything besides downloading the folder. Here’s where I learnt it from.

Here are some other things that I’m using Hazel for:

  • Archiving projects that are untouched for more than 30 days
  • Organise my downloads into weekly folders (instead of having my Downloads folder filled with single files)
  • Resizing large images automatically (with the help of Automator) – this is useful for sorting out your portfolios ensure that they all have a consistent pixel width or size! Or if you blog, but like me, hate powering up Adobe Photoshop to edit the pictures, then you will weep at how handy this is.
  • Check out more articles and tricks herehere, and here.

I’m still checking out what other things I can do with Hazel, but I thought I’d share what I’ve been doing! (And in case you’re curious; no, I’m not being paid to endorse them – the makers don’t know I exist, but I just wanted to share it because it’s that good.)

Some other changes I’ve made to make it all better (please bear in mind these are mainly for Apple users):

  • I downloaded Disk Inventory X – a free software – that shows me what’s taking up space in this Mac of mine. There are other paid alternatives like Daisy Disk (has a beautiful interface) and WhatSize (helps to identify duplicate files among other things) so it depends on what you’re looking for to clear space out!
  • I’m using Dropbox Pro (1TB of space synced to a server) so I’ll have my files with me where ever I go! Plus I won’t have to worry about losing my computer due to a faulty drive (hey it happened to me before, and it was not pleasant!) I’ve been using their free account for a few years now and it’s most definitely the one program I’ve used the most on my laptop. If you’d like to get a free account for yourself to test it out, here’s some extra space on me.
  • While I’m using Dropbox, I’m careful to also back up my computer’s hard drive to an external hard drive as a secondary backup. And I do that via an application called Time Machine that’s already in your Mac (sorry Windows users!) Edit: Windows/Unix peeps can check out Crashplan – a free software that does the same thing as Time Machine!
  • For the final clean up, I’m also offloading my archives into a DVD so that it won’t take up space on my computer. So basically I have triplicates of everything. See why here.
  • To speed up my Mac (it’s from early 2011), I’m going add more memory to it (bumping up my 4GB RAM to 8GB) instead of buying a new laptop – the current specs I’ve noticed isn’t that far off, and all I need is a bit of boost to make mine better!

So there you go! I hope you’ve scored some useful tips on how to maintain your computer  – it’s what I’ve personally tried and done to help me with my cluttered laptop situation. While I know that most artists and illustrators would rather run their nails over a chalkboard than to fiddle around with their computer (did you not hear about my desktop situation?) but hey, if it means not having to bite your nails everytime you see a spinning ball when your application loads up, I’d say it’s totally worth it.

Got more tips? Share them with me in the comments!

[Illustration by Rebecca Mock]

3 Replies to “Handy tips to make your computer usable again”

  1. Angie Dixon says:

    Brilliant! I’m pretty good at keeping my computer organized, but I work hard at it and would love to let Hazel do some of the work. Thanks.

  2. Tina says:

    Which is better iCloud or Dropbox? I’d like to choose one of them, but not sure which is better!

    1. amy says:

      Hi Tina, I’m sorry, but I haven’t had much experience with iCloud – I’ve gone with Dropbox because I’ve used it for a very long time!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *