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Six Colors

by Jason Snell & Dan Moren

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By Dan Moren

Automate This: Archive a bunch of sub-folders

Sometimes you stare down the barrel of a stupid, repetitive task and think: hey, my time’s worth more than this!

Then you spend longer than the original task would have taken to create an automation for that task.

Having concluded our current season of A Complicated Profession, our Star Wars TV podcast over on The Incomparable, I decided I ought to archive all the project files to save some space on my MacBook Air’s drive. In the past, I’ve had an automated workflow to do this, using Hazel, but I hadn’t set it up again since switching to my laptop as my main work machine.1

However, rather than clicking on each individual project folder and choosing Compress…, it seemed likely that I could create a simple automation to do the work for me. And so I did!

Shortcuts is well suited to this task, allowing me to create a workflow I could launch from the Finder’s Quick Actions menu. I selected the top-level folder for the podcast and had the shortcut iterate through the contents of that folder. If it encountered a file with no file extension (which was the best idea I had for detecting if something was a folder), it would zip that up into an archive with the same name as the folder, then save it to the top-level folder2. Done.

It took a little bit of trial and error to get the save paths and naming correct3, but the end result was exactly what I’d hoped: a folder full of archives of each individual episode, which I could then drag over to my NAS before deleting them all from my drive.

Perhaps you’ll find this shortcut useful, in which case, have at.


  1. Once again, I’m reminded that macOS’s version of Shortcuts lacks the Automation features of the iOS version—which continues to be a glaring oversight. 
  2. That Save File action is a crucial step: otherwise it just makes a zip file and…throws it away? How strange. 
  3. I did accidentally make an earlier version recursive, where it dumped an infinite loop of folders inside the Shorcuts folder in iCloud drive. Whoops! 

[Dan Moren is the East Coast Bureau Chief of Six Colors. You can find him on Twitter at @dmoren or reach him by email at dan@sixcolors.com. The latest novel in his Galactic Cold War series of sci-fi space adventures, The Nova Incident, is available now.]

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