Programs that have saved me 100+ hours by automating repetitive tasks

Along the year I've been working on several web platforms where repetitive tasks are usually the norm. From batch optimizing a thousand images, to changing from this obscure format to csv or json. What if you need to critically update a file in your client's and you aren't fancy enough to use some kind of continuous integration tool I'll give you some tips and tricks to be productive.

1. PhotoBulk

A client comes by, dumps you a folder of 10 GB of pictures in 4000x4000 and each one of them weights 30MB in JPEG format. The client needs all this images tomorrow in the webpage, watermarked and with specific names. As you mop tears from the floor, you read this guide and discover PhotoBulk for Windows and Mac

Photobulk lets you resize, watermark, optimize and rename images in bulk, or in batches. This was one of the main tools that have saved me hours and hours, so I widely recommend it. I know some of this things could be done via console, or via a photoshop action. But this is way faster.

2. Regex and Sublime Text

The same client, not happy that you took 4 hours to do the shenanigans to the images and upload them, goes and asks you to add a palette of 200 colors, given in an php array, to complete the migration of their color palette to javascript.

Regex is so powerful to create fast changes in massive data, that i've saved countless hours of conversions or friend's tasks that it is worth learning. I never understood the power of regex, until I used it in a text editor. Really amazing.

3. Coda or KomodoIDE

After uploading the pallette of colors to the website, the customer needs in a hurry to edit the website, because he added his CC number to a username field. Clearly this is trouble. Better than that, he also managed to hard code it somehow to the php code. In this client's alternative world, continous integration doesn't exist. Imagine going to a world where you have to fire up Filezilla, download the file for the code. Edit it, and then upload it. Also firing up your mySQL db manager, or console, searching the concrete entry, and changing it.

After sometime doing this, for urgent tasks in places without versioning *shudders* I've used Coda, from panic. (for macOS) or Komodo IDE (for Windows). Both this programs, allow to set up a direct FTP link and mySQL connection to a DB, where you double click the site, and you get an instant connection to the server. So you manage to control the leak of customer's data to 10 minutes because you were fast.

4. Alfred or Spotlight.

One of the tools that have saved me the most time are Alfred and Spotlight (maybe Cortana, but it is still not there). Want to open a file quickly? Cmd + Space -> file.xls . Want to do a conversion? Cmd + Space -> 100 USD to CAD or 10 lt to gal Want to do math? Cmd + Space -> (13239*(1232+24)*2) + 123 % 2


Alfred is even more awesome, you can program scripts to run or searches given certain keywords. You just get everything instantly.

5. Hazel

Now, after working 3+ years in the same computer, with multiple clients,  I despise getting it in order. So I decided that I'd get Hazel (or File Juggler for windows). Where you can create rules on your folders, based on how you want them organized. 

For example, I can create a rule that watches my desktop for files more than 4 hours old, that are screenshots, and it takes them to my "Screenshot folder", or downloads that I haven't used in more than X weeks. Or create a rule that filters out images. Or create a folder which "sorts" all the files I put into it.

But, hey, this is pretty basic.

I know this is fairly basic, but there is people who manually  does this actions, because they don't want to bother themselves with this kind of automation. Or they don't have the time to automate them themselves. So if this saves some time, I'd like for it to be useful as it was to me.

What are your 100 hour time savers?

19 responses
At our company we recently discovered https://docparser.com. It allows us to extract data from incoming purchase orders and price lists and eliminates tedious manual data entry.
I like to use PerfectKeyboard. For coding it helps provide text pre-formatted for use (without retyping the same thing over and over). For example, anytime I need to create a new template class or when I am doing the same keystrokes (to update columns, row after row) in Excel or something.
You can also use sftp package for sublime and problem solved without coda :)
I recommend "Cerebro" to anyone liking Alfred/Spotlight. https://github.com/KELiON/cerebro It's open source and written in Javascript! :)
I type a lot (I'm a technical translator) and AutoHotKey actually showed up in my income when I started using it as a typing accelerator - my big bottleneck being brain-to-keyboard bandwidth.
Mh with a not so short learning curve you can do all with ImageMagick (mogrify for bach operation or convert with some oneliners/tiny script) for photo manipulation and Recoll (Xapian-based indexer) for searching stuff. Unfortunately these tools are developed by unix guys mainly for unix guys witch means that they have no GUI (except Recoll) or poor GUI but they are far more powerful than any other desktop GUIs for commercial/generic users...
For me it is i3wm - an amazing window manager. After using it for a few days you will never want to go back to using standard mac/linux wm, it is incredibly fast and convenient. Another one is, of course, Emacs. By far the most useful and brilliant tool in my toolbox.
Great list indeed. I will add a few more to the mix. 1. Ditto clipboard manager: Best tool you will ever use as you can configure it to copy paste anything individually or bulk in a couple strokes of your keyboard. 2. Beyond Compare: Compare and merge anything from directories to files (even at a binary level). Try them in your workflow and these tools may save you another 100 hours. ;)
One of the best screenshoting tools with file enumeration, auto-disc saving of image series to disk, included editor (for insertig arrows etc.) is, clearly, FastStone Capture Pro: http://www.faststone.org/FSCaptureDetail.htm (there is also a free version with a limited feature set available) Regards
Hey Daniel, great list and I use a lot of the tools you've listed. For PC users Wox is a nice free Spotlight clone. http://www.getwox.com/ +1 for AutoHotKey too. You might also like to try. I also use WinAutomation and a number of data scrapers to automate data gathering. What I'd like to find next is a non-Flash based replacement to Jing (www.jingproject.com) which is as seamless as Jing.
For Mac users I'd add https://www.pagelayers.com/ to the list too!
Is there anything like hazel for linux?
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