Workflows for academia

I work at the University of Bristol and I am always looking for great workflows in the academic context. What are your best ones?

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I have a hazel rule applied to my desktop and downloads folder that identifies when a file is an exported bibliographic reference (e.g., a .ris file), and opens that up in Zotero (could be any reference manager you like, really). Once it’s in Zotero, the .ris file is trashed.

This is coupled with a hazel rule that looks for the string “DOI:” in any PDF that is in my downloads folder (I don’t apply this rule to the desktop because I sometimes put articles on there for other reasons and I don’t want Hazel to interfere) and moves it into DEVONthink. I sometimes get false-positives, and this obviously will miss documents that aren’t OCRd or don’t contain a DOI, but that is a small enough minority of files that I can deal with it when that happens.

This means I can go on a literature downloading rampage and end up with all my references in Zotero, all the PDFs in DEVONthink, and an empty downloads folder.

The reason I have the .ris rule working on the desktop as well is because I have my Documents and Desktop synced with iCloud. Sometimes when I’m working on my iPad I may want to save a reference file for something I come across, so I save it to my Desktop on my iPad. Once I fire up my Mac at a later point, the .ris file is right there, gets picked up by Hazel, and processed accordingly. (PDFs I add directly to DEVONthink to go on iOS). Normally I’ll just save it to a temporary folder and use my PDF rename workflow below to rename the file and save it to DEVONthink To Go.

I also have this PDF Renamer workflow for naming PDFs in Author Year - Title format without the need to use the keyboard on iPad. The workflow is documented and downloadable from my website. It’s a bit roundabout, but I really hate typing on the software keyboard, so I’ll put up with a lot to avoid it!


The .ris file is something I use as well, Hazel makes things dead simple for this.

I recommend knowledge workers check out is a great book by Luc P. Beaudoin and Brett Terpstra, Cognitive Productivity With macOS: 7 Principles for Getting Smarter With Knowledge. The tips are DEFINITELY power-user oriented, and in the last couple weeks of implementing some of the tips I’ve streamlined some of my workflows.


I have a workflow that I use to get LaTeX on my Keynote slides. I have summarised them here:

PS: I know that keynote now supports LaTeX, but it still has a lot of limitation, while the workflow I describe uses LaTeXit, which allows you to incorporate any LaTeX package.

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