Great productivity tip: create a tmp folder.

I’ve been doing this for years, but I’ve never written an article about it. I have an easily accessible folder, available from anywhere, where I throw anything that is temporary. I can easily find what I need, but it doesn’t clutter other places up. Read on… it’s better than it sounds.

Back in the old days before we had Mac OS and Windows, most computers had a folder called /tmp. tmp was short for temporary. It was a place where anyone or any app could put anything that was temporary. It’s been such an ingrained habit. I’ve used a temp folder ever since. And it’s fantastic. Here’s what is currently in my tmp folder:

My tmp folder
  • Up the top of some screenshots that I was uploading for my previous Macintoshhowto web article on Google Keep. I needed to compress them before I uploaded them, so they went via my tmp folder.
  • Next are some pdf files. I was probably saving them to Google Drive and I wanted to edit or compress them or change their names before I uploaded them, so they went via the tmp folder.
  • Next are some keynote slides that I was converting to another format, probably to share with someone.
  • Under that are some other pdf files, I was probably merging and playing with them before I shared them with someone.

The point is these are all temporary files that I was working with. When I was finished I put the final result where I needed it to be and I no longer need these working files.

The advantage of a temp folder is that when I go to upload the files, I always know where they are. It’s easily accessible so I don’t need to navigate down and up folders to find the files I’m after. It’s kind of like an ‘in’ tray, or a ‘working’ tray, it’s right there, temporary, available always.

My rules are:

  • never put something in the temp folder I want to keep because it’s like a trashcan – it gets emptied regularly.
  • Never put a temporary file anywhere other than the temp folder.

NOTE: I call mine ‘tmp’ rather than ‘temp’ because in Quicksilver (my keyboard based launcher app) tmp is unique and gos to my tmp folder from anywhere. The name ‘temp’ is not so unique.


Create a folder called ‘temp.’ Add it to your finder sidebar. Sort it by ‘Date Modified’.

Have the discipline to save ANY temporary file here. A temporary file is a file that you are working on for five or ten minutes but that you don’t need to keep after you’rve finished.


  • An image file that needs to be compressed.
  • A screenshot that needs to be uploaded.
  • A pdf that needs to be saved before you upload it somewhere.

Creating a temp folder.

You can put your temp folder anywhere. I put mine jut in my user folder called Wayne. To create it just right click in Finder and select ‘New Folder’ then call it ‘tmp’ or ‘temp.’ Here you can see mine called tmp.

You need to have real easy access to the temp folder.

Drag it into the finder sidebar so that it will be available from any save dialog box.
To do this, open any finder window (by clicking on any folder.) Then if you can’t see the sidebar click on ‘View – Show Sidebar.’

Turn on the sidebar in a finder window
Drag the folder into the sidebar. It will stay there.

Now the folder is accessible from any save dialog. Here I am in the program called ‘Acorn.’

I’ve pressed Save, and in the dialog box I can select the ‘tmp’ folder.

The final trick is to select ‘Sort by ‘Date Modified’ in the temp folder.

That way the most recent file is always up the top.


Leave a Reply

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

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.