Example: Writing a Launch Agent for Apple's launchd

Adarsh Pandit

Clutter in programmer workspaces, whether digital or physical, can add a mental cost. An area of common clutter is the ~/Downloads directory in Mac OS X. I want to clean it up … programmatically.

The Goal

I want a background job to find files in ~/Downloads which haven’t been modified within the past week and move them into ~/.Trash.

In zsh, the command for this is: mv ~/Downloads/*(mw+1) ~/.Trash.

Read man zshexpn for more awesomeness on shell expansion.

Launch Agents

For a user-specific background job, Apple recommends creating a Launch Agent, which is a .plist XML file located in ~/Library/LaunchAgents.

The ~/Library/LaunchAgents/com.thoughtbot.cleandownloads.plist file will run my script once an hour:

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
<!DOCTYPE plist PUBLIC "-//Apple//DTD PLIST 1.0//EN" "http://www.apple.com/DTDs/PropertyList-1.0.dtd">
<plist version="1.0">
    <string>~/Downloads/*(mw+1) ~/.Trash</string>

Read Creating Launch Daemons and Agents for more on how to structure the .plist file.