Become More Productive on your Mac with File Tags – Part 1

Tech Tips – I am always looking for ways to become more productive on my Mac. Before I get into how tags can make you more productive, I think that I need to explain what tags are.

What are tags?

Tags were first introduced in macOS Mavericks. As the name implied, tags allow you to add one or more ‘tags’ to any file. These seem a lot like ‘Labels’, but there are a couple of major differences. First, you can apply more than one tag to a file or folder. Second, you can search and sort your files and directories by tag (that will be covered in Part 2).

How to tag a file

So now that you know what tags are, how do you add them to a file? There are actually multiple ways.

Screen Shot 2019-03-12 at 12.33.10 PM

First is adding tags to files as you save them. In any App when you go to save a file, you not only get the opportunity to set the file name and location, but you can also add any tags to the file. In the above example, I am saving the file “Sources for World War II Info and Photos” from within MacDown and I have added the two tags ‘:wwii’ and ‘:web’ to the file.

I use the convention with my tags of always beginning them with a colon and making them all lower case.

What if you already have files? There are three easy ways to add tags to an existing file.

Screen Shot 2019-03-12 at 12.47.01 PM

First, you can use the Finder to browse through your files and find the one that you are wanting to add a tag to. Once you find it Control-Click on the file. That will bring up the window shown above. Note that towards the bottom is “Tags…”.

Screen Shot 2019-03-12 at 12.55.23 PM

Click on “Tags…” and that will open the window shown above. Here you see any existing tags for the file and you can freeform type in the dialog box the name of a new tag to add. In the above example the tags ‘:blog’, ‘:wwii’, and ‘:bookreview’ were already attached to the file. I typed in ‘:s’ to start to add another tag. As you begin typing in the tag if a match is found to an existing tag it will automatically show up in the dialog box. In the example above seven tags are shown that begin with ‘:s’. I can either click on one to choose it, hit enter to choose the highlighted tag, or continue typing in the tag name. You can continue to add tags until you are finished. This method allows the selection of multiple files and adding the same tag(s) to all the selected files at the same time.

Screen Shot 2019-03-12 at 1.05.48 PM



A second way to add tags is through ‘Get Info’. Control-Click on any file and in the Menu you get (see second image above) the option of ‘Get Info’ will appear. If you click on that, then a new window with information about the chosen file will appear.

At the top of this window is a dialog box where existing tags are displayed and where new tags can be entered.






Screen Shot 2019-03-12 at 1.12.15 PM

A third way of adding tags is by opening the file in an App that supports Apple’s Document menu. At the top of the window will be a small icon to the right of the file name (pointed out with the red arrow in the image above). If you click on that icon a drop-down menu will appear that both shows existing tags for the file and which allows you to enter new tags.

In Part 2 I talk about how tags can be managed and how they can be used to improve your productivity.

See my other Mac and OS X articles


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