You are here

Apple Notes

By Robin Bigwood

It didn't make the headlines, but a quiet revolution is happening in Mac OS Mavericks...

At last year's Worldwide Developer's Conference the announcement of OS Mavericks' Finder Tags feature almost got the tumbleweed treatment. It's perhaps not surprising. Tagging files and folders with arbitrary labels is hardly the coolest thing you can do on a Mac. Many of us have used OS X for years without thinking about tags, so why start now? And isn't it all a bit labour intensive?

Well, the first thing to say is that Finder tagging is a completely optional feature — no-one saysyou have to use it. But if you do then it fulfils much the same role as blog post tags, letting you subsequently (and instantly) pull together groups of related, similarly tagged items from anywhere on your Mac, its attached drives, and your iCloud storage, regardless of how, where or when they were filed. It's file management free from the traditional constraints of folder hierarchies. Now that is quite interesting...

Here's a practical example. By tagging recording projects as you create or finish them — and you might equally choose to tag the main DAW document, or the folder it lives in — all sorts of additional useful information can be associated with them. Add a tag for the type of work: song, instrumental, soundtrack, jingle, showreel, remix... Another to denote if it's a 'personal' project, or to include collaborator and/or client names. Maybe also tags for band and artist names, engineers and other contributors, for notable instruments, plug-ins or techniques you used, for 'in progress' or 'completed' status, and so on. Later it'd be trivially easy to locate your files via any of these criteria, regardless of their storage location.

You're It

But how do you actually tag something? There are lots of ways.

In a Finder window, select the files or folders to tag, and use the new Edit Tags button.

Alternatively, right-click, or visit the Finder's File menu, and choose Tags...

All three techniques give you a little floating box from which you can assign existing tags by clicking on them, or type and press the Return key to create new ones. Multiple tags can be assigned in one go too — using the Tab key rather than Return keeps the tag pop-up open.

Next, some apps (like Pages, for example) will let you assign tags as you work on a document, via a title bar pop-up menu.

And all apps that use the standard OS X Save dialogue box should give you tagging options there.

Yet another way, assuming you've already created some of your own tags, is to drag files or folders onto the tag types listed in a Finder window's sidebar.

Finders Keepers

And after you've gone on a tagging spree, what happens then? You get to search for stuff of course! And once more there are a few different ways you can do this.

In Finder windows you can just click on a tag in the sidebar to select it, and that'll fill the window with all files and folders that have that tag. If the tag you need isn't visible click All Tags… to get a longer list.

Alternatively, use the search field at the top right of a Finder window and type in a tag name directly — a little pop-up will appear offering the tag as your search criteria. You can do that several times if necessary, to find only files that have specific combinations of tags.

The same is also possible via the main menu bar Spotlight (accessed with the familiar Apple-spacebar keystroke): type 'tag:' followed by the name of the tag you're searching for.

As for managing your tags, there isn't much to it. Right-click a tag in a Finder window sidebar (or under the All Tags... option) and you'll get options to Rename, Remove or Delete it, as well as assign a colour to it.

All remaining options are in the Finder Preferences window, accessed from the Finder menu. There, under the Tags tab, are options to display in sidebars only the tags you have chosen.    

Published February 2014