How to use tags in macOS Finder to make it easier to locate your files



File Manager is one of those tools that most take for granted. For the most part, people open them, locate the file they want, and close them. Simple. But when you have a large number of files and folders on your hard drive, searching for those files can become a bit tedious. And even though macOS Finder is one of the best file managers out there, without a little extra help, you might find it difficult to locate the files you need with any level of efficiency.

Luckily, Finder has a handy trick up its sleeve by way of tags. Tags not only allow you to tag files with categories, but also give you quick access to the tags you use the most. I’ll show you how to use the tag function in Finder. I’ll demonstrate with macOS Monterey, but you should be able to use this feature even in earlier versions of macOS.

Tags allow you to “tag” files with categories. Suppose, for example, that you are working on a project and you create several files for said project. Let’s call this ProjectX, and you’ve created videos, documents, spreadsheets, and presentations specifically for this project. Now you may have created a folder called ProjectX in the Documents folder and placed all related files in this folder. It would be too easy. But what if you have multiple projects that share files with each other. Maybe ProjectX is a subproject of ProjectW, which is also related to ProjectY and ProjectZ. Do you make copies of every file and put a copy in every folder so you can find them easily? Or maybe you mark these files so you can get quick access without having to search for them.

Let’s see how this is done.

Creating your first tag

1. Open Finder Preferences

Open Finder in macOS, then click Finder > Preferences. You should see a list of tags in the resulting window (Figure 1).

The Finder Preferences window in macOS Monterey.

Figure 1: You should already see a number of predefined tags built into the Finder.

Image: Jack Wallen

2. Add a new tag

Click + at the bottom, then (at the top of the list of tags) give the new tag a name (Figure 2).

The new tag entry in macOS Finder.

Figure 2: Creating your first tag in macOS Finder.

Image: Jack Wallen

Create as many tags as needed. Before closing the Finder Preferences window, be sure to check the box associated with the new tag so that it appears in the Finder sidebar.

Marking up a file

1. Locate the file

Now that you’ve created your first tag and made sure it’s visible in the Finder sidebar, let’s tag a file. The first thing you need to do is locate the file to tag in the Finder.

2. Add a tag to a file

Once you locate the file you want to tag, press two fingers (or right-click) on the file and from the context menu (picture 3), click Tags.

The two-finger tap popup in the Finder.

Figure 3: The two-finger file menu is where you’ll find the Tags entry.

Image: Jack Wallen

A new window will appear (Figure 4), where you can assign tags to the new file.

Assigning a new tag to a file in macOS Finder.

Figure 4: Assigning tags to a file in the Finder.

Image: Jack Wallen

Select all the tags you want to assign to the file, then click outside the pop-up window to close it.

Displaying a marked file

Viewing tagged files is as simple as clicking on the associated tag in the Finder sidebar, which will reveal all files belonging to the tag in question (Figure 5).

Marked files displayed in macOS Finder.

Figure 5: Files associated with my BOOKS tag.

Image: Jack Wallen

And that’s all there is to the macOS Finder’s tags feature. When you have a lot of files on your hard drive and need to be able to locate them quickly, this feature will go a long way in achieving that.

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Steven L. Nielsen