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In one of our previous macOS how-to guides, we explained how using tags can help you organize your files and folders and quickly locate them when they're needed. In this article, we're going to show you how to tag items in Finder using a simple custom keyboard shortcut, for even faster tagging.

The first series of steps below shows you how to create a handy key shortcut to activate Finder's inline tagging menu. Once you've done that, we explain how you can use one or more custom shortcuts to directly apply specific color tags to selected items in a Finder window.

Automator-tagging-e1523634875463-800x406.jpg

This more powerful color tagging method requires creating a simple Automator service. If that sounds scary, don't worry - it's a simple process, and if you're a frequent user of tags then you'll find this quick recipe well worth the effort. Keep reading to learn how it's done.

How to Create a Shortcut for Tagging Items in Finder

  1. Launch System Preferences from the Apple menu bar (? -> System Preferences...).
    Select the Keyboard preference pane.
    Click the Shortcuts tab.
    Sysyem-Prefs-Keyboard-Pane-800x698.jpg

    Select App Shortcuts in the left column and click the + button.
    Select Finder.app in the Application field.
    Type Tags... in the Menu Title field.
    sys-prefs-basic-tag-shortcut-800x700.jpeg

    Click inside the Keyboard Shortcut field and press your preferred key combination for activating the service. In our example, we've used Shift-Command-T.
    Click Add.
Now your shortcut is set up, it's time to try it out. Open a Finder window and select an item (or several) for tagging. Hit your chosen key combination and you should see a tag menu pop up beneath the selected item(s), like so.

tag-a-file-in-Finder-800x585.jpg

From there, just start typing the name of the tag you want to use and it should appear in the input field. Hit Enter to apply it. Alternatively, use the down arrow key to choose the tag you want from the dropdown list, and hit Enter.

How to Create a Color Tagging Service in Automator

  1. Launch Automator from the Applications folder.
    1-Automator-800x493.jpg

    Click New Document.
    Choose Service as the type of your document.
    2-Automator-document-type-800x765.jpg

    Type label into the Library search field at the top of the Automator sidebar.
    Drag the Label Finder Items action into the empty workflow area.
    3-Label-Finder-Items-800x564.jpg

    Click the tag color you want to use for your first keyboard shortcut. (We're going for red in our example.)
    Select files or folders in the Service receives selected dropdown.
    Select Finder in the in application dropdown.
    4-Create-Finder-Label-action-800x570.jpg

    Select File -> Save from the Automator menu bar, and give your service a name. We'll be using the name "Tag Red".
    Click Save.
How to Assign a Shortcut to Your New Tagging Service

  1. Launch System Preferences from the Apple menu bar (? -> System Preferences...).
    Select the Keyboard pane.
    Click the Shortcuts tab.
    Select App Shortcuts in the left column and click the + button.
    Sysyem-Prefs-Keyboard-Pane-800x698.jpg

    Select Finder.app in the Application field.
    In the Menu Title field, type the exact name of the service you just created in Automator ("Tag Red" in our example).
    sys-prefs-add-specific-tag-shortcut-800x705.jpeg

    Click inside the Keyboard Shortcut field and press your chosen key combination for activating the service. We've used Shift-Command-R.
    Click Add.
You should now be able to tag selected items in Finder with your chosen color using the keyboard shortcut you created.

Tagging-items-in-Finder-800x491.jpg

To create additional shortcuts for applying other tag colors, simply follow the Automator steps again but choose another color, and save the service under a corresponding name. Then simply assign a shortcut to the named service in the Keyboard preference pane as described above.

Article Link: How to Apply Color Tags to Items in macOS Finder Using Custom Keyboard Shortcuts
 

ignatius345

macrumors 601
Aug 20, 2015
4,059
5,588
I love the fact that these tags can sync over through iCloud Drive. The Files app is good but still child’s play to the Finder.
Dropbox syncs tags too, just to add another tool.

I love tags. I'm not great at using them yet -- still very much default to organizing with folders because of many years of habit but the idea of being able to apply multiple tags is a lot more powerful, ultimately, than the folder paradigm. Probably not going to give up folders anytime soon, but it's great to have an Apple-supported way to cross reference files and folders that may be in different folders or even different drives.

I stopped using tags the day Apple switched to tiny dots. Ridiculous.

The previous "color the whole file name" design that labels used to use starts to seriously break down when there's more than one tag applied. It was too much visual clutter to have a folder look like a rainbow of crazy colors if a bunch of files were tagged. Tagging something with a red tag shouldn't mean I'm now reduced to looking at a strip of bright red with black text inside it, bordered by another file that's a strip of blue, then orange... it was quick to see the labels, but man was it a mess after a while.

If it's hard to make out what labels are applied (and yeah, agreed, it can be awfully subtle) you can make them more visible and legible in list view by enabling the "tags" column.

Screen Shot 2018-04-19 at 1.28.36 PM.png
 
Last edited:

ignatius345

macrumors 601
Aug 20, 2015
4,059
5,588
Does the iOS Dropbox app show tags in any way, though? Files (with iCloud Drive) lets you search by them.

On iOS it seems spottier. I got curious about this and tested it just now.

The Dropbox app doesn't display tags at all. The Files app seems even worse: not only does it not recognize the labels of files synced through Dropbox, it allows you to label files but does not actually sync the label you just applied. This, anyway, according to the quick test I did by labelling files in the Dropbox folder on my Mac and then looking at them in the Files app on my iPhone. (None of this applies to Files and iCloud Drive, which of course works as expected.)

I guess the actual syncing of Dropbox files in iOS is passed through the app? I don't believe Files has the built-in ability to connect to Dropbox without the iOS app installed, so I suspect this is the case.

But yeah, Dropbox's Mac app syncs labels nicely but iOS isn't there yet.
 
Last edited:

ArthurMorgan

macrumors newbie
Oct 31, 2018
1
0
Hey everyone,
This isn't working for me, any advice?
I can get the workflow working within Automator by adding the "Get Selected Finder Items" before the "Label Finder Items" command but I can't get the keyboard assignation part through System Preferences to produce a result. I'm trying to map the Shortcut to ⌘+] but have tried other combinations which have also been unsuccessful. I've gone through the whole process a few times trying to see if I made an error somewhere but I don't believe I have.

Thanks in advance–
A.M.

https://imgur.com/Aupf4m7
[doublepost=1541013318][/doublepost]
Hey everyone,
This isn't working for me, any advice?
I can get the workflow working within Automator by adding the "Get Selected Finder Items" before the "Label Finder Items" command but I can't get the keyboard assignation part through System Preferences to produce a result. I'm trying to map the Shortcut to ⌘+] but have tried other combinations which have also been unsuccessful. I've gone through the whole process a few times trying to see if I made an error somewhere but I don't believe I have.

Thanks in advance–
A.M.

https://imgur.com/Aupf4m7
I got this working but I'm not exactly sure where the trouble lay. I copied and renamed the workflow simply "yellow", deleted the old shortcut from System Preferences, and then reassigned the shortcut– viola.
 

kovacm

macrumors member
Oct 3, 2009
34
2
Title is misleading! In this way, you do not add "Tags" to files but rather "Labels" !!!

Tags and Labels are not the same!
 

ignatius345

macrumors 601
Aug 20, 2015
4,059
5,588
Title is misleading! In this way, you do not add "Tags" to files but rather "Labels" !!!

Tags and Labels are not the same!

Hmm, not sure that's correct. Maybe at some point they were called Labels, but the feature being discussed here is definitely called Tags in the current Finder interface.

iMac 2019-04-27 at 3.48.35 PM.png
 

chucker23n1

macrumors 603
Dec 7, 2014
6,292
8,043
Hmm, not sure that's correct. Maybe at some point they were called Labels, but the feature being discussed here is definitely called Tags in the current Finder interface.

View attachment 834155

Correct. Tags, since 10.9 Mavericks, supersede labels. They do so in a backwards-compatible way (your labels continue to work, from all the way back in System 7, if I'm not mistaken).

But Tags are far more powerful than labels. You can apply multiple, you can give them names, you can search by them, etc. And Apple added some more useful UI, such as setting tags right from the save file dialogs.

More: https://arstechnica.com/gadgets/2013/10/os-x-10-9/8/#tags
 
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ignatius345

macrumors 601
Aug 20, 2015
4,059
5,588
Correct. Tags, since 10.9 Mavericks, supersede labels. They do so in a backwards-compatible way (your labels continue to work, from all the way back in System 7, if I'm not mistaken).

But Tags are far more powerful than labels. You can apply multiple, you can give them names, you can search by them, etc. And Apple added some more useful UI, such as setting tags right from the save file dialogs.

More: https://arstechnica.com/gadgets/2013/10/os-x-10-9/8/#tags
Yeah, I'm a fan. They're beautifully implemented in MacOS and iOS. I have not gotten quite sophisticated enough to really use them as much as they deserve. I'm still adapting my caveman brain from using folders (a decades old paradigm).
 

Dmitry Myshkov

macrumors newbie
Apr 5, 2020
3
0
Doesn't work, if I'm listing photos (as example) in quickview mode.
ex.
1. Make service and hotkey. as in topic.
2. Open Finder and select some file. Press hotkey, that I create - ok.
3. Open Finder and select some file. Press space key, that use quickview mode. Press hotkey, that I create - nothing. "Apple is Apple".
 

Keebler

macrumors 68030
Jun 20, 2005
2,957
207
Canada
Hi everyone!

I'm trying to add a colour label/tag using the Automator service.
I'm on Catalina, but it doesn't seem to work.
I can create the service just fine, but when I use the shortcut, it doesn't work. It jumps to the 1st file in finder without any label.

This happens for both the Apple keyboard and my Microsoft ergonomic keyboard (the latter works flawlessly and I use it 99% of the time).

Any idears?
Thanks,
Brian
 
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