How do you file a document that could be stuck in any of a half-dozen folders and make sure you’ll be able to find it again?


Take your recent sermon from 2 Corinthians 9. It’s a real gem that reflects some of your best exegetical work, it’s a fine expository sermon and it touches on a half-dozen important issues. Chances are you’ll want to refer to it later. Where do you file it?

  • In a folder labelled “2 Corinthians”?
  • In a sub-folder labelled “Sermons”?
  • In a folder labelled “Grace giving”?
  • In a folder labelled “Tithing, Old Testament”?
  • In a folder labelled “Acts 4-5”?
  • In a folder labelled “God, providence of”?

You get the idea. Over the decades I’ve tried a variety of schemes and tools, none of which has been entirely satisfactory.

  • I end up with multiple copies of the same file, each in different folders – which introduces the problem of version control
  • I’ve tried a variety of indexing programs (e.g., Devon Think, saved searches) that need ongoing maintenance

But thanks to Apple’s newest OS – Mavericks – maybe the days of “where did I file that?” are over.

I upgraded to the new OS last night. There are a lot of subtle improvements, but my favorite (so far) are file tags. The implementation is a bit awkward but it doesn’t take long to get the hang of it.

Tags will make my life a lot simpler because now it doesn’t matter where I store a file. I could store that 2 Corinthians sermon manuscript anywhere and still be able to find it instantly by its tags With file tags it no longer matters which folder a given file is in. With a bit of preplanning and discipline I can create a tagging scheme that will give me the ability to refine my searches more precisely to find what I’m looking for.

Finding Files by Tags

tags1Thankfully, there are many ways to tag files.tags4

When you open up a Finder window in Mavericks you’ll find Tags listed in the sidebar (see image to the left), listed by name (I’m not sure if this is a “most recently used” list or a “most used” list. An “All Tags…” link at the bottom pops up a list of all tags in your file system (see image to the right).

When you click on one of those tags Finder will immediately present a directory of all the files on your HD that have that tag, regardless of which folder or subfolder those files are in.

Very handy.

I don’t know if the Finder will let you create Boolean tag filters or not. It would be a great feature to find all files tagged with “2 Corinthians” AND “Grace giving” in a single step. So would finding all files tagged with “2 Corinthians” OR “Grace giving”.

Finder’s search field finds tagged files if you preface your search term with “tag:”.

Tagging Files

tags3Screen Shot 2013-10-23 at 11.54.08 AMThe tagging function is part of the File Save dialog sheet (see image to the left). After you enter a file name it prompts you for file tags.

If have thousands of files scattered across a HD, there’s a handy want to multiple files all at once.

Select the files you want to tag and click on the “tags” icon on the toolbar (see image to the right).  Voila!

With a little planning and creating a list of tags I’ll be using consistently, this feature will help me quickly bring all my files into the system. Never again will I worry about where to find something!

My Action Steps

Now that I’ve updated to Mac OSX Mavericks I’ll be implementing file tagging across the entire system. As I see it now, this will involve a couple of steps to insure that it’s done in a sensible and orderly fashion:

  • Review past file searches to see what my typical “find this file” request looks like
  • Develop a list of tags that make sense for the way I organize my thinking and file storage
  • Read to find out how others are implementing tags to see if I can learn more tricks or insights
  • Back up my system (to something other than Time Machine!)
  • Find and cull my duplicate files
  • Write a schedule for tagging my files

Additional help

If you do an Internet search on “Mavericks tags” you’ll find hundreds of resources. “How to use Finder tags in OS X Mavericks” is very helpful.


Have you found a file retrieval system that works for you? Do you think that file tags might be helpful to you? Click here to leave your comments below.