Tag Folders

Tag Folders…
…is a free, and really useful, clever way to make use of metadata (spotlight comments.)

(I’ve written this because when you install Tag Folders, it starts asking all kinds of questions you’re not prepared to answer unless you understand what it’s doing. It’s one of those “read the manual FIRST” programs.)

Consider iTunes: you drag a music file on it, and then access it via “tags” such as artist name, genre, album, style and so on. You do _not_ access it by finding it in a folder.

In iTunes you’re using “metadata” to find the files you’re interested in.

And Leopard is all set up for that too, with files and with applications… but you have to add the metadata yourself. You do a “get info” on the file, and type in the keywords you want to use in the “spotlight comments” section.

How do you find those files then, like iTunes? You use a spotlight search that looks within the spotlight comments, of course.

Even niftier, is you can save a spotlight search as a “smart folder” (which just performs the spotlight search for you, and then shows you the results as if the files were “in” that “folder.”)

This is like choosing “classical” in iTunes, and getting a list of recordings of classical music…without any reference whatsoever as to where those files are actually located.

So, why would you even consider going to all this trouble? Well, if you only have a few files, you wouldn’t… maybe.

But leaving aside how easy or difficult it is to actually “tag” the files, let’s look at using them… and that will answer the “why” part of it.

Say you have photos of Suzy, your granddaughter. You have photos of her at home, photos at her birthday party, photos of her at the lake, and photos of her with her mom, Mary.

And being a camera-nut, you have 6,234 photos of her. And you’d like to find the shots of her with her mom during a birthday party.

Seaching thru 6,234 photos is out of the question. But if you have tagged those files with “suzy” “mom” “birthday” “lake” (where some will have just “mom” and some will have just “suzy” or “birthday”) then a smart folder looking for “suzy” and “mom” and “birthday” will show you the correct photos instantly.

You see, the secret is that you can have any number of smart folders, and you can have any number of tags.

“Great” you say “but who in their right mind would want to tag 6000 photos?”


Here’s where the cleverness of Tag Folders comes into play. They are “smarter” smart folders. Instead of just being a one-way street (find these comment/tags), they serve a two-way function.

If you just open the folder, it performs like a smart folder, showing the files that meet the search criteria.

However (here’s the clever part) if you -drop- files on Tag Folders, they will -add- the spotlight search tags to the files!

So, if you have a folder full of files of the birthday party, just drag that to the “birthday” Tag Folder, and they are all tagged with “birthday”. And if in there you have 16 photos of Suzy, just drag them to the “Suzy” Tag Folder, and they are now tagged with “birthday” and “suzy” as well. (Remember, files can have any number of tags, and so can “belong” to any number of smart folders/ tag folders.)

In a nutshell: open the tag folder, and it shows you files with the chosen tag(s); drop to it, and it places those tags on the dropped file.

Finally, sort of as a bonus, there’s Tag Prompter… sort of like a no-tags tag folder: when anything goes into it, it will prompt you to apply tags. A reminder in a sense – a watch folder.

There are lots of programs out there using tags, not just iTunes. iPhoto, Aperture, Lightroom, Expression Media, Leap.. any many more.

Tag folders is just a nice, and free, way to get things done.

Finally, this has been a _very_ limited description of Tag Folders; in fact they can be quite sophisticated, including non-spotlight criteria and nesting… but for that, you’ll have to read the docs.