Skip to main content

How to use tags on a Mac to organize your files

Everyone has a different method for keeping items organized. What’s nice about MacOS is that Apple gives you a handy, built-in feature that can help you organize your files and folders called Tags. Tags are colored and similar to flags you use in an email application to make important messages stand out.

Knowing how to use tags can make a world of difference to your organizational skills. You can add tags to items that make them easy to spot. Plus, you can edit the default tags to give them more meaning, remove a tag from an item you no longer need, and search for an item based on its attached tag.

If you’re new to using tags on Mac to organize your files, take a look at how to make effective use of this helpful feature.

Difficulty

Easy

Duration

5 minutes

What You Need

  • Mac computer

how to use tags mac organize finder add tag purple

Add a tag to a file or folder

You can add a tag to any type of file like a text file, ZIP file, or image. You can add tags to folders too. Like many other tasks on MacOS, there’s more than one way to tag an item.

  • Right-click the file or folder and choose the color to add below Tags.
  • Select the item, go to File in the Finder menu bar, and pick the color below Tags.
  • Click Add Tags in the Finder toolbar, select the color, and press Return.
  • Click Action in the Finder toolbar choose the color to add below Tags.
  • Drag a file or folder to the color in the Tags section of the Finder sidebar.

You also have the option to tag an item when you save it. At the top of the Save dialog box, you’ll see the Tags field directly below the Save As field.

Note: With all of the above ways to add tags, you can also select multiple files or folders to tag them all at once.

Keep in mind that you can add more than one tag to the same file or folder. This allows you to tag that item for multiple purposes.

For example, maybe you use a blue tag for work items in progress and a green tag for financial documents. You can add both tags to a financial document in progress for your company.

how to use tags mac organize finder remove tag purple

Remove a tag from a file or folder

After you add a tag to an item, you might decide to remove it. Maybe the tag was temporarily attached to the item or simply no longer applies. As with adding a tag, you have a few ways to remove one.

  • Right-click the file or folder, select the tag color, and click Remove.
  • Select the item, go to File in the menu bar, select the tag color, and click Remove.
  • Click Add Tags from the Finder toolbar, remove the color at the top, and press Return.
  • Click Action in the Finder toolbar, select the tag color, and click Remove.

If you have more than one tag attached to an item, you can simply remove the one you want if you don’t want to remove both.

how to use tags mac organize finder edit tag purple

Edit the tags on Mac

By default, MacOS provides you with tags in basic colors and the tags are named with that color. So your blue tags are named Blue, red tags are named Red, and so on. You can change the color or the name for a tag.

To make a quick change to a tag, you can do so in the Finder sidebar. Expand the Tags section if necessary, then right-click the tag you want to edit. You’ll see options to Rename the tag, choose a different color, and even Delete the tag if you no longer want it.

how to use tags mac organize finder preferences manage

Manage the tags on Mac

There is another location on MacOS where you can make edits to the tags. In addition, you can add a new tag, delete one, and arrange your favorites for easy access.

With Finder active, click Finder > Preferences from the menu bar. When the small window appears, select the Tags tab at the top. You’ll see a list of all current tags.

  • Rename a tag: Click the tag’s name two times (not a double-click) or right-click and choose Rename.
  • Delete a tag: Select the tag and click the minus sign at the bottom of the list.
  • Add a tag: Click the plus sign at the bottom of the list and give the new tag a name.
  • Change a tag’s color: Right-click the tag and choose the new color.
  • Rearrange tags: Drag a tag to a different position in the list and release when you see the bold line.
  • Show or hide tags: Use the checkboxes to the right of the tags for those you want to show in the Finder sidebar.

The Favorite Tags area in the window lets you select those you use most often. These are the tags that display in the shortcut menu when you right-click or hold Control and click an item.

  • Add a Favorite Tag: Drag a tag from the list to the Favorite Tags section to add it.
  • Remove a Favorite Tag: Drag a tag out of the Favorite Tags section to remove it.
  • Rearrange Favorite Tags: Drag a tag to its new position in the Favorite Tags section.
how to use tags mac organize finder add tag column

View tagged items

When you add a tag to a file or folder, you’ll see this tag next to the file name on your desktop and in Finder. You can also group items in Finder by tag or add a Tag column if you use many tags often.

To group by tag, click Group in the Finder toolbar and pick Tags.

To add a Tags column, right-click the column headers in Finder and select Tags to add the field.

how to use tags mac organize finder search purple

Search for tagged items

One of the benefits of organizing items with tags on Mac is the ability to find items quickly. The fastest way to see all items with a specific tag is to select that tag in the Finder sidebar. No matter where that item resides on your Mac, you’ll see it on the right.

You can also use the Search bar in Finder to see items with a particular flag. Type the name of the tag and you should see an option in the suggestions containing the same named tag.

If you’re looking for a new or better way to organize files and folders on Mac, consider using a tool that’s built right in -- tags!

Editors' Recommendations