How to create a better workflow in OS X Mavericks with Finder Tags

We've been getting a lot of questions in regards to Finder Tags in OS X Mavericks. How do they work? Are they really different than Labels in previous versions of OS X? What is the best way to use them? How can they fit into my existing workflow?

To answer these questions, check out the video above and then follow along for my top tips for managing and using Finder Tags in OS X Mavericks...

The Finder Tag feature is Apple's way of helping you better organize your Mac. We've always had folders and while older versions of OS X have had labels for years, Finder Tags expands upon that and actually provides a useful feature. I never really found Labels to do anything but make a folder or item stand out in a list, and even that's a stretch if you don't know what you're looking for, or more importantly, where.

To go with the above video, here are some tips of my own when it comes to setting up Finder Tags:

1. What do you use your Mac for the most?

I use Finder Tags as a convenient and easy way to locate and find the files and resources I use regularly. For graphic designers or photographers, this may be templates, watermarks, or other asset files you use regularly. Heck, you could even tag all your Photoshop actions if you'd like and then it doesn't matter where you drop them on your hard drive since you can pull them all up in one go.

The key here is to really think about what you do most often. If you create too many Finder Tags, you may find there's little value in them anymore. That brings us to my next tip...

2. Don't go crazy!

I had a few friends that instantly went nuts and created tons of Finder Tags only to figure out after a few days that it probably wasn't the smartest idea. Don't treat them as folders, because that's what folders are for. Tags are meant to have value and if you water them down too much, you're going to spend just as much time finding things as you did before.

If you find yourself creating lots of Finder Tags, go back to step 1 and re-evaluate what you really use your Mac for the most. This can help you slim down how many Finder Tags you end up creating.

3. Make a Finder Tag to remind you to organize

One of the most useful things I've done so far with Finder tags is constantly remind myself what I still need to sort and file away. My old habits led me to simply dump a bunch of stuff into a folder on my desktop labeled 'Crap' and there it would remain, for months on end. Eventually, I'd get around to emptying it but by this time it'd take me hours and I'd end up just trashing half of it out of frustration.

No more with Finder Tags. I've made a 'Random - Sort' tag for myself and I have made a habit of checking it every few days. Now, if it isn't empty, it bothers me and I feel the need to make it empty. My Mac is much happier for this, and so am I.

3. Let Folders and Finder Tags work together, not against each other

Don't confuse what Finder Tags are in comparison to folders. Instead, let them work together. I have some Folders that are labeled with more than one Finder Tag. For instance, my iMore folder contains tons of photos. Don't create more work for yourself by just duplicating what you've already done. I've mitigated the amount of folders I have by using Finder Tags. I have a Finder Tag for iMore and a Finder Tag for Photography. Only the photos inside that iMore folder filter into the latter. This means I can get to all my photos in one click instead of two, or three, or even four - which is what I had to do before Finder Tags came along.

4. Tag individual files instead of folders

Tagging a folder means you still have to drill down inside of that folder to find what you need. So why not skip it altogether? Sometimes bulk tagging images or media types that are similar can minimize the amount of time it takes you to drill down and get to the files you actually need.

5. Consistency is key

With any organizational method, consistency is important. Find a happy compromise between too few and too many Finder Tags and stay there. This especially goes for anyone that owns more than one Mac. Try using the same Finder Tags across both, unless you've got completely different workflows. This way you know you're being consistent. This is especially important if you use a cloud service like Dropbox on both Macs. It can get confusing if you've got Finder Tags working against each other.

Your Tips?

These are my best tips when it comes to getting set up and organized with Finder Tags in OS X Mavericks. If you're using Finder Tags as well, be sure to let us know any tips you have for using them creating a better, more productive workflow!

If you're just getting started, be sure to check out our getting started with Finder Tags guide by hitting the link below.

See also:

Allyson Kazmucha

iMore senior editor from 2011 to 2015.