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

by

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
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...).

  2. Select the Keyboard preference pane.

  3. Click the Shortcuts tab.
    Sysyem Prefs Keyboard Pane

  4. Select App Shortcuts in the left column and click the + button.

  5. Select Finder.app in the Application field.

  6. Type Tags... in the Menu Title field.
    sys prefs basic tag shortcut

  7. 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.

  8. 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
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

  2. Click New Document.

  3. Choose Service as the type of your document.
    2 Automator document type

  4. Type label into the Library search field at the top of the Automator sidebar.

  5. Drag the Label Finder Items action into the empty workflow area.
    3 Label Finder Items

  6. Click the tag color you want to use for your first keyboard shortcut. (We're going for red in our example.)

  7. Select files or folders in the Service receives selected dropdown.

  8. Select Finder in the in application dropdown.
    4 Create Finder Label action

  9. Select File -> Save from the Automator menu bar, and give your service a name. We'll be using the name "Tag Red".

  10. Click Save.

How to Assign a Shortcut to Your New Tagging Service

  1. Launch System Preferences from the Apple menu bar ( -> System Preferences...).

  2. Select the Keyboard pane.

  3. Click the Shortcuts tab.

  4. Select App Shortcuts in the left column and click the + button.
    Sysyem Prefs Keyboard Pane

  5. Select Finder.app in the Application field.

  6. 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

  7. Click inside the Keyboard Shortcut field and press your chosen key combination for activating the service. We've used Shift-Command-R.

  8. 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
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.

Top Rated Comments

ignatius345 Avatar
36 months ago

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.



Attachment Image
Score: 3 Votes (Like | Disagree)
blackxacto Avatar
36 months ago
I stopped using tags the day Apple switched to tiny dots. Ridiculous.
Score: 2 Votes (Like | Disagree)
TMRJIJ Avatar
36 months ago
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.
Score: 1 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Mars56 Avatar
27 months ago
I envy people that actually use this stuff and keep their computers cleaned up.
Score: 1 Votes (Like | Disagree)
chucker23n1 Avatar
23 months ago

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.

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
Score: 1 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Top Stories

magsafecasedangle

Apple Elaborates on Potential for iPhone 12 and MagSafe Accessories to Interfere With Implantable Medical Devices

Saturday January 23, 2021 2:42 pm PST by
Since the launch of iPhone 12 models in October, Apple has acknowledged that the devices may cause electromagnetic interference with medical devices like pacemakers and defibrillators, but the company has now shared additional information. Apple added the following paragraph to a related support document today:Medical devices such as implanted pacemakers and defibrillators might contain...
Top Stories 44 Feature

Top Stories: 'Thinner and Lighter' MacBook Air, Smaller iPhone 13 Notch, iOS 14.4 Incoming

Saturday January 23, 2021 6:00 am PST by
We continued to hear a lot more about Apple's plans for its Mac lineup this week, including word of a high-end redesigned MacBook Air and the return of an SD card slot as part of the upcoming MacBook Pro redesign. It also sounds like Apple has been working on Face ID for Mac, but it won't be appearing in a redesigned iMac this year as originally planned. This week also saw rumors about the...
bloodoxygenapplewatch

Apple Watch Series 7 Rumored to Feature Blood Glucose Monitoring

Monday January 25, 2021 5:05 am PST by
The Apple Watch Series 7 will reportedly feature blood glucose monitoring via an optical sensor, according to ETNews. The report, which mainly focuses on the blood glucose capabilities of the Samsung Galaxy Watch 4, explains that Apple is intending to bring blood glucose monitoring to the upcoming Apple Watch Series 7 using a non-invasive optical sensor. Measuring blood glucose levels,...
maxresdefault

Microsoft Touts Surface Pro 7 as 'The Better Choice' Over MacBook Pro in New Ad

Saturday January 23, 2021 11:02 am PST by
Microsoft yesterday shared a new ad on YouTube titled "Microsoft Surface Pro 7: The Better Choice," in which the company compares its tablet computer to Apple's 13-inch M1 MacBook Pro, as spotted by MSPoweruser. The ad highlights the Surface Pro 7's touchscreen and included stylus as opposed to only a "little bar" (the Touch Bar) on the MacBook Pro. Other advantages of the Surface Pro 7...
airpods galaxy buds comparison

Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro vs. Apple AirPods Pro

Friday January 22, 2021 2:34 pm PST by
Samsung in January unveiled new flagship Galaxy S21 smartphones and alongside the new phones, introduced the $200 Galaxy Buds Pro, which are priced at $199 and offer Active Noise Cancellation. Subscribe to the MacRumors YouTube channel for more videos. These new Galaxy Buds Pro are clearly designed to compete with Apple's AirPods Pro, so we thought we'd compare the two sets of earbuds in our...
2021 mbp sd slot feature2

Bloomberg: Next MacBook Pro to Feature SD Card Reader

Friday January 22, 2021 7:50 am PST by
Last week, reputable analyst Ming-Chi Kuo outlined his expectations for new 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pro models later this year, including the return of the MagSafe charging connector, the removal of the Touch Bar, a new flat-edged design, and the return of more ports built into the notebooks for expanded connectivity. A concept of a modern MacBook Pro with an SD card reader Kuo did not...
time to walk apple watch

Apple Fitness+ Feature 'Time to Walk' Launching Soon With Audio Stories From Special Guests

Saturday January 23, 2021 7:13 pm PST by
Earlier this week, Apple seeded the watchOS 7.3 Release Candidate, which is typically the final beta version of a software update. The release notes for the update list a new "Time to Walk" feature for Apple Fitness+ subscribers, described as "an audio experience in the Workout app where guests share inspiring stories as you walk." Apple Fitness+ subscribers will be able to open the Workout...
Flat MacBook Air Feature

Bloomberg: Apple Working on 'Thinner and Lighter' High-End MacBook Air With MagSafe, Could Launch in Second Half of 2021

Friday January 22, 2021 3:34 am PST by
Apple is working on a "thinner and lighter" version of the MacBook Air that the company plans to release during the second half of this year at the earliest or in 2022, according to a new report by well-connected Bloomberg journalist Mark Gurman. It will include Apple's MagSafe charging technology and a next-generation version of the company's in-house Mac processors. Apple has discussed...
q4 2020 mac growth feature

Mac Sales Skyrocketing After M1 Launch

Tuesday January 19, 2021 3:00 am PST by
Apple's worldwide Mac shipments grew massively in the fourth quarter of 2020 after the launch of three new Macs with the M1 chip, according to new PC shipping estimates shared by Gartner. Apple shipped an estimated 6.9 million Macs, up from the 5.25 million it shipped at the same time in 2019, marking significant growth of 31.3 percent. In spite of the growth of Mac sales, Apple remained...
apple time to walk apple watch airpods 01252021 inline

Apple's New 'Time to Walk' Feature Launches Today for Fitness+ Subscribers

Monday January 25, 2021 6:30 am PST by
Apple today officially introduced Time to Walk, a new feature for Apple Fitness+ subscribers with audio stories from influential people that Apple Watch users can listen to with AirPods or other wireless headphones while walking. Time to Walk episodes will be automatically downloaded to the Apple Watch with a Fitness+ subscription, and users can start an episode directly from the Workout...