68 Responses to “Using Metadata Effectively in OS X”

  1. Michael Barber

    @ Lucas

    This script does what you’re asking for:

    on adding folder items to this_folder after receiving these_items
    repeat with i from 1 to number of items in these_items
    set this_item to item i of these_items
    tell application “Finder” to open information window of this_item
    end repeat
    end adding folder items to

  2. Michael Barber

    Thanks for a nice article. I’ve been considering a similar metadata-centric approach to document management myself, so it is quite encouraging to see that you’ve been successfully doing that for over a year. My own thinking is to use a mix of folders for programmatic work (no way around this) and tags for managing references,

    However, I’m left wondering about a few points that make it a little difficult to relate your article to my own intended usage. In short, just what are you organizing? That is, how many files are in your documents folder? and what sort of files are they? It seems like these two points are really key to whether tags can replace folders for any specific person.

    Further, I’m interested in what your file names are like. By keeping everything in your Documents folder, it seems like you’d have a much greater issue with names clashing, which suggests long file names as a solution. That could lead to, in effect, sloppily encoding a folder structure into the file names. Have you noticed anything like that?

  3. Does anyone know if it would be possible to write a Folder Action AppleScript that would automatically open the Get Info window for files that you save to your Documents folder? I’m asking because I’m not *terribly* familiar with AppleScript, but I know enough about it to think that it wouldn’t be too tough to write if you had the know-how. With something like that set up, adding tags to your files would become really simple and efficient.

  4. This seems like a great idea for organizing files, except I’m curious to know if the metadata remains with the file after it’s saved (burned) onto a CD or DVD.

    If not (if stored in an index file), then I can’t see myself backing up the metadata index each time I want to backup my “Documents” directory.

    So this solution might be great now, but if a computer crash were to occur and I needed to restore my files, I would be furious to find out NOTHING is organized anymore.

  5. For any of this to work for me, the system would have to be a series of keywords that I create/edit and can simply select each time. otherwise, it is too much trouble. I am hoping for something like this in Leopard. If not, folders and good titles for documents work well for me.

  6. @ Rene:

    I currently use Default Folder X (in demo mode as I think the price of $35 is a bit steep) which allows you to comment right from the save dialog. It does much more than this, but that, I feel is its moste useful feature.

    I’m anxiously waiting for the next installments because I would like to stop using Default folder X and if I could replace it with Quicksilver, that would be great, one less startup item!

  7. Is there anyway to add a tag while you save the file in your app? Example:
    I create a text doc and save the file as name.txt in some directory. I then need to browse to this directory find the file, click info then add the tag.
    Seems like a lot more work then just saving it to a sub directory some where.

    I never tried using metadata but is this the process i would need to do?

  8. At work I am in a multiplatform environment and I am concerned about how spotlight metadata and tags will be perserved when I copy a file to a windows server or send it via email. I often keep old files on our server but I want to be able to preserve the metadata for searching or if I copy it back to my Mac. Do you have any info on this?

  9. Rest assured that Quicksilver plays a large part in the system that I’ve become accustomed to. I’ll show it in graphic detail, so fret not!

    Guthrie – Punakea is a nice idea. The problem I have with it is that it wraps several symbols around the Spotlight Comments to denote them for its own purposes. That’s fine, but I’d prefer control over that syntax so I can pare it down, or increase its robustness as I feel necessary.

    I’ve tried out most of the other apps mentioned thus far in the comments, but have mostly left them behind. Maybe it’s Quicksilver’s fault, but I prefer minimal invasiveness on the part of my apps – I like everything to feel as built into the OS as possible, so the more I have to deal with a ‘clunky’ interface, the less likely I am to stick with it.

    That’s meant as no offense to these apps, they just haven’t really fit the style of workflow I’m accustom to.

  10. I’ve been really wondering about Punakea, and if anyone is using it to create this sort of system. OSX seems powerful enough in many ways that maybe all these PIM applications are…overkill? A few freeware add-ons, and I wonder if I can basically accomplish the same workflow.

    I’m also wondering if the next Apple OS is going to facilitate this sort of set up even easier.

  11. I am very excited about this method of organization. For the past few weeks I have been experimenting with various “notetaking” apps such as Journler, Yojimbo, and Devonthink. For my purpose (getting organized) I think leveraging OSX’s built in metadata support will be a much more elegant solution.

    I currently use (depend on?) Quicksilver and I’m really looking forward to future installments.

  12. Could you show how to do quick and easy tagging with Quicksilver as well as something like Yep (used to be free).

    I have been scanning for months, have tons of PDFs, but can’t find an easy way to go through them, tag them and move them so I know they have been tagged. A workflow if you will

  13. Johan:
    Very nice looking app, which I saw some time ago.
    But they are charging €29 for a *beta*! What’s more, there’s no demo.
    So you have to pony up 30 bucks up front, with no idea what you will get, apart from few video clips.

    Can I interest you in some snake oil?

  14. Just today I found 2 very interesting freeware/open source apps for OS X metadata- SpotMeta and Punakea:


    SpotMeta is not as slick, but allows you to create new metadata fields that are recognized in both Spotlight and Smart searches. Not just plain text either- you can create date fields, drop down lists, etc. Punakea uses the existing Spotlight comments field, but adds its own nifty touches too.

    Looking forward to seeing this whole series!


  15. I tried the “metadata only” filing method for a while and ended up drifting away from it because it was too difficult to do even modestly complex searches in Spotlight (e.g., (tag1 OR tag2) AND (filetype1–especially if it’s not one of the types that you can do a kind: search for in Spotlight)). I’d be very interested in what kinds of 3rd party utilities are around to simply Spotlight search constructions.

  16. I find it a lot easier to use a note-organizing application with tags, so everything’s in one place, although I haven’t exactly settled in on one yet. It’s amazing how Quicksilver can be so integrated into everything you do.