Nowadays, we use tags pretty much everywhere we work and play online. Flickr, Facebook, Gmail, this blog (and any other blog), and on and on. It’s an easy, intuitive way to keep track of things, and an organizational strategy that transcends categories and other groupings, like date and subject matter. It’s such a great system, it only makes sense that someone would get the bright idea of applying the concept to your own computer and offline files as well.
This is just what Tags (free trial, $29) from Gravity Apps is designed to do. With it, you can tag pretty much anything on your Mac, and then search for tagged items to quickly retrieve loads of associated files, regardless of where they’re kept, what type of file they are, when they were created, etc. Admittedly, it’s a feature that might not be needed if you maintain an obsessively well-organized folder structure, but for anyone outside of that lonely niche, it is a very useful little tool.
Like Quicksilver, the popular Mac launcher app, Tags works best as an always-on application that runs silently in the background, accessible via a keystroke, dock icon, or menu bar item. Pressing “Control + Space” (default, can be changed) at any time brings up the Tags window, which, as long as you’ve selected a taggable file (in Finder, Mail, iPhoto, or others) will allow you to type in a tag to associate with that item. If you’ve already tagged some other items, the app will auto-suggest tags as you type. You can also batch tag multiple items by selecting more than one and then opening the Tags window.
Besides its basic tagging function, Tags has a lot to offer, and depending on your level of comfort, you can use it to supplement Finder so much that you’ll probably end up having little cause to ever click that poor little blue happy face ever again. Clicking in the upper right corner allows you to search your previously tagged items, reveal your results in Finder, and create smart folders based on your Tags to automatically group tagged files.
From the Tag Manager, accessible via the Menu Bar, you can see all your existing tags, how many files are associated with each, and a list of all files under each tag. You can also remove and rename tags here, so that if you want to change a tag with, say, 50 files associated with it, you don’t have to alter each one individually.
Every aspect of the app’s design is consistent with the theme of kraft paper shipping or sales tags, complete with the reinforced hole for string. It’s a nice look, but personally I’d prefer a skin that integrated more naturally with Leopard’s overall look, especially since this is the type of app that’s meant to be used all the time seamlessly in concert with the operating system’s existing features. I’m also not a huge fan of how Tags stays on top of all other windows. I can see how it’s useful, but I’d appreciate an option to turn that off.
All in all, Tags is a great app for those who would like to keep their Mac more organized, but don’t have the desire or the patience to maintain a rigorously policed folder structure. Heck, even if you do have a pristine folder structure, Tags is designed to transcend that and offer you another way to sift through content, so its probably worth a look for the obsessively organized as well. Best of all, you can try out the 30-day trial first to see if it’s something you’ll actually use for more than a day.