Tag your files for easier searches in Windows 7

In this edition of the Windows Desktop Report, Greg Shultz shows you how you can Tag your files in Windows 7 using tools built into Windows Explorer.

In a recent Windows Desktop Report, "Take Advantage of Search Filters in Windows Explorer," I showed you how to use and take advantage of the Search filters built in to Windows Explorer's Search box in Windows 7. As I told you in that blog post, as soon as you begin typing text in the Search box, Windows immediately begins sifting through the search index for that text in folder names, file names, the contents of the file, and file properties, such as Tags. I also showed you how you can narrow your search by creating your own filters based on file properties such as Tags.

In my example, I showed you that if you wanted to find files that have Invoice in the Tag, you can use the Tag: filter by typing the following in the Search box:


Since that blog was posted, I have received several emails from readers asking how you go about tagging files so that you can search on Tags.

In this edition of the Windows Desktop Report, I'll show you how you can Tag your files.

This blog post is also available in PDF format in a TechRepublic download.

What are Tags?

As you probably know, every file on your system has a set of attributes called file properties that includes such things as the name of the author or the date that the file was last modified. Tags are another type of file property, designed to be customized by the user. Tags are great for making searching easier because you can use words or even phrases that make sense to you. You can think of Tags as keywords.

While you can add Tags to many different types of files, you can't add them to all file types. For example, you can add Tags to Microsoft Office documents and most picture files, but you can't add Tags to text files or bitmap files.

Tagging files as you save them

When you save files from within certain applications, you'll have the opportunity to Tag your files. For example, Word 2007's Save As dialog box provides you with the ability to Tag a file. In fact, all Microsoft Office 2007 applications will allow you to add Tags from the Save As dialog box.

As you can see in Figure A, right below the Save As Type drop-down menu is the Tags feature. Just click Add a Tag and a text box will appear where you can type your custom keyword or phrase.

Figure A

The Save As dialog box in Word 2007 allows you to Tag files as you are saving them.

You'll notice that as soon as you start typing, a semicolon appears at the end of your Tag. This indicates that you can add a second Tag if you wish. To do so, just click the Tags text box again and you'll be prompted to add a second Tag. You can add multiple Tags if you wish.

As a time-saver, Word 2007 will monitor what you are typing and will display a list of recently used Tags, as shown in Figure B, that match what you are typing. Just select the adjacent check box, and the Tags you select will be instantly added.

Figure B

Word 2007 will display a list of recently used Tags that match what you are typing.

Tagging files from the Properties dialog box

You can Tag a file from within its Properties dialog box. Again, keep in mind that not all file types can be tagged.

To do so, just right-click on the file and select the Properties command. When the Properties dialog box appears, select the Details tab. If the file type can be tagged, you'll find the Tags property. When you click just to the right of the Tags label, a text box will appear, as shown in Figure C, and you can type your Tag.

Figure C

You can add Tags from within the Properties dialog box.

Just like in the previous example, you can add multiple Tags if you wish. You'll also discover that Windows 7 will monitor what you are typing and will display a list of recently used Tags.

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Tagging files from within Windows Explorer

You can also tag a file from within Windows Explorer. Again, keep in mind that not all file types can be tagged.

When you select a file that can be tagged, you'll see the Tags property in the Details pane at the bottom of the folder window, as shown in Figure D. You'll discover that you can add multiple Tags if you wish and you can see a list of recently used Tags.

Figure D

You can find the Tags property in the Details pane of Windows Explorer.

You may have to enlarge the Details pane in order to see the Tags property. If the Details pane isn't displayed, access the Organize menu on the Command bar, select Layout, and choose Details pane.

When tagging files from within Windows Explorer, you can tag multiple files with the same keyword at the same time. Just press and hold down the [Ctrl] key and then select the files you want to tag at the same time.

Using Tags

While I started this article by touting Tags as a way to make searches easier, they can also come in handy when you use the Arrange By, Group By, and Filter features that I covered in my recent blogs posts:

What's your take?

Are you currently using Tags? If so, do you find that they allow you to keep your files better organized? If you are not yet using Tags, will you begin to do so? As always, if you have comments or information to share about this topic, please take a moment to drop by the TechRepublic Community Forums and let us hear from you.

By Greg Shultz

Greg Shultz is a freelance Technical Writer. Previously, he has worked as Documentation Specialist in the software industry, a Technical Support Specialist in educational industry, and a Technical Journalist in the computer publishing industry.