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Drowning in information? Tags can help

Mel Martin

If you're anything like me you have lots and lots of information. Endless folders and files are scattered about, and while Spotlight in Mac OS X is very helpful, it's not a perfect fit for every situation.

One solution I've found very helpful is Tags, from Gravity Apps. Our own Brett Terpstra took a look at version 1 of the program back in January of 2009, and now the app has been updated to make it even more useful. Click here to see what's changed in this new version.

Tags is a system-wide method of tagging just about anything on your Mac for easy retrieval. The real power comes from associating different file types that you may want to relate, like a web page, photo, contact and note. The tagging easily takes place from within the application, and requires a couple of keystrokes. Control-Space bar brings up the tagging GUI, and Option-Space bar triggers the search menu. If those hot-keys conflict with something else you use, they can be easily changed.

All applications that support AppleScript will work, and you can tag any file from the finder by highlighting it and doing Control-Space bar, type in the tag for the object, and hit return. Multiple items can be selected for fast tagging, and you can create a list of frequently used tags to apply to projects. If you are tagging some emails, the procedure is the same. Highlight one or more messages, do Control-Space bar, add your tag and hit the enter key. Done. Option-Space bar lets you search.

It seems like a bit of a hassle to tag things, but in fact once you do it, it's fast and efficient. You can have multiple tags for any item, and multiple files can have the same tag. You don't have to know where things are on your Mac. But you can find all the related items in a second or two.

Tags has some limitations. iPhoto is supported, but you can't tag smart folders. Same with iTunes. Stickies aren't supported, and iCal isn't either.

MS Office works fine with Tags, as do the Apple Finder, Keynote, Pages, Numbers, Mail, Safari, Photoshop and many more applications. The Gravity Apps website has a lot more detail, and several videos that explain the process.

At first, the usefulness of tagging is elusive. It was to me anyway, even though I use it every day in other contexts, like tagging photos in Flickr, or using Gmail. Having tags almost everywhere on my Mac is a major change in my daily workflow, and it is a change for the better.

Tags requires Mac OS X 10.6 "Snow Leopard " and sells for US $29.00 for a single license. TUAW readers can buy the app with a 15% discount ($24.65) using the coupon code TUAW at checkout. The coupon is good until October 31. You can also try the program free for 15 days.

For some, having this level of control of your accumulated data will be life changing. I think Tags is worth serious consideration if you want better management of your data and want to stop wasting time looking for things you already have.

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