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Tagging Files Using HoudahSpot

After looking at file tags for organizing files as well as some more creative uses, we looked at using HoudahSpot to find tagged files. Now let’s look at tagging files using HoudahSpot.

Tagging multiple files
File tagging pop-over in HoudahSpot

Again, there are different methods you can choose from. Pick the one that best fits your workflow or personal preference.

Drag and Drop

Reveal the HoudahSpot sidebar using the View > Show Sidebar menu item. The sidebar lists your favorite tags. The sections of the sidebar can be re-arranged. You may want to move the Favorite Tags section to the top for easier access.

You can now drag files onto a tag in the sidebar. This will add the tag to the files.

The sidebar also has an entry for All Tagged Files. This serves to search for files that have at least one tag. You can also drop files onto this entry. This will open the tagging pop-over.

Menu and Keyboard Shortcuts

The Results > Tags menu also lists your favorite tags. Using these menu items you can add or remove tags from selected files in search results.

Select Results > Tags > Manage Favorite Tags to get to HoudahSpot preferences where you can configure your list of favorite tags. Here you can also assign keyboard shortcuts to the items in the Results > Tags menu.

The Results > Tags… menu item brings up the tagging pop-over where you can edit tags for the selected results.

Context Menu

In HoudahSpot search results, you can right-click or control-click a file to reveal the context menu. This shows a row with colored dots representing your top 7 favorite tags. Select one of the tags to add or remove it from the selected files.

Again the Tags… menu item brings up the tagging pop-over.

Tags in the Info pane

The Info pane and File Info window show properties of the currently selected search result. This includes file tags. Click the tags – or the place where tags will go – to open the tagging pop-over.

The Tagging Pop-Over

We have seen various ways to open the tagging pop-over. This shows the tags for the files you selected or dropped onto the All Tagged Files sidebar item.

Tags are shown in the color you assigned to each tag in Finder > Preferences > Tags. Tags present on some, but not all, files show with a desaturated color.

You can add tag files by typing their names or by dragging items from the list of favorite and recently used tags at the bottom of the popover.

When working with multiple files, the tagging pop-over has two different operating modes. The checkbox at the bottom of the pop-over switches between both modes.

Replace Existing Tags: On

The tagging pop-over shows all tags present on at least one of the selected files. You edit tags by adding or removing tags from the list. Click Apply to set the list of tags on all selected files. All files will have the exact same set of tags.

Replace Existing Tags: Off

With the Replace existing tags option unchecked, only actual changes will be applied to individual files.

To add a tag to all files, add it to the list and click Apply. All selected files will have received the added tag. No other changes are made to the files’ tags.

The procedure to remove tags is similar. Removing a tag and then adding it back signals your intent to have the tag added to all files. Alternatively, you can add the tag to the list that already shows the tag with a desaturated color. The new addition will apply to all tags.


FileA has tag Red. FileB has tag Green. You add tag Orange to the list, uncheck the Replace existing tags option and click Apply. Now FileA has tags Red and Orange. FileB has tags Green and Orange. You return to the tagging pop-over. The tag Orange shows in vivid color while tags Red and Green show a desaturated color. Now you remove tag Green from the list and click Apply. FileA sees no changes: it did not have the tag. FileB is left with only the tag Orange.

Not All Files Lend Themselves to Tagging

  •  The Apple Mail application uses files to store messages but does not show Finder tags added to these files. Nor does it send the tags back to the mail server. Much the same: calendar. 
  • DevonTHINK files found by HoudahSpot are just references to items in your DevonThink catalog. Much like aliases. Tagging these does not tag entries in the catalog. The same is true for other “shoebox” style applications.