How to add a shortcut for Finder tags on macOS Big Sur and Catalina

Dennis Schäfer
Nov 17, 2018 · 4 min read

One of the, I believe, lesser known tricks about using Finder tags on macOS, is the ability to assign tags to one or several files using keyboard shortcuts.

First at all, there is the option to assign your favorite tags, as defined in Finder > Preferences > Tags, with a shortcut.

Finder allows you to define up to 7 favorite tags

After selecting a file or folder in Finder, you can simply press Control + 1 .. 7, depending on the order of your favorite tags. In the example, Control + 4 would set the green tag. Pressing it again will remove the tag.

Pro Tip! If you select a file or folder and press Control + 0, you can remove all tags at once. This also works for multiple selected files and folders.

Quick access to the Tags menu

If you use tags a lot to organize your files, you probably have more than 7 tags. Wouldn’t it be nice, if you could access all your tags with a shortcut? Luckily, it’s possible to open the tags menu in a popover for a selected file or folder with a shortcut. The tag search field gets the keyboard focus, so you can immediately start tagging without touching your mouse.

Adding tags with a keyboard shortcut.

However, this is not enabled by default for whatever reason. So, I’m going to explain how you can enable it.

Adding a keyboard shortcut for Finder tags

In order to enable a keyboard shortcut for Finder tags, open System Preferences — Keyboard and select App Shortcuts under the Shortcuts section. Press the + button below the detail window on the right.

Press + to add a new app shortcut.

This opens the following modal window from the top. Open the Application drop down and select Finder from the list. In the Menu Title field enter Tags… (inclusive the 3 dots as shown in the screenshot). Assign your desired shortcut by putting the cursor in the Keyboard Shortcut field and press the keys on your keyboard. For example, you can use ⇧+⌘+X, which is still available in Finder.

Important: Type the menu title exactly as shown in the screenshot.

After confirming your new shortcut by pressing Add, you need to relaunch Finder for the changes to take effect. You can relaunch Finder by first pressing and holding down the Option key and then holding down the mouse button on the Finder icon in the Dock. This opens up a context menu with an option to relaunch Finder. If you don’t see the relaunch option, you probably didn’t press the Option key first. Try again!

How to relaunch Finder — The relaunch option will be shown at the very bottom of the context menu.
How to relaunch Finder — The relaunch option will be shown at the very bottom of the context menu.
The relaunch Finder option is at the very bottom of the context menu

Now, you’re all set and ready to use your keyboard to assign tags. Go to Finder, select a file and press your shortcut. You can watch it in action here:

Opening Finder tags menu with a shortcut on Catalina

If it doesn’t work as expected, make sure the keyboard shortcut is available and not used by another app.

If you have a MacBook with TouchBar, you’ll also see your tags there after pressing the shortcut. Unfortunately, if you have a long list of tags, the TouchBar turns out to be useless, because it is just mirroring the content of the popover.

Hassle-free file tagging

If you want to take the hassle out of manually tagging your files, you might want to check out Little Tagger.

Little Tagger — A menu bar app to assist you with tagging your files — https://littletagger.com

Little Tagger is a menu bar app I developed, which assists you with tagging your files and folders. By offering a range of keyboard shortcuts and supporting the TouchBar, you can almost entirely control your tagging experience without using your mouse. Read more about all the features on the website. Little Tagger is available on the Mac App Store.

Happy tagging.

If you find the article useful, feel free to give it a clap. I’m planning of publishing a few more articles covering Finder tags in the coming weeks. I’m also curious about your experiences with Finder tags on macOS. Do you find them useful or just cannot get into it? Let me know in the comments.

Taggy Tagger — a Finder tag manager for macOS — https://taggytagger.com

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