Tags and labels (colours)

Path Finder 6 introduced file tagging, almost two years before Apple did the same in OS X 10.9 (Mavericks). Initial tagging implementation followed OpenMeta specification and when Mavericks was released, we updated Path Finder tagging to be compatible with Finder in Mavericks. Therefore, tagging in Path Finder follows both Apple and OpenMeta specifications, thus being compatible with majority of file tagging applications available on Mac.

You can tag files in Path Finder in numerous ways. One of them, using Tags and Rating module in Get Info window is shown in this screencast.

Path Finder also maintains its own tags database, which you access choosing Commands > Tags Groups from the main menu. It does not just contain all tags used by Path Finder, you can create arbitrary number of tags groups. Each group can contain arbitrary tags and it is identified by its name. You can use tags group name to easily tag a file with all tags from that group. The convenience of tagging files this way can be seen in this screencast.

Path Finder 7 takes file tagging to higher level, bringing tags database synchronisation between Apples Finder's and Path Finder's tags databases, as well as interoperability between colour tags and (colour) labels.

Tags databases synchronisation works both way. As soon as a new tag is used to tag a file in Path Finder, not only will that tag be added to Path Finder's tags database, it will be added to Apple Finder's tags database as well. Synchronisation in other direction is a bit delayed. There is no public way to monitor changes to Apple Finder's tags database. Therefore, when a new tag is added to Apple Finder's tags database, it will not be added into Path Finder's tags database immediately. However, as soon as Path Finder encounters a file with that new tag, the tag will be added into Path Finder's tags database. This ensures both tags databases are always in sync.

Before explaining interoperability between colour tags and labels, we need to make you aware that, contrary to Apple's Finder, Path Finder does not abandon the (old-fashion) concept of colour labels. Colour tag and labels are two different things in Path Finder, but they work together.

Let's first consider case of changing file label; if you set a file label to e.g. Red, a label bit will be set in file's info (just like before), but new in Path Finder 7 is that tag Red (with red colour) will be automatically added to the list of file tags. If you then change label to e.g. Blue, the appropriate Blue tag (with blue colour) will be automatically added to file tags. The file will effectively end with list of tags: Red Blue. Every time you set another label colour, appropriate colour tag will be added to the end of tags list. If that colour tag is already in the tags list, it will be placed at the end. In short, the colour of the label always match the colour of the last tag in the tags list. Clearing the label (setting it to None) will clear all colour tags from the tags list.

Now, let's considering case of changing file tags; we can add colour tags, as well as tags with no colour. If a tag without colour is added, the label does not change. But if a colour tag is added, the label changes to match the colour of the last colour tag in the tags list. In other words, every time you change file tags (adding, deleting or reordering tags), the label changes to match the last colour tag.

This short video illustrates how this all work. With this knowledge we hope you will utilise power of combined tags and labels.

We decided to keep single colour label representation because a lot of users were asking for it. More precisely, they asked us not to follow Apple's way in Mavericks and show colour tags with small circles, but to keep a single colour representation. We completely agree with that, as single colour gives much better visual distinction, and that is what most people use (or used) coloured labels for.

On the other hand, we also need to be compatible with the way Apple does things, hence this interoperability between labels and tags. And if you wonder why we implemented it in the way explained above, the answer is simple: that's exactly what Apple is still doing in Finder. When you set tags in Apple's Finder, it manages file label info behind the curtains on the way explained above. That's probably done for backwards compatibility so that if you add, for example, red colour tag in Mavericks, you still get red label when a file is seen from earlier OS X versions.