Clever way to use color labels on OS X?
June 5, 2013 11:18 AM   Subscribe

I'd like to use the color labels in finder more extensively to help manage files all over my computer, not just for certain areas. Because the labels are system wide the names don't always match the intentions for certain folders labels tend to be cumbersome and not clear in meaning. Areas that I would like labels to work well in are: Downloads, work project folders, Desktop, Archive folders and media folders. Labels that work for one area don't mesh with others. Have you been able to figure out some names for the color labels that are elegant and useful in every user folder in the filesystem? I'm not looking for a way to use spotlight comments or another program to handle this - I'm specifically interested a solid naming convention for elegant, useful color label names. Thanks!
posted by Brent Parker to Computers & Internet (5 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I know what you mean, so I don’t use names. I think I have numbers assigned to my labels, but mostly I just have mentally assigned different meanings to the colors that are folder specific and don’t use the names. There is no relationship I could possible think of where I could have words cover the different meanings. Green in my downloads folder means something different than it does in my work folder. I do this with dozens of folders and even with my terrible memory I don’t have trouble. In many cases I simply follow the colors from left to right to indicate progress or a rating.

I would think that someone would have to know what you were trying to accomplish with the labels to help with a naming scheme.
posted by bongo_x at 12:09 PM on June 5, 2013

So you have a tiny namespace (7 possible labels) and you want to be able to use it to express maximum meaning in multiple contexts. Tough constraint.

You have to expand your vocabulary from 7. I think your only hope is to combine labels with smart folders, and use your naming things muscle on the smart folders, not the labels. You can use the same colors to mean different things in different places, and make it all work by mapping the color onto its local meaning with a named search folder. Use a given smart folder's name for whatever expresses your main intention for labeling in each context. A smart folder called "Archived" could find items with a grey label in your Projects folder. A smart folder named "Approved" could find green labeled items in your Proposals folder, while a smart folder named "Fresh Vids" could find green items which are of type Movie in Downloads.

It's a little unintuitive to create a smart folder limited to searching a specific location. If you try navigating to Downloads then creating a Smart Folder from the Finder's File menu, you'll find you can only create a search for either your whole Mac or your user's home folder, Finder seems blissfully unaware that you navigated there on purpose.

Fastest way: open the target folder in Finder, hit command-f to activate spotlight, don't necessarily put anything in the search box, but set up your search criteria and hit the save button. Example

There are plenty of other search attributes you can leverage in addition to label color and filesystem location, many contributed by the apps you've installed.
posted by evariste at 2:38 AM on June 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

Ooh, just figured out that your smart folder can also contain multiple labels. Hold down option while setting up your search criteria, and the + button changes to ...

E.g. a smart folder containing items labeled either orange or red in Projects could mean Due Soon?
posted by evariste at 3:07 AM on June 6, 2013

Response by poster: Someone found me on FB and sent this to me. Seems like a very well thought out way to do this.
posted by Brent Parker at 8:30 PM on November 26, 2013

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