Manage your Affinity documents with tags

In this article you’ll learn about using tags on Mac and iPad to help manage projects by attaching status and other information to your files.

Where do I find this feature?

You may have noticed macOS’s tags feature already in Finder. Ctrl-click a file and you’ll see a row of seven coloured circles near the bottom of the contextual menu. Clicking one of them attaches the corresponding tag to the file.

Tags enable you to retrieve all files stored on your Mac, iPad or iCloud Drive. You might create a set of tags to track the progress of your commissions, or for each client or project so you can easily retrieve all related work later on.

When browsing your files, coloured tags next to their names serve as a status reminder. More powerfully, select a tag in Finder’s or Files’ sidebar and you’ll immediately see all files with that tag attached, regardless of where each file is stored.

A Finder window after selecting the Red tag from the sidebar and demonstrating tag management in the Preview pane.

The seven coloured tags provided by Apple illustrate the fundamentals of tags. However, tags are customisable pieces of metadata—data about data—that can take on whatever meaning you choose.

Think about the tags you need

For tags to be effective in your workflow, consider what you want them to communicate before you start tagging files.

Let’s create some tags to track project status. For simplicity’s sake, we’ll create just four:

  • Draft, which we’ll colour red.
  • Awaiting feedback, coloured yellow.
  • Amendments required, coloured orange.
  • Approved, coloured green.

All tags must have a unique name. Additionally, you can assign one of seven colours to each tag. Bear in mind that it’s possible to assign the same colour to different tags—try to avoid this as it can cause confusion.

We recommend assigning colours only to your most important tags, such as at-a-glance status indicators, and leave secondary tags like client or project name uncoloured.

A maximum of three coloured tags are shown next to each filename. The fewer coloured tags a file has at any time the better.

As mentioned earlier, you might attach additional (non-coloured) tags that are of secondary importance. We’ll look at how to check all of a file’s tags later.

Let’s set up the tags described above.

Create tags on a Mac

In Finder, choose Finder > Preferences and then click the Tags tab. Initially, the list at the top here contains the default set of seven coloured tags. Eventually it will contain all tags you create.

Repeat the following steps to create tags for each of the four statuses above:

  1. Click the + button below the list of tags.
  2. Type the tag name and then press Return.
  3. Click the circle to the name’s left and then click the desired colour.
  4. Check the box to the right is ticked so the tag is listed in Finder’s sidebar.
Your Finder’s Tags preferences should look something like this. You can drag tags up or down the list, here or in a Finder window’s sidebar, to reorder them.

At the bottom of the window is a representation of the tag shortcuts from Finder’s contextual menu. Use it to assign your choice of up to seven tags to that menu. Drag the tags you just created from the list at the top into the first four positions.

Close Finder’s Preferences window. Open a regular Finder window and locate an Affinity document. Ctrl-click the document and choose whichever of your tags is appropriate to its current status. (While the pointer hovers over a tag in the menu, the tag’s name is displayed immediately below as a reminder.)

A tag can be attached by dragging and dropping a file onto it in Finder’s sidebar or, in the case of your favourite tags, from Finder’s contextual menu.

Create tags on an iPad

You can create tags using your Apple tablet too. That said, if you have a Mac as well, you may find creating tags a little more comfortable there.

If your Mac and iPad are signed in to the same iCloud account, iCloud Drive makes all your tags available on both devices regardless of where they are created.

However, if an iPad is your only device, create and save a new Affinity document, which is needed only temporarily. At your Affinity app’s documents list, tap +, tap Open From Cloud and then browse to the file you just created.

Do the following to create the four statuses described earlier:

  1. Hold a finger on the temporary file.
  2. Choose Tags from the contextual menu.
  3. Tap Add New Tag.
  4. Type the tag’s name and tap the desired colour.
  5. Tap Done.
  6. Repeat steps 3 to 5 for each of the remaining statuses.

After creating all four tags you can delete the temporary file. Doing so will not delete the tags; they’ll remain available to assign to other files afterwards.

Inspect all of a file’s tags

You can assign many tags to a file. Depending on your tagging system’s complexity, you may need to review in full what has been assigned. Do one of the following:

  • On Mac, ctrl-click a file and choose Get Info (Mac).
  • On iPad, hold a finger on a file and choose Info (iPad).
  • On Mac, choose View > as Columns and then View > Show Preview. Select a file and then scroll down in the rightmost pane to the Tags section.
  • On iPad, scroll up past the top of the file list and tap the Column view icon. Select a file and then scroll down in the rightmost pane to the Tags section.

Tags can be added or deleted in all of those places.

Update a file’s tags from Affinity apps on Mac

When you create a document and work on it progresses, you’ll want to update its tags to reflect its current status. If the document is open in your Affinity Mac app, choose File > Reveal in Finder. Otherwise browse to it in Finder. Once located, do the following:

  1. Ctrl-click the file and choose Tags.
  2. In the popover, click current tags (marked with a tick) that you want to remove.
  3. Click any tags you want to add to the file so they become marked with a tick.

Update a file’s tags from Affinity apps on iPad

You can update a document’s tags in the Files app or your Affinity app. For the latter, go to the documents list, tap + and choose Open From Cloud. Then, in either, locate the file and do the following:

  1. Hold a finger on the file and choose Tags.
  2. In the popover, tap current tags (marked with a tick) that you want to remove.
  3. Tap any tags you want to add to the file so they are marked with a tick.
  4. Tap outside of the popover and then (if doing this in an Affinity app) tap Cancel. Note that this does not cancel the tags you just applied, only the Open From Cloud action.
To update a document’s status on iPad, browse to the file using your Affinity app’s Open From Cloud option, hold a finger on the file and choose Tags. You needn’t open the file.

Use tags as a rating system

If you prefer to store photos loose on your Mac’s storage, rather than in the Photos app, you can use tags as a way to mark shots with a rating. Do the following:

  1. In Finder’s tags preferences, click + to create a new tag.
  2. Press ctrl+cmd to open the Character Viewer.
  3. Scroll all the way to the top of the viewer to reveal a search bar.
  4. Type star to find matching characters.
  5. Click the first filled-in star to insert it in the tag’s name.
  6. Select and copy the character to the Clipboard.
  7. Press Return to finish creating the tag.
You can use star symbols with tags to create a rudimentary file rating system.

You needn’t assign a colour because the glyph communicates the tag’s meaning clearly.

Create two-, three-, four- and five-star tags, pasting the Clipboard’s contents for quickness rather than returning to the Character Viewer repeatedly.

Put a tick in the box to the right of these rating tags, or at least those for three or more stars, to make them available from Finder’s sidebar. This enables superfast retrieval of your best photos. You can use the one- and two-star ratings to identify photos for archival or deletion to free up storage space.

With star ratings as tags, you can rate files by dragging them to Finder’s sidebar. This enables you to easily pick out your best photos for editing or those you want to archive or delete.

While reviewing the quality of photos, assign the appropriate rating by dragging individual or multiple files and dropping on one of your rating tags in Finder’s sidebar.

If you apply these tags to other kinds of file as well, you can use Smart Folders to be more specific about what is retrieved than the individual tags in Finder’s sidebar allow.

Further reading

Additional help on using tags can be found in Apple’s macOS user guide at https://support.apple.com/guide/mac-help/mchlp15236/mac.


Technical author
Alan is part of our technical authoring team and joined us from the world of magazines (MacUser), where he wrote up software techniques and worked on pioneering interactive digital editions. When he’s not neck-deep in page layouts, layer masks and adjustment layers, you’ll often find him digging through second-hand records for interesting sleeve artwork or gazing in wonderment at the graphical variety of Japanese video games.