Good primer on using Tags in Windows 11

We have talked about tags in several threads , though mostly related to IOS and MacOS. But windows 11 has a very good implementation.

And though the die hard hierarchical file system folks will likely only give in, kicking and screaming, this is THE FUTURE

How to add tags to files on Windows 11 | Windows Central

+1 vote here for hierarchical tyranny - and if you read this article (for Mac users that I’ve tried to implement) with my prejudiced eyes, they soon glaze over:

"Of course, the flexibility and unlimited nature of tags can be dangerous. It’s easy to spend fifteen extra minutes adding a ton of tags every time you save a new file—and it’s also easy to create so many different tags that you completely forget which ones you’ve used.”


" Strive for consistency with your tags. For instance, will you use singular or plural terms (“report” versus “reports”?) Which word type will you use: nouns, adjectives, verbs, or a combination of the three? Are you going to capitalize tags or leave them lowercase? Will you incorporate symbols and characters? The more standardized your system is, the easier it’ll be to find files.

As a rule of thumb, keep your tags to two words or less. If you find yourself going over that limit, it may make more sense to create two separate tags—for example, rather than tagging something as “Q1 expense report,” you could tag it as “Q1” and "expense report.”

Once you’ve come up with 10-plus tags, it’s a good idea to create a master list. I use an Evernote note to keep track of all my tags. This list helps jog my memory if I ever forget a tag; plus, I can periodically look it over to find and delete tags I didn’t end up needing.”

Yes, this old fogie often have a contrarian attitude, and the articles are certainly right to let you cross index the same file for multiple purposes, such as the following tags (which would require multiple copies in multiple folders otherwise):

         client name; task; drilling contract; form

but it also ends up with zillions of potential tags…and a consistency nightmare for this little mind…


The power and weakness of tags is spontaneity. While I have many issues with Evernote, its left panel can display the tags list constantly so you can easily drag and drop EXISTING tags onto notes, and filter by tagged notes.

Still, I find the fewer the tags the better.

To @desertlap’s point, it may be the future, but it won’t take hold until ALL apps/OS’s implement it. In other words, it’s like “going paperless”: We’ll get there when we have paperless toilets (W/C, Loo, Porta-Potty, Outhouse - depending on your geography)


Also one of people who will cling on the hierarchy file system here. Tag maybe useful as an additional feature but it certainly won’t replace file system when it come organizing things. Especially as someone who is so bad at remembering their own password, let alone the tag they make up. Also for developers, organized folders is a must have for managing assets location. File system won’t disappear anytime soon, no matter how much Apple or Google hope it to.

Still, tag could be useful to manage arts files includings uncommon file types like psd, clip or kra, separate them into boarder categories like personal and work, and easier finding something to share on the web.

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Actually FWIW all OSs including Android already do implement tags and use them extensively especially internally The HFS apps like Finder on the Mac and Explorer on Windows are there primarily for user convenience. Even the command prompt essentially uses HFS emulation.

As to apps, they are pretty much there on the Mac. Windows still lags a bit though all of MS and Adobe apps use Tags and again provide HFS type functionality as user service.

Well, getting down to the low level, data has never been hierarchical in nature, not in RAM or on the disk level where it’s all bits and pieces scattered all over the place. The hierarchy is created for the sake of the user, which is the point. We don’t really care how it is physically arranged, it’s where and how the data is presented to the user that matters.

It’ll be mixed use going forward just as it is today and has been for decades. For example, if you’re modding Skyrim you might encounter and use tags when creating bashed patches (as in Wrye Bash) but when structuring your mod if it’s not in exactly the correct hierarchy it won’t work as intended, at best, or instantly crash the game to desktop on loading at worst.

As with many things, people cherry pick their use case to prove whether tags or hierarchy is “better”. It’s not that simple.

I’m sorry, but tags just make me feel like the bad old days of flat file databases where you needed to “label” data elements to facilitate search - why isn’t this something that the OS is responsible for - not my job to make it easy to find my document…

Yes, guilty as charged…

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So a couple of things to be clear.

  1. I do think HFS style file management at least as an option even it’s presented as a user option vis emulation won’t ever disappear completely. Some tasks and operations are just either easier or faster done with that tool.

My broader points were that one from an OS standpoint Tags are far more flexible and efficient. And that a growing number of people especially younger and less "saddled with legacy " thinking prefer it.

My daughter with Tags is at least as efficient and effective with Tags as I am with hierarchical.

I’m personally glad that both options exist.

BTW: There are significant parallels to this to the location and implementation steering wheel and brake and gas pedals in cars. Including mechanical versus electronic throttle control, anti lock brakes etc.

My father use to rage at and do his best, to try and outthink his electronic transmission and throttle control when he finally bought his retirement Cadillac :slight_smile:

“not my job to make it easy to find my document…”

Actually thats what Tags will do, if you embrace instead of fighting them :slight_smile:

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Yes, but even five minutes to figure out which tags to use is time I just don’t have compared to dropping the document into its subfolder. It’s the same reason I screw up photos as well - tagging just slows down the process…


I’ve also been trying to “mass tag” pictures in Photos - what am I missing - even if I create a keyword, no way to right click and tag the entire group of pictures.

So am I. I think there’s a misunderstanding here that a lot of us are against the existence of tags or their use when actually we’re fine with tags but don’t see the point of changing over everything to tags. Many of us already use both tags and hierarchy, which was the point of my example. And it’s nothing new, even us old decrepit people do it.

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I think there will always be a place for both folders and tags and it’s not all-or-nothing or throw the baby out with the bath water. Parent-child and leader-follower categorization both come naturally to everyone and with good reason. Everyone likes order to some degree or another and you will never get a good grasp of precedence without having some sort of hierarchy involving pointers indicating flow and prominence. Tagging, which means single-level or democratized categorizing, does not work on its own or else you suddenly have a hodgepodge of too many chefs in the kitchen with every file being chief of the tribe.

Imagine if biologists up and decided now to only use tags in determining taxonomy or biological organization. We might know which species belongs to which genus or which organelle belongs to which cell, but how do we know the family of the genus or the tissue of the cell if each tag is equally parent to the file? If we just tag, we know which file is categorized under each tag, but can we trace the path of the tags themselves and uncover which tag is categorized under each tag? Now, without folders to guide the way, we have no insight into this essential relationship of precedence among the tags.

In programming too, at its basest fundamentals, we will always need hierarchy in one form or another thanks to a constant need for recursion, so folders will never disappear completely so long as super users have something to say about it. That said, is tagging an incredibly useful modernized application of metadata that simplifies file organization? Absolutely, which is why when combined with hierarchical methods, tagging can provide a valuable though not necessarily replacement dimensional lens into the exact purpose of each file residing on a computer.


We can use both and on Windows at least have been able to for years so,

Tags are good for finding all of one thing, or quickly narrowing down what you want to find without searching the file name. They are great for files that don’t fit into one category.

Files are good for sharing though, as they give other people (including your future self) information on how you want the data structured and what kinds of data there are there at a glance. It’s also easier to collaborate (‘just chuck it in this file’ rather than ‘add these tags’).


Stepping back for minute, I will admit that tags can be implemented with ordering or hierarchy, but when you do hierarchy on tags, you are effectively creating a folder-based file system. Well, your clever self might quip, “Not so fast! You can have grandchild tags of child tags also point directly to grandparent tags. You can’t do tricks like that with a folder-based file system. You can’t have parent folders inside of sub-sub-folders. Why, of course, no.” Why, of course, yes! It’s called… symlinking. :wink: Maybe someday tagging in a hierarchical flavor will replace folders. But if it involves any hierarchy, remember well these words when whoever pulls it off claims they officially replaced folders with tags: if it involves any kind of hierarchy, that means it’s just a clever rebranding of folders.

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