If Windows Search just isn’t cutting it for helping you find your files, you can give it a little help by adding tags to any Windows file.

Tags work more or less like they do in any other system—photo libraries, social networks, et cetera. Unfortunately, there’s no way for Windows to auto-generate tags by itself. You’ll have to add and manage them manually. Then again, that might be a plus, depending on your personal style of organisation.

Tagging Files in Windows Explorer

Let’s take a look at my disorganized Pictures folder for an example. I use some subfolders for basic organization, but none of the files in the main folder are really named correctly—it’s just a bunch of stuff that doesn’t fit anywhere else.

I’ll use this old stock photo of Adam West as an example.┬áTo tag any file, right-click it in Explorer, and then click the “Properties” command. In the image’s properties window, switch over to the “Details” tab. You’ll see the “Tags” entry in the “Description” section.

To the right of the “Tags” entry, click the empty space in the “Value” column and a text box appears that just contains some “Add a tag” text. Type any tag you’d like to add. There are no predefined tags, so what you type is up to you. A tag can be any length and use any kind of standard character, including spaces, though we recommend keeping them reasonably short and easy to remember.

If you want to add multiple tags at once, just separate them with a semicolon.

When you’re done tagging, just click “OK” to finish.

 

Using Tags to Search

After you’ve tagged some files, you can then use those tags in your searches. But things are a little weird, depending on where you’re doing your searching.

In File Explorer, if you have the folder open where the file is contained, you can just type a tag into the search box and Windows will show you files tagged that way. Of course, the results also include any files that have that text in the name or other searchable content.

However, if you’re outside that folder (say, you want to search your whole PC or the entire Documents folder), you’ll have to add the “tags:” operator to the beginning of your search. The easiest way to do this is to just type “tags:” into the search box, and then type the tag text for which you want to search.

 

You can also add that operator from the “Search” tab on File Explorer’s Ribbon, if you want. It’s more cumbersome than just typing the operator, but it might be useful if you’ve already performed a search and just want to narrow it down to tags.

 

Tagging Files While Saving in Microsoft Office

Some apps, including all the Microsoft Office apps, let you add tags to files as you save them. Other apps, like Photoshop, do not. You’ll just have to play around with your apps to see which allow saving with tags.

Here’s how it looks in Word 2016. When you’re saving a document, just click the “More Options” link to open the full Save As dialog box.

You’ll find a “Tags” box tucked under the file type dropdown menu. Click the box, and then type whatever tags you like.

If you start typing a tag you’ve used before, Word will even pop up some suggestions.

To remove tags, just click the tag box, and then delete the tags you no longer want. Save the file again and the changes are applied.