2.5. Color Labels
Mac OS X 10.5 includes a welcome blast from the Mac's distant past: icon labels. This
feature lets you tag selected icons with one of seven different labels, each of which has
both a text label and a color associated with it.
To do so, highlight the icons. Open the File menu (or the menu, or the shortcut menu
that appears when you Control-click/right-click the icons). There, under the heading
Color Label, you'll see seven colored dots, which represent the seven different labels you
can use. Figure 2-8 shows the routine.
2.5.1. What Labels Are Good For
After you've applied labels to icons, you can perform some unique file-management
tasks—in some cases, on all of them simultaneously, even if they're scattered across
multiple hard drives. For example:
Figure 2-8. Use the File menu, menu, or shortcut menu to apply label tags to
Instantly, the icon's name takes on the selected shade. In a list or column view, the
entire row takes on that shade, as shown in Figure 2-9. (If you choose the little X,
you're removing any labels that you may have applied.)
• Round up files with Find. Using the Find command described in Chapter 3, you
can round up all icons with a particular label. Thereafter, moving these icons
atonce is a piece of cake—choose Edit Select All, and then drag any one of the
highlighted icons out of the results window and into the target folder or disk.
Using labels in conjunction with Find this way is one of the most useful and
inexpensive backup schemes ever devised—whenever you finish working on a
document that you'd like to back up, Control-click it and apply a label called, for
example, Backup. At the end of each day, use the Find command to round up all
files with the Backup label—and then drag them as a group onto your backup disk.
• Sort a list view by label. No other Mac sorting method lets you create an arbitrary
order for the icons in a window. When you sort by label, the Mac creates
alphabetical clusters withineach label grouping, as shown in Figure 2-9.
This technique might be useful when, for example, your job is to process several
different folders of documents; for each folder, you're supposed to convert
graphics files, throw out old files, or whatever. As soon as you finish working
your way through one folder, flag it with a label called Done. The folder jumps to
the top (or bottom) of the window, safely marked for your reference pleasure,
leaving the next unprocessed folder at your fingertips, ready to go.
Figure 2-9. Sorting by label lets you create several different alphabetical
groups within a single window. In Leopard, in fact, you can sort by labels in
any view (icon, column, whatever), using the View Show View Options
In a list view, the quickest way to sort by label is to first make the label
column visible. Do so by choosing View Show View Options and turning
on the Label checkbox.
• Track progress. Use different color labels to track the status of files in a certain
project. The first drafts have no labels at all. Once they've been edited and
approved, make them blue. Once they've been sent to the home office, they turn
purple.(Heck, you could have all kinds of fun with this: Money-losing projects get
red tints; profitable ones get green; things that make you sad are blue. Or maybe
2.5.2. Changing Labels
When you first install Mac OS X, the seven labels in the File menu are named for the
colors they show: Red, Orange, Yellow, and so on. Clearly, the label feature would be
much more useful if you could rewrite these labels, tailoring them to your purposes.
Doing so is easy. Choose Finder Preferences. Click the Labels button. Now you see
the dialog box shown in Figure 2-10, where you can edit the text of each label.
Figure 2-10. Top left: In the Labels tab of the Preferences dialog box, you can
change the predefined label text. Each label can be up to 31 letters and spaces long.
Bottom right: Now your list and column views reveal meaningful text tags instead of