October 2013 brought sweeping changes to the features and financial models of many Apple software products. As Mavericks, the latest version of the Mac OS, moves the technology forward it presents many baffling changes that evoke like the proverbial “two steps backwards” phrase. For my day-to-day workflow the most disruptive change is the elimination of File Labels.
The new Finder Tags are great, but they are no substitute for the ability to quickly label a file name with a color. Having now lost the ability to quickly “swipe a virtual highlighting pen across the name of the file,” I find it has much more of an impact on my daily computer use than I would have ever guessed it might.
Tags are great for sorting, searching and long-term organization, but Labels are a much better method for quick and sure visual identification, visual organization, and short-term flagging of files in lists.
But what about that tiny colored dot by the file names? Doesn’t that serve the same purpose? It does not. Here the cognitive problem the dots create:
With Tags, these two pieces of information are no longer in the same place, or within the same glance. With eyes focused on one, the other is in peripheral vision. As mentioned before, the dots are very small, and the distance between the name and the color dot varies depending on the width of the Finder column. This causes ones eyes to shift back and forth trying to connect these two bits of information. Trying to use Tags in the same way as Labels, one end up reading file names multiple times just to verify. I find that I no longer grab files with confidence that they are the one I marked earlier without several eye-shifting checks.
Labels eliminate reading, and often even thinking about, file management allowing one to better concentrate on the work they are doing in the first place.
Sure this all happens in milliseconds, but the latter takes longer, and it creates stress and doubt. Consider that one might perform this action thousands of times per day, what was once rather effortless becomes burdensome.
I’m not suggesting that Apple change or eliminate tags. I am just asking for Labels to come back, or for some other way to quickly highlight files. If you feel the same way, let Apple know on their OSX Feedback Page.
UPDATE: March 26, 2014
Problem solved for now. Tran Ky Nam Software’s utility XtraFinder adds several cool features to the OSX Finder. The free app was updated today with the option to show Finder Labels!