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A command line tool to manipulate tags on Mac OS X files, and to query for files with those tags.

Project README


tag is a command line tool to manipulate tags on Mac OS X files (10.9 Mavericks and above), and to query for files with those tags. tag can use the file system's built-in metadata search functionality to rapidly find all files that have been tagged with a given set of tags.



tag - A tool for manipulating and querying file tags.
	tag -a | --add <tags> <path>...     Add tags to file
	tag -r | --remove <tags> <path>...  Remove tags from file
	tag -s | --set <tags> <path>...     Set tags on file
	tag -m | --match <tags> <path>...   Display files with matching tags
	tag -f | --find <tags> <path>...    Find all files with tags, limited to paths if present
	tag -l | --list <path>...           List the tags on file
	tag -u | --usage <tags> <path>...   Display tags used, with usage counts
  <tags> is a comma-separated list of tag names; use * to match/find any tag.
  additional options:
		-v | --version      Display version
		-h | --help         Display this help
		-A | --all          Display invisible files while enumerating
		-e | --enter        Enter/enumerate directories provided
		-R | --recursive    Recursively process directories
		-n | --name         Turn on filename display in output (default)
		-N | --no-name      Turn off filename display in output (list, find, match)
		-t | --tags         Turn on tags display in output (find, match)
		-T | --no-tags      Turn off tags display in output (list)
		-g | --garrulous    Display tags each on own line (list, find, match)
		-G | --no-garrulous Display tags comma-separated after filename (default)
		-c | --color        Display tags in color
		-p | --slash        Terminate each directory name with a slash
		-0 | --nul          Terminate lines with NUL (\0) for use with xargs -0
		     --home         Find tagged files in user home directory
		     --local        Find tagged files in home + local filesystems
		     --network      Find tagged files in home + local + network filesystems

Add tags to a file

The add operation adds one or more tags to the specified files without modifying any tags already there.

tag --add tagname file
tag --add tagname1,tagname2,... file1 file2...

Remove tags from a file

The remove operation removes one or more tags from the specified files.

tag --remove tagname file
tag --remove tagname1,tagname2,... file1 file2...

To remove all tags from a file, use the wildcard * to match all tags:

tag --remove \* file

Set tags on a file

The set operation replaces all tags on the specified files with one or more new tags.

tag --set tagname file
tag --set tagname1,tagname2,... file1 file2...

Show files matching tags

The match operation prints the file names that match the specified tags. Matched files must have at least all of the tags specified. Note that match matches only against the files that are provided as parameters (and those that it encounters if you use the --enter or --recursive options). To search for tagged files across your filesystem, see the find operation.

tag --match tagname file
tag --match tagname1,tagname2,... file1 file2...

You can use a wildcard (*) character in the tags list to match against any/all tags. Note, however, that you'll need to quote that * against shell expansion. To display all files in the current directory that have any combination of tags (but not no tags), use:

tag --match '*' *

Conversely, to match against paths that have no tags, use an empty tag expression:

tag --match '' *

Turn on --tags display mode for this operation to additionally show the tags on the file:

tag --match '*' --tags *

Turn on garrulous output to format those tags onto multiple lines:

tag --match '*' --tags --garrulous *

You may use short options as well. The following is equivalent to the previous command:

tag -tgm '*' *

You may use the --enter or --recursive options to match the contents of, or recursively process, any directories provided. This is similar to the --find operation, but operates recursively from the directories you specify. There may be significant differences in performance and/or output ordering in particular cases, so neither find nor match will be the better solution for all cases.

tag --match '*' --recursive .

If no file arguments are given, match will enumerate and match against the contents of the current directory:

tag --match tagname

List the tags on a file

This list operation lists the given files, displaying the tags on each:

tag --list file
tag --list file1 file2...

list is the default operation, so you may omit the list option:

tag file1 file2...

As with match, if no file arguments are given, list will display the contents of the current directory and any tags on those files:


You can turn on garrulous mode for list as well:

tag -g *

If you just want to see tags, but not filenames, turn off display of files:

tag --no-name *

You may use the --enter or --recursive options to list the contents of, or recursively process, any directories provided:

tag --list --enter .
tag --list --recursive .
tag -R .

Find all files on the filesystem with specified tags

The find operation searches across your filesystem for all files that contain the specified tags. This uses the same filesystem metadata database that Spotlight uses, so it is fast.

tag --find tagname
tag --find tagname1,tagname2...

You can use the wildcard here too to find all files that contain a tag of any name:

tag --find '*'

Or use an empty tag expression to find all files that have no tag:

tag --find ''

And of course you could turn on display of tag names, and even ask it to be garrulous, which displays all files on your system with tags, listing the tags independently on lines below the file names.

tag -tgf '*'

find by default will search everywhere that it can. You may supply options to specify a search scope of the user home directory, local disks, or attached network file systems.

tag --find tagname --home
tag --find tagname --local
tag --find tagname --network

You may also supply one or more paths in which to search.

tag --find tagname /path/to/here
tag --find tagname --home /path/to/here ./there

Display tag usage

The usage operation follows the syntax and operation of find, but instead of displaying the files found, it lists the tags found, prefixed with the usage count of each. In contrast to find, the tag operand to usage is optional: it defaults to '*'.

In the simplest usage, usage finds all tagged files on the system, listing the count of each tag encountered:

tag --usage
tag --usage '*'

If you limit the search to specific tags, then the files with those tags will be found, and usage information for all of the tags on those files will be displayed:

tag --usage tagname
tag --usage tagname1,tagname2

Note that when asking for usage of specific tags, you may see usage displayed for additional tags: those are other tags that occur on the files discovered by your search.

As with the find operation, you may control the paths searched by usage:

tag --usage '*' /path/to/here
tag --usage '*' --home /path/to/here

Colored Output

If your terminal supports ANSI color sequences, you may pass the -c/--color option. With this option in effect, any tags with known colors will be displayed in approximately the right color. Note that support for this option is dependent upon parsing private Finder data, and so may not always be supported correctly.

Get help

The --help option will show you the command synopsis:

tag --help

Prebuilt Packages

You may install tag using the following package managers:


sudo port install tag


brew install tag

Building and Installing

You must have Xcode or the Command Line Tools installed to build/install.

To build without installing:


This will build tag into ./bin/tag

To build and install onto your system:

make && sudo make install

This will install tag at /usr/local/bin/tag and the man page at /usr/local/share/man/man1/tag.1

Advanced Usage

  • Wherever a "tagname" is expected, a list of tags may be provided. They must be comma-separated.
  • Tag names may include spaces, but the entire tag list must be provided as one parameter: "tag1,a multiword tag name,tag3".
  • Because the comma is used to separate tag names, it may not be used in tags (we don't support escaping that comma yet).
  • For match, find, usage, and remove, a tag name of '*' is the wildcard and will match any tag. An empty tag expression '' will match only files with no tags.
  • Wherever a "file" is expected, a list of files may be used instead. These are provided as separate parameters.
  • Note that directories can be tagged as well, so directories may be specified instead of files.
  • The --all, --enter, and --recursive options apply to --add, --remove, --set, --match, and --list, and control whether hidden files are processed and whether directories are entered and/or processed recursively. If a directory is supplied, but neither of --enter or --recursive, then the operation will apply to the directory itself, rather than to its contents.
  • The operation selector --add, --remove, --set, --match, --list, --find, or --usage may be abbreviated as -a, -r, -s, -m, -l, -f, or -u respectively. All of the options have a short version, in fact. See see the synopsis above, or output from help.
  • If no operation selector is given, the operation will default to list.
  • A list operation will default to the current directory if no directory is given.
  • For compatibility with Finder, tags are compared in a case-insensitive manner.
  • If you plan to pipe the output of tag through xargs, you might want to use the -0 option of each.
  • For compatibility with versions 0.8.1 and earlier, -d/--descend is an alias for -R/--recursive.


The following features are contemplated for future enhancement:

  • Regex or glob matching of tags
  • More complicated boolean matching criteria
Open Source Agenda is not affiliated with "Tag" Project. README Source: jdberry/tag
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