Tag files in iCloud on the iPhone to find and organize them

It’s hard managing all the files we need for work projects and personal use. Adding tags to files helps to organize them and find them when we need them. Manage file tags on your iPhone.

A tag is basically a label or keyword that is associated with a file. Think of the labels on clothing stating whether something is cotton, wool or polyester, or what size it is, M, L, XL and so on. A shop could organize clothes by type or size and you can find clothes that fit you by looking at the rack or shelf with your size.

Until photo managers acquired intelligence, we would have to tag photos at the beach with ‘Beach’ and photos of a dog with ‘Dog’. Then we could easily find all beach or dog photos by searching for that tag or keyword.

File tags are used in a similar way and you could add a tag called Work, Marketing, Project X, Personal, or whatever you want to a file. Use whatever word helps you to organize and find the files you want.

Folders are used to organize files of course, but tags are in some ways better because they work no matter which folders files are in. You easily could list all files tagged with ‘Project’ no matter where they are located, which folder they are in or how deeply nested in a folder in a folder in a folder.

Here I am going to look at tags used with files stored in iCloud. An iPhone is used, but iCloud files are used by Apple Macs and iPads too. You could manage tags on a Mac, but it is sometimes convenient to use an iPhone, such as when you are waiting in a queue, at the bus stop, on a train or having a coffee.

Whenever you have a few minutes to spare, you can use that time to organize your files with tags just by getting your iPhone out. Let’s see how they work.

1 Use the Files app to view tags

Viewing iCloud files on an iPhone in the Files app

Open the Files app on the iPhone and it may show the folder you were last viewing. Tap the back button until you get to the Browse screen. Here you can see iCloud and other connected resources like OneDrive and below these is a list of tags. If you do not see a list of tags, expand the list by tapping the > on the right.

The default names for the tags are based on the color, so there is Blue, Red, Purple and other colors. These names are not helpful, so let’s change them. Tap the three dots button in the top right corner to show the menu and then tap the Edit option.

2 Rename tags, edit tags in iCloud Files app

Edit iCloud file tags on the iPhone

Now the tag names can be edited. Just tap one and the keyboard appears so you can delete the color and replace it with more descriptive text. Tags can be removed by tapping the red minus button on the left and the tag order can be changed by pressing and holding the hamburger icon on the right and dragging it up or down the list. Press the Done button when you have finished.

3 Browse documents and see file tags

Browsing files stored in iCloud using the Files app on an iPhone

Open iCloud and browse the files. In the screenshot above, a couple of files already have tags and the colored dot indicates that they have the green tag. The tag name cannot be seen in this screenshot, but if you have a Mac, which has a much larger screen, they can be shown in Finder. Any tags created or applied on the iPhone are synced to the Mac.

Press and hold on a file you want to add a tag to.

4 File actions in the iPhone Files app

Add tags to a file stored on iCloud using the Files app on an iPhone

Long pressing a file in the Files app shows a menu like this. In the middle is Tags. Tap it and let’s add a tag to the file.

5 Add a tag to a file on the iPhone

Add a tag to a file stored in iCloud using an iPhone

To add a tag to the selected file, just tap the one you want to use. Earlier, we renamed the Blue tag and called it Project X. Tags are useful for finding and organizing files and all files that belong to a particular group, like a project, could be given the same tag.

You can also create new tags here. Tap Add New Tag at the top of the list.

6 Create a new tag for a file

Create a new tag for a file on iCloud using an iPhone

Type in the name of the new tag and either select a color for it or select none, the first one in the row. When you are happy with it, tap Done to finish.

7 Apply and remove tags

Add multiple tags to files stored in iCloud using an iPhone

The new tag is applied to the file, so now there are two tags. A file can have one, two, three or even more tags. Often, only one is needed, but sometimes two are useful. Here we have Project X which is also a Work project. It can be useful to tag work and personal files with different tags.

To remove a tag from a file, just tap it in the list to deselect it.

8 Find files using tags in the iPhone Files app

Find files using tags on iCloud using an iPhone

Return to the Browse screen where locations and tags are listed. Suppose you want to see all the files belonging to Project X. Just tap it in the tags list.

9 View tagged files

Find files using tags on iCloud using an iPhone

Here you can see five files have been tagged with Project X. It does not matter which folder they are in and they could be anywhere on iCloud. Tapping a tag lists them.

10 Search for files with tags

Search for files with a tag in iCloud using an iPhone

Tags can also be included in searches. Tap the search box at the top of any screen in the Files app on the iPhone. Select iCloud Drive to search the whole of iCloud Drive. Start typing the name of a tag and it appears as a suggestion below. Tap the tag to saving typing and it is added to the search box.

11 View tagged files in search results

Find files using tags on iCloud using an iPhone

The files with that tag are listed and they will have the colored dot corresponding to the tag. It is easier to tap a tag on the Browse screen than to type it into a search, but the search box is more powerful and can contain multiple search terms. You could search for files with two tags or a tag and a keyword, like all Project X files that start with the letter L, and so on.

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