OS X Mavericks and OpenMeta tags

I have been checking Mavericks ability to handle OpenMeta tags which are essential for organizing academic reference files. I really hoped that the tags integrated in OS X would be compatible with my existing tagging system. At the moment I have the following  observations:

1. Clarification by St.ClairSoft (updated October 25, 2013)

St.Clair Software (the makers of DefaultFolderX) provided the following illuminating clarification in this Google Groups discussion thread in July this year:

The difference [between OpenMeta and Mavericks tags] is that the [file] attribute name is _kMDItemUserTags instead of kMDItemOMUserTags . … OpenMeta tag data will need to be migrated … in order to be seen natively by Mavericks. (emphasis mine – AC).

2. HoudaSpot: perfect handling of tags!

HoudahSpot seems to be the first app that made this difference crystal clear and provided a tool for migrating OpenMeta to Mavericks tags for selected files. Well done!

HoudahSpot ability to select OpenMeta and Mavericks Tags, compare and merge them
HoudahSpot ability to select OpenMeta and Mavericks Tags, compare and merge them

3. Tags in Spotlight and Finder (updated October 25, 2013 )

Initially (before October 25) Spotlight default search attributes did not differentiate between OpenMeta and Mavericks tags as shown below:


As of October 25, Mavericks Spotlight added the OMTags to its search. (However, see comment by Tom Andersen who thinks it’s just because I use a specific tagging software)

Updated Spotlight search differentiates between OM and Mavericks OS X tags

4. DefaultFolderX (updated October 28, 2013)

Tags added through DefaultFolderX are OpenMeta tags. To add Mavericks tags one need to type them in at the top part of the Save dialogue.


Save dialogue supported by DefaultFolder X

5. DevonThink

DevondThink 2.6 and higher advertise that it both imports Mavericks tags and exports with such tags. Indeed, I was able to tag a file in OS X and then import it into DevonThink with preserving that tag. The reverse process did not work for me: exporting documents from DevonThink did not export tags (although one could add tags as in any Save dialogue in OS X – but what’s the point then?). Neither did assigning tags in DevonThink result in these tags being available in Finder (although perhaps Finder just does not see them yet – see above).

6. Leap (updated October 31, 2013)

Leap (version 3.x) allows to assign Tags which are both OM and Mavericks. Earlier versions of Leap tagged with OpenMeta – so if you used these for tagging you may want to merge them using HoudahSpot or another tool. Leap search handles both OM and Mavericks tags.

7. MailTags (updated October 28, 2013)

MailTags assign OpenMeta, not Mavericks tags to email messages. Mavericks tags cannot be assigned to email from within Apple Mail. However, HoudahSpot can migrate OpenMeta to Mavericks tags to mail messages as well (see above).


About Aleh Cherp

Aleh Cherp is a professor at Central European University and Lund University. He researchers energy and environment and coordinates MESPOM, a Masters course operated by six Universities.
This entry was posted in Files, Tags and folders and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

23 Responses to OS X Mavericks and OpenMeta tags

  1. isispop says:

    Aleh, you wrote “as of October 25, Mavericks Spotlight replaced its “Tags” attribute with OMTags”. Is this an update of Mavericks? How does one install this change?

    Thank you for your survey of tags in Mavericks.


    • Aleh Cherp says:

      I have noticed that this just happened in the Spotlight search window (see screenshot and compare it to the one taken yesterday). I have automatic updates turned on so it could have happened without my knowledge although the update log does not show it.


  2. Tom Andersen says:

    All Ironic products work with Mavericks tags and automatically keep them in sync, etc. This on our web site, and also on our blogs, etc. So not sure why there is a two line ‘not supported’ comment?

    Apple essentially copied OpenMeta to make their own tagging system. They have a pretty serious bug in it, but it will probably work well enough for most people. Ironic software wrote and maintains the OpenMeta source code and has posted Mavericks updates to the source code base in the past months to deal with these new tags.

    Tom Andersen,
    Author of OpenMeta,
    Ironic Software


  3. Tom Andersen says:

    OpenMeta does not mean ‘non mavericks’. If an app is built using the latest OpenMeta code, then setting tags will make tags that can be read on 10.9 and also on 10.7, 10.8 machines.


  4. Tom Andersen says:

    I think that the tagsOM addition to the Finder’s interface was because you downloaded Tagit (correct link is http://ironicsoftware.com) . Apple took over the word ‘Tags’ in Mavericks, so Tagit now ships with a way to search for 10.7 & 10.8 style OpenMeta tags, called TagsOM.


  5. Tom Andersen says:

    Sorry about all the comments!
    A few more thoughts:

    Keywords vs Tags:
    Keywords are ‘built in tags’ – in other words a PDF can come from its source with tags embedded in the document. The Finder cannot change these tags – they are fixed. So Leap calls them keywords. They are stored under a different key in the Spotlight database from tags, and need a different search to find them.

    Just call them ‘Tags’
    Tags are tags applied by products like Leap, HoudahSpot, 10.9 Finder, etc. I think its not all that useful to differentiate between tag formats used on older OSes, like 10.8. Just refer to them as tags.

    Other tagging formats
    Evernote and DevonThink and Adobe (bridge) use their own internal tagging format (as far as I know), but I think when Apple has stated that they will use tagging in Mavericks that things will get better aligned. OpenMeta started it, but it will take Adobe a while (perhaps never), while timelines for smaller companies will be faster.

    Apple Tags on NAS drives:
    When you set a tag on a file, it resides in the ‘extended attributes’ on that file. For a search from the Finder or HoudahSpot or Leap to work, that NAS drive has to be indexed with spotlight. Most are not. There are ways to enable this. I don’t know what Apple has had to say about copying files to other OSes and ow tags will or will not follow.


  6. Pingback: Hazel, Mavericks tags and reference files workflow | Academic workflows on Mac

  7. Rob says:

    I have no problem with Mavericks tags in DevonThink now.

    And Default Folder X was just updated to do Mavericks tags. The caseapps Tags application still doesn’t, but TagIt does. I’ve been having problems with Punakea even running. And all the Ironic Software stuff runs great with the new Mav Tags, as does HoudahSpot. MailTags is getting there (I’ve been using a beta, and it basically works, although MAIL certainly has issues).

    I just wish that the image world would be on board; since as Tom noted “keyword” and “tag” can be applied generically it’s confusing. Applying a “keyword” in iPhoto isn’t the same as tagging that jpeg with the same word; in Aperture at least you can apply a keyword and write it to the file manually. Lightroom does this even more easily, as does GraphicConverter. I understand the paradigm of leaving originals untouched when it comes to photos, but it sure would be nice if photo applications recognized mavericks tags in the same way they do IPTC or exif metadata.


  8. Pingback: Smooth transition from OpenMeta to Mavericks Tags | Academic workflows on a Mac

  9. Pingback: Live Streaming Κάλυψη Συνεδρείων

  10. Pingback: Tags or folders? Depends on the file. | Academic workflows on a Mac

  11. Pingback: Ulysses can assign OS X tags and manage reference notes | Academic workflows on a Mac

  12. Marcus says:

    Thanks for the thorough analysis. A couple of questions:

    -Are there any downsides to using Mavericks tags over OpenMeta (e.g., cross-platform compatibility)?
    -Could you recommend a tag search application? In particular, I’m looking for an application that can handle combined tag searches (e.g., “Article” tag + “Productivity”).



  13. sabarfun says:

    Reblogged this on Welcome to sabarfun and commented:
    Here’s a really good article on to coalescing of open-meta tagging tools and the OS X Mavericks Spotlight based tagging system.
    The article is a fantastic reference.


  14. pinterest says:

    Make your images, videos, and infographics easy to pin by placing them
    on the page rather than displayed as a background.

    This tool (once called Pin – Clout) is very similar to Facebook Insights.
    It’s not always easy, but if the material is for something truly important, it’s the
    wisest step to take.


  15. Pingback: xattr write delimiter - PhotoLens

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s