I've been scratching my brain on this one for a while. In macOS, it's easy to add tags to a file (whether right-clicking on a file, using the toolbar shortcut button or using the File menu). In each case, this opens the Tags menu which allows you to choose a tag that you want to add (for example, the default color-based tags). It's equally easy to remove any currently assigned tags.

However, I can't find a way to replace all existing tags with a new one. Let me explain my case scenario:

  1. I add a tag "ToDo" (Blue) to a file.
  2. Once I begin work I have to replace the "ToDo" tag with an "In Progress" tag (Orange).
  3. When I complete the work, I have to replace the "In Progress" tag with "Completed" (Green).

Currently, for steps 2 & 3, I have to open the Tags menu, manually remove any tags assigned to the file/folder, and finally add the new tag.

Is there a way to simplify that process by removing all assigned tags and replacing them with the new tag, all in one go? I assumed that holding down the Option key (or another modifier) may change the "Add Tag" action to a "Replace Tag" action, but no success.

I know I could achieve this with Terminal Scripting or Keyboard Maestro, but I'm trying to see if there's a native way to do this.


  • 1
    Firstly, welcome to Ask Different! :) I hope you come to find this site has a lot to offer! In case you haven't already, it's worth taking the time to read the tour. As for your question, it might be worth clarifying how it is you currently add/change tags (as there's multiple ways of doing this within macOS). Also, can you clarify whether you're comfortable with using the terminal, scripts etc?
    – Monomeeth
    Commented Jul 18, 2019 at 2:00

1 Answer 1


A native solution:

  • Define a custom keyboard shortcut for the Finder.app in Settings > Keyboard > Shortcuts > App Shortcuts. Map the menu item “Tags…” to some keyboard shortcut, I used ⌘ CommandS.
  • Now, selecting any file and hitting ⌘ CommandS brings up a little window where you can enter your tags. Screenshot of the little finder window that shows the tags “Red”, “Blue”, and “Green” for an example.txt file
  • ⌘ CommandA selects all existing tags, you can then write your new tags and confirm with enter.

This means you can replace all tags of a file with “Important” by typing ⌘ CommandS, ⌘ CommandA, “Important”, ⏎ Return, ⏎ Return. The window also does completion of tags, so a (case-insensitive) unique prefix of the desired tag name is enough.

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