Using spotlight comments for class files

Posted on August 20th, 2010 by

There are many posts describing how you can use spotlight comments (or tags in Windows) to organize your files, but I wanted to highlight a few examples of why using comments/tags would be useful to faculty members–tracking course materials that are used in multiple courses and establishing a portfolio of student work.

Tracking course materials

Often you have movies, pictures, or figures that are appropriate for more than one course that you are teaching.  Instead of saving a copy of these files in each course folder, by using comments/tags you can store one file but have it show up in the folders for each of the relevant courses.  For example, let’s say you have a figure from a journal article that you would like to show in both PSY234 and PSY100.  If you highlight the file for that figure and “Get Info” (Command+I), you can type words in the Spotlight Comments section that help identify that file.

After you have added comments/tags to a file, it is easy to search for it by using “comment: [the label you added]” in Spotlight.

Alternatively, you can also use “Find” (Command+F) and search the Spotlight Comments field.  By default Spotlight Comments is not an option, but you can find it under “Other” and can add it as a default by clicking “In Menu” in the window that follows.

After you have selected “Spotlight Comments” you can once again enter your label in the search field, and Finder will show you all the files that have that word in the “Spotlight Comments” field.

If you change the search term to PSY100, notice that the same gergely figure shows up but so do files that are specific to PSY100. In addition, if you click on “Save” in the upper-right hand corner of the window, you can save the search in your folder for this class.

Then, anytime you are looking in the folder for a particular class, you can just click on the saved search and view all the media files that might also be appropriate for that course.

Student Portfolio

Most student assignments are submitted to me by email.  I ask students to use a systematic naming convention for these files (e.g., “[gustavusID]_[class#]_[assignmentName].docx”), but you could also add their gustavus email login as a Spotlight Comment.  Then, you could easily find all the assignments that a particular student submitted.  This would be particularly helpful when it comes to writing recommendation letters. For students you’ve had in multiple classes, if you searched by their login (e.g., “jdoe3″), you could view all the work that they submitted.
If you want to add tags to multiple files at the same time, you can use Automator or third-party software (e.g, Tagit) for this purpose.


  1. yurie says:

    This is awesome, Kyle. Thanks! I love that you can save the search in a course folder. It’s nice having everything for a course in the same place. Will the search update if you add another image with the course tag?

  2. Yes, the search automatically updates itself as you add new content with that course tag.