How to apply Finder labels from the keyboard

The Finder lets you apply different color labels to your files and folders, using the File -> Label control. But there’s no way to apply those labels from your keyboard, right? Wrong! Hints reader gabester discovered that indeed there is a way, if you’re willing to work for it up front. Here’s how:

First, add the Label button to your Finder’s toolbar. To do so, go to the View menu and choose Customize Toolbar. Drag the Label button into your window’s toolbar, and then click on Done.

Now launch System Preferences, select the Keyboard pane, and then open the Keyboard Shortcuts tab. Choose Application Shortcuts on the bottom of the list on the left, and then click on the plus (+) icon.

In the Application dropdown menu, select Finder. In the Menu Title field, type the name of the color you’d like to add a shortcut for (Red, Orange, Yellow, and so on); type it exactly as it appears when you hover your cursor over the colors in the Finder's File menu. Finally, set the keyboard shortcut you’d like to use. The tip's original author went with Control-Shift-1 through 7, with Control-Shift-~ for no label.

Here’s the downside—or, rather, the downsides: These keyboard shortcuts won’t work in a given Finder window until you open the Label menu in your toolbar at least once. The shortcut won’t work at all on the Desktop, because there’s no Finder toolbar to use when you’re on the Desktop itself. For the same reason, the shortcut won’t work if you hide a Finder window’s toolbar.

But if you’re a serial labeler, these shortcuts will be worth it, even with their shortcomings.

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