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Tag PDFs with iTunes
But while annotations and mark-ups help us find important items inside a file, they don’t really help us find the file itself in our giant shoebox. That requires a different approach—tagging. Tags are nonhierarchical and flexible, and a file can have multiple tags, allowing us to find what we need in more ways than one.
Here’s the good news: You already have the software necessary to start tagging PDF files: iTunes. Surprised? Well, think of PDF files as another media format. As the folks at Lifehacker.com reported, the playlists at the core of iTunes are a really a tagging system. Here’s how you turn iTunes into a PDF manager.
First, create a new iTunes library (start iTunes while holding the Option key, then click Create Library) and get rid of all the music-related things. That includes deleting the default playlists iTunes creates and customizing the library display by removing the columns that are no longer pertinent. Just right-click in the column header and uncheck the label. Go to iTunes > Preferences and uncheck “Copy files to iTunes Music folder when adding to library” under the Advanced tab. That will leave the files where they are now rather than creating another copy of them in the ~/Music/iTunes/iTunes Music folder. While you’re at it, uncheck the display options under the General tab, and check the Disable options under the Parental Control tab. That will eliminate the unnecessary options on the screen.
Hold down Option when you launch iTunes for this dialog, which lets you create a new library for your PDFs. (You could keep your music and PDFs all together, but trust us, that would be a big old mess.)
You don't need to see Movies, TV Shows, or the rest in your iTunes Library sidebar, so uncheck their boxes here.
Now we’re ready to add PDF files to the library. Choose File > Add To Library option select your PDF files. Just like music tracks, they’ll show up in the iTunes library sorted alphabetically by name. It’s best to tag a file right when you add it—procrastination is your enemy. One obvious way to tag a file is using the Genre column. Press Command-I (or right-click a file and select Get Info) and add your own description in the Genre field. We used the Genre field for a meta tag (“Checks” or “Statements,” for example) and put further description in the Comment field, such as the name of the account. There are no limits on how to reassign the fields in the Get Info window—the trick is to find the right balance.
Now we have to choose between Smart Playlists and user-defined playlists. If you add good metadata to each file, the Smart Playlist is the logical choice. If you don’t feel like adding a lot of tags to your files, then create your own playlists and manually add files.
Comments and Genre are two obvious places to start tagging.
The Music list will show all the PDFs in your new library, but you can create manual and smart playlists too.
Our Ebooks smart playlists collects all the PDFs tagged with Ebook as the genre.
Once your PDFs are organized, double-clicking one will launch Preview and you are ready to read your PDF file. iTunes functions surprisingly well as a PDF manager, but it does require some diligence, and tagging files takes more steps than it should.
NEXT PAGE: If using iTunes sounds like too much work, try Yep instead.