Punakea: Clean Up Your Finder With Tags

A couple weeks back, I reviewed an app called Yep, a scanning and tagging app for managing documents. I love the idea of tags and am just starting to harness their power in other apps like Things and Evernote, and nudge:nudge’s Punakea attempts to offer tagging support for documents and folders of any kind.

I purchased this app in a bundle a couple months ago, and I’m sure there are many other people out there who have this app sitting in their applications folder unused like I did, so perhaps it’s time to take a look at what it can do!

Using Punakea

Tagging Files

Using Punakea begins with tagging files, and Punakea offers a couple different ways to accomplish this. Either select the file and hit a custom keyboard shortcut (default is Command + 3), drag a file to the Punakea dock icon or menu bar icon, or drag a file to the tagger that hides at the side of your screen. I found the side-of-screen tagger too obtrusive, so I mostly used the keyboard shortcut.

Tagging slide-out tray

Tagging slide-out tray

The tagging window is like any other tagging interface – you can add tags that will be auto-completed if used before, and it lets you change the name of the file. By default, Punakea moves the file to a managed folder, but you can change the folder files are moved to or turn of this functionality in preferences.

By default, all filed documents will go into the Documents/Punakea/Files folder and will be rather disorganized. To access your files from the Finder more easily, Punakea also generates folders based on your tag structure that give you access to aliases of your files.

I didn’t trust myself to keep using Punakea religiously, so I opted not to have my documents moved. It would be nice to be able to specify where you wanted a document moved upon tagging.

Tagging dialog

Tagging dialog

Browsing Tags

The Punakea Browser displays a tag cloud with tag size correlating to tag popularity (in either clicks or number of tags). Clicking on a tag displays a list of all files with that tag in the browser window below. This browser acts like the Finder: you can use quick look, and drag files from Punakea to the Finder or other applications (e.g. as email attachments).

One glaring oversight is that you can’t change the browser from list to icon view. Since I’m often working with graphic files, I like to be able to see the icon previews, and I really missed this.

The Punakea browser

The Punakea browser

Clicking on a tag limits the tag cloud to display only related tags, which are tags shared by some of the files. You can filter files by file type or by related tags. I must admit I was a bit confused by this at first, I couldn’t figure out how to get back to the big tag cloud.

To get back to the main tag cloud, either hit the “return” icon, or click the “x” at the corner of each tag to un-filter your results.

Filtering tags

Filtering tags

The sidebar of the Punakea browser allows you to filter by file type. One of my favourite feature of Punakea is that I can tag folders too. When folders are double-clicked, they open in the finder.

You can change tag name through the “manage tag” panel, which also displays information about the tag’s popularity and use.

Managing Tags

Managing Tags

Spotlight Integration

Since Punakea uses the OpenMeta platform for tagging, Spotlight uses the tag information when performing its searches. Punakea doesn’t alter Spotlight in any way or integrate directly with it, it just adds information to your files in a format Spotlight recognises.

As such, this won’t always put your tagged results at the top. For a generic sounding tag like “ebook”, spotlight will come up with files with “ebook” in the name before files with the “ebook” tag.

Punakea in the Wild

I made an effort to use Punakea for about a week, and used it to clean up my mess of a downloads folder. At first I tried using the drag-to-side tagging option, but it quickly drove me crazy and appeared when I didn’t want it to.

Since then I’ve been using the keyboard shortcut and found it much more useful. Coming up with useful tags wasn’t as hard as I thought, and I appreciate the option to rename them.

The tagging dialog wasn’t quite as usable as it could be – I would prefer if it didn’t bring up the Punakea browser as well so I could more easily integrate it into my workflow.

One of the issues I have with tagging apps is that they’re only really useful for new files, it would be pretty impractical to go through all your folders and tag all the files you already have.

It would be a great improvement if you could add “smart tags” so that all files in a certain folder get a certain tag.

When I’m working on a design project, Punakea is really useful for managing graphic resources, which usually end up buried away in my poorly organized, overfilled “resources” folder, and I end up downloading the same resources repeatedly. I’m thinking of organizing all my icons this way, but the lack of an icon view makes it tricky.

Again, I wish I could be more specific about where my files are going. I don’t really like the idea of all my files just sitting around in one massive folder, though I don’t really have a good reason to be opposed to it. I could just leave my files where they are and find them with tags, but I like to keep my downloads folder relatively empty.


I love the idea of Punakea, and I really wanted to like it. As it is, I’m still using it because I did pay for it, but only time will tell if it becomes a long-term Finder replacement/companion. The lack of visual browsing via icon view might be a deal-breaker for me, because I deal with so many graphic files. However, if you’re going to be using Punakea for lots of pdfs, documents and folders that all look the same, it shouldn’t make a difference to you.

Ultimately, I find Punakea to be inelegant, but I’m a bit of a snob. It does what it says it does as well as it claims to, but nothing more, and not terribly gracefully.

Little things like the lack of an obvious way to return to the main tag cloud, or the Punakea browser showing up with the tagging window, and the lack of icon view add up to an imperfect user experience. That said, it really is a powerful tool for organization, and the possibilities are pretty extensive.

The development team seems to release small updates fairly frequently, which always gives me hope for improvement. As it is, I think I’ll keep using it despite its imperfections because it does what I need it to do: it keeps me organized. Anyone else have this sitting in their app folder from an old software bundle? Have you given it a try?


Punakea allows you to add tags to your files for better organization without being confined to the hierarchy of the Finder



Add Yours
  • You should check out Tags by CaseApps as well http://www.caseapps.com/tags/

    Theres a great screen cast on that page. Really similar functionality of this app you’ve shown us, but there is a QuickLook/Preview window built into the browser view. Again, has Spotlight integration – Universal HotKey – and can be used in any application that supports apple script so that means not only tagging files and folders, but sogs in itunes, photos in iphone, CS5 documents, email messages, web sites, etc.

    you should check it out!! Helluvanapp.

  • I use Punakea and agree with everything you’ve mentioned here. One thing I’d like to see in a near update would be the ability to search text within the files.


  • Thanks for this great review! Just one thing, there is a thumbnail view – if your tagged files contain an image, you can select the “Images” view (just below the row of selected tags). This will give you thumbnails, just like in the screenshot right next to the title of your review.


  • Meh, Alfred uses spotlight comments too… I’m just gonna wait for them to bring support for multiple tags in the spotlight comments: http://getsatisfaction.com/alfredapp/topics/enhanced_filtering_findings

  • I have used Punakea (bought it in July of 2009) on and off over the past 2 years. I like the idea of it (at the author of the article does too); that said, I too have issues with it:

    1. the tags often don’t stick
    2. the application has often crashed on me in the middle of tagging a number of files (20 – 30 on average at a time)

    I have tried other applications (like Leap) and find them comparable in features; I though have found that all such application add complexity where it need not apply. We have become so accustom to having mountains of data available on our systems that we don’t think “do I need this really?” before getting an application like this. Don’t get me wrong, I like Punakea; I don’t find it though integrates into my workflow as well as I would have originally thought and as well as Nudge:Nudge’s advertising of the application suggested.

  • th