The content below is excerpted from an article by Microsoft employee Andy Myers which originally appeared at http://windows.microsoft.com/en-us/windows-vista/find-your-photos-faster-how-tags-helped-me-sort-my-snapshots
Windows offers many ways to manage files, so you can find them when you need them. One especially useful feature is tagging. You can use tags to mark your files with custom words and phrases—sort of like invisible sticky notes.
Tagging is a great way to identify your files, especially when dealing with digital pictures or other media content. One example would be creating a slide show. Let's see how tags can make the job easier.
You may have thousands of pictures. Most pictures are stored with the same obscure file names that the camera assigned to them (for example, DSC00587.JPG), making the folders they are stored in resemble a bottomless junk drawer.
Using the old way, finding the pictures you need for your slide show would be a chore. The individuals you are searching for appear in hundreds of photos which are spread out in various folders.
With tags, you don’t have to reorganize or rename anything. To add a tag, you simply open the folder with your pictures, click a photo you want with an individual in it (say your mom) and then click the area next to Tags in the Details pane at the bottom of the folder window. (If the Details pane isn’t visible, click Organize, click Layout, and then click Details Pane.) In this case, type the tag “mom” into the Tags box, and then press ENTER.
For your slide show, let's say you need to find all of the pictures of your mom and dad. You can tag photos with words like “mom” and “dad”, and maybe “family” or “cat” or “holiday”, and then separate each tag with a semicolon in the Tags box. To tag a bunch of pictures at once, you can select multiple files, and then create tags that apply to all of them.
So now you've got a folder of my pictures that looks just as messy as it did before, but, under the hood, most of the files now have a few tags. Even though it looks the same on the surface, it’s actually a lot easier to find what you're looking for. Let’s say you want to see every picture of your son Julian: you open the Pictures folder, and then type “julian” in the Search box. That’s it! Windows automatically searches for the tag “julian” in each file in the Pictures folder, and then displays all of the pictures that have this tag.
To get more specific results, you can select more tags. For example, now you want to see all of the pictures of your son with your mom as well as all of the pictures of your son with your dad. Because you also used the tags "mom" and "dad", all you need to do is click Tags at the top of the folder window, and then select the check boxes next to "mom" and "dad".
Now you can easily find pictures of your mom and dad for that slide show.
But what about your parents’ next anniversary? You'll certainly have taken more pictures by then. And you'd love to be able to see all of the pictures together—even the ones that you're going to take between now and their next anniversary. To make things easier for next time, build a more comprehensive search across all of your folders, and then save the search so you can use it later.
When next year rolls around, you can double-click Searches in the Navigation pane to find your "mom; dad” search. Clicking this saved search displays all of the pictures on your computer that have been tagged with both “mom” and “dad”—even the pictures that you tagged with “mom” and “dad” after you saved the search.
There are a lot of other methods for creating and saving searches. To learn more, see Tips for finding files.