Using some of the more obscure file properties in XP.

This issue came up when I decided to try to organize my digital photos. I thought I’d use the “keywords” property to tag each photo, so that a photo of my kids at Disneyland might have “Brad, Nick, Disneyland” as the keywords.

I didn’t get too far with this approach before I ran into problems.

  1. The keywords that I add to a file don’t show up in the Explorer window. When I right click on the file and select “Properties” I can see that the field has been updated, but it just shows blanks in the Explorer window. This only applies to the “Keywords” property. The “Subject”, “Title”, “Author”, and “Comments” properties all behave as you would expect.

  2. Adding keywords, even if it worked, is going to be labor intensive. Using Explorer itself, it takes several clicks to get to the properties and update it, so unless there is some software that gives you more direct access to the properties I don’t think this will be a practical solution.

  3. Finally - even if I can get the “Keywords” updated and showing, it would be nice if I could do searches only on “Keywords”. As it is, the only way to search on a particular keyword is to search for “A word or phrase in the file”, but that looks at the entire contents of each file, not just the properties.


  1. What’s up with “Keywords” not showing?
  2. Is there a better way to enter this?
  3. Is there a better way to search on this?
  4. Should I just blow off this entire approach and do it a different way?

You could try using Yahoo’s Desktop Search. But I’m not entirely sure if this works. YDS allows you to search by filetype, and “other”. I would test it now, but my main computer is dead, waiting a new fan.

To see the keywords in Windows, you must use the ‘Details’ view in Explorer, then explicitly add that field to your view. Microsoft implemented extended information fields in XP but did not really provide a good way to manipulate or use them.

If you don’t dislike Google, I’ve been using Picasa since before they bought it because it lets me organize my pictures easily. It is far from the only program that does so, just one that works for me. A quick google for “image organizing software” returns more links for other packages.

I don’t know Windows any more, so take this with a grain of salt, but there’s probably a way to search by multiple constraints, Booleaned together. So you could probably search for “A word or phrase in the file” = “Brad” AND “file type” = “jpg”, or something of the sort. This will still give a few occasional false positives where the characters “Brad” happen to show up in the binary part of the file, but for decent-length keywords, these should be rare enough to not be a problem.

Right, but I’ve done all of that.

Try it yourself. Open up the Properties on a JPEG file, add something to the Keywords, Subject, and anything else you like, then go look at it in Explorer’s detail mode with all these properties showing. If your machine is like mine you will see that all properties show whatever you put in them except Keywords, and it will be blank.

I don’t have any new suggestions, but I just thought I’d mention that the same thing is happening to me, so you haven’t gone completely insane. Looks like a bug in XP.

Chronos’s suggestion works for me. Select Pictures and Photos, then click Advanced, put the keyword in “a word or phrase in the file”, and search only in the folder(s) containing your photos. It doesn’t actually take that long if you restrict it to your photo folder. I have 68MB in My Pictures, and the search took less than a second.

I believe (but I’m not sure) that even if you search anywhere in the file, XP only actually scans through the content of certain file types it recognises, such as .doc and .txt. I’ve been burned by this in the past while trying to search source code files.

The keywords field is not displayed by default in the details view.

In order to display it, open a folder and do the following:

  1. Open the View menu
  2. Left-click on ‘Choose Details…’
  3. Check the box next to ‘Keywords’
  4. Use the ‘Move up’ and ‘Move down’ to place where you want it to be (The top of the list is the left-hand side of the screen, the last checked option will be displayed at the far right)
  5. Click on OK

Try Microsoft Photo Information. This nifty explorer tool allows you to tag photos using ITPC/EXIF metadata (so the data resides inside the jpg).
It’s ok (not as good as DigiKam on Linux) but should do the job for you.

Just to note, you can apply the same tags to multiple images, as well as individual tags to iindividual photos. And you can get the tags to show up as explorer data, too.

Si (who has tagged about 1000 photos so far, only 6000 to go :smack: )

The OP said (s)he’s done that, AHarris; the problem is that the column is displayed, but the data is not. I too get this behaviour. It does seem that XP’s metadata facilities are rather horrifically neglected. Additionally, given the positively awful nature of XP’s built-in search in the first place and the fiddly nature of applying the keywords one-by-one, I think I’d be looking for another way to organise my photos.

If you don’t want to spend any money, Google make a free photo organisation tool called Picasa which will index all your photos and give you a range of search and filtering options. You can highlight a whole bunch of photos and give them a keyword at once, and it auto-suggests keywords you’ve used before so you avoid typo’d duplicates and pluralisation problems (e.g. having some things tagged “party”, some “parties”). It has a suite of basic modification tools (red-eye reduction, etc.), and it also apparently exports these keywords to Flickr if you upload your images from Picasa. On the other hand, the fancy-dan interface is quite horribly slow on my machine, which while hardly a cray supercomputer is not exactly rubbish, either.

If you’ve got even a moderate number of photos, I think you’re going to be way better off with a dedicated photo organisation program. Alternatives (not free) might be ACDSee (which I’ve used for a bit, and found slightly clunky, although it does have a lot more depth than Picasa, and PicaJet, which I’ve not used but seems to be highly thought of. It does also have a freeware version, apparently.