In my desktop application the users can add tags to files. I would like to provide a way to display certain tags as columns in the grid:

tag interface

I have a few ideas how to let users convert tags to columns, but I don't like either of them:

  • allow the users to drag and drop tags onto the grid header
  • create a pop up menu with a 'Convert to column' item
  • add a little button to every tag that converts them

Is there a more intuitive way to do it?

  • Are there pre-existing tags that need to be converted to columns? Or can you create the column first and then add the information directly to the relevant column? Oct 27, 2013 at 17:48
  • I would like to convert pre-existing tags. It's just a different way to display the tags, it would be great to switch between the two modes. Oct 27, 2013 at 18:26
  • In your example there are clear candidates to become headers: Author:Zzzz and Title:Xxxx. But Astronomy is a bad header. So have you any limits like that in header creation? Oct 27, 2013 at 18:31
  • Only the tags with : could become headers. Oct 27, 2013 at 19:33

1 Answer 1


If there's a limited number of tag categories, then the easiest might be to create a columns menu, where a list of possible categories is given for the user to select from and create a column of. This is the design used by Windows Explorer, iTunes library, etc. Even if the list is extensive, you could determine the most common tag categories, present them in the menu list and expose the remainder through a "More tags..." selection (for example, Windows Explorer presents a list of 10 popular/recent columns to select and clicking "More..." brings up a dialog showing all possible columns - and there are a lot to choose from).

Alternatively (or, probably best, in addition to), you could make the tag category a link within the tag itself:

Possible tag configurations

This gives users a quick way to convert visible tag categories to columns while not adding an awful lot of clutter. You'd have to test to see if people confuse the actions triggered by clicking the category link vs. the rest of the tag. A link title along the lines of "Add column 'Author'" that displays when hovering over the category and "Find similar files tagged 'Author: Florian Cajori'" for the remainder of the tag might help if most users can't make the distinction.

I also added two possible column menu icons that might do well for the menu option I first mentioned - coupling one of them with "Columns..." would clue most users familiar at all with sortable column interfaces into there are more options available to them.

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