Tags in OneDrive

Tags are now supported in OneDrive

OneDrive extracts text from photos

For a long time photos uploaded to the former SkyDrive, what is now OneDrive, retained any tags associated with them, but they did not show and were of no use inside the online storage service. Then for a while the tags were shown but not further supported. This has changed. Tags are now prominently featured and supported in OneDrive. As the ads say, “but wait there is more”. Indeed there is an intelligent genie inside OneDrive now that looks at your photos and assigns tags and extracts text. Lest I get too far ahead of my story, let me back up and explain the new tag features in OneDrive from the beginning.

Tags are words or phrases “attached” to a photo file to tell what the photo is about. Tags help organize and find pictures. More formally, tags are “metadata” that becomes part of a file, this information does not show in the picture. The use of metadata goes back a long time. Tags for photo files have been standardized and used for over a decade. In Flickr the large picture archive has been searchable via tags. Because of the metadata standards, tags assigned in Picasa, for example, will show up in Photo Gallery and be useful in Flickr.

Photo Gallery has supported “descriptive” tags all along. It offers an extensive and powerful way to assign tags, and to find photos by those tags. The words or phrases that constitute tags are up to the user. Sure, it helps to use the same tags that are used by others, but you can assign tags in your own, personal way.

Some tags are unique to applications and do not follow the rules of the metadata standards. That is the case for “people” tags in Photo Gallery. “Descriptive” tags assigned in Photo Gallery, however, do play by the same rules as tags in other applications.

OneDrive shows tags that you have assigned before uploading the image as well as newly created tags by OneDrive when you click the “circle-i” icon in the lower right of a picture.



Some of the tags shown by OneDrive were assigned in Photo Gallery. The newly created tags are, of course, only shown in OneDrive.


Take a closer look at the tags displayed in OneDrive compared to Photo Gallery:


OneDrive shows “Animal” and “Bird” which it had added automatically for me. These were not added by me. I did have “bird”, with a lower-case “b’’, and that is also shown in OneDrive. (There are some tags there that you might wonder about. I have been using some “hash-tags” for special searches.)

When you click a tag in Photo Gallery, all photos with that tag will be brought up. That is also the case in OneDrive. Well, it will be. You might get something like this:


I do have some photos in my OneDrive that were taken in Athens, GA and they are tagged that way, but OneDrive can’t locate them presently. Mind you, OneDrive is still new at this and there are millions and millions of tagged photos out there for many, many users.

Note in the above illustration that there is a Tags link in the menu bar. When you go to your OneDrive you won’t see that until you click Photos in the left navigation pane to take you to your photos area. When you click the Tags link you may see something like this:


Notice the text: “Add photos to OneDrive and they’ll be automatically tagged for you to view here. You can also add your own tags to photos to help you find them.” – I added the emphasis.  Yes, OneDrive will “inspect” the photos, decide what they show and add tags. In my OneDrive it added “People”, Outdoors”, Animal”, “Text”, “Fire”, “Building”, “Watch”, “Car”, Wheel”, “Bus”, “Crowd”, and many others.

Of course, I had to run some tests. Overall it did surprisingly well! Here is one of my test groups:


For my first selfie OneDrive added the tags #People and #Portrait, to use the OneDrive nomenclature. The second selfie, a very graphic black-and-white image it did not tag.

OneDrive-Tags-15The car wheel got #Wheel added, but not car. Elsewhere it correctly found car photos. The close-up of the watch face was tagged #Watch, but the other photo containing the same watch was not labeled. It did not confuse the coaster photos and did not tag them although these could be mistaken as clock faces. OneDrive did make one amusing mistake. A photo of an ornament came up tagged #Watch. It does look like an old-fashioned pocket watch case. Who would have thought that OneDrive knows about those.

The graphic of the little house got #Building and #Outdoors but it was not tagged “house”. The eagle etching did not get tagged.

Now for the most interesting part. There are two photos showing text entry menu displays on a couple of cameras. These where tagged #Text and #Sign. In addition most of the text was correctly extracted as you can see here:


Individual symbols, numerals, and letters it ignored, but other text was correctly identified. It struggled some with the input icon and the OK symbol, but I was impressed. It did less well with the other photo, skipping the word “Input” and parts of the black text. The last photo, my “personalized” camera function dial, did not get the “text” or “sign” tags, but my name was correctly extracted.

OneDrive may not be quite there yet in the little details and some of the searches, but the ability to search by tags and text inside photos makes it potentially very useful in managing photos.


© 2015 Ludwig Keck

About Ludwig

Lending a helping hand where I can. . . My motto: If it is worth doing, it is worth doing well.
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5 Responses to Tags in OneDrive

  1. Geoff Coupe says:

    Hi Ludwig. Good post on exploring some of the features now emerging in the OneDrive service. A few comments:

    – You state: “Some tags are unique to applications and do not follow the rules of the metadata standards. That is the case for “people” tags in Photo Gallery”. OneDrive seems to have removed the People tag recently; I suspect Microsoft are reworking it. Up until the point that it was removed, then People tags added in Photo Gallery *did* show up in OneDrive. If you already have photos up on OneDrive that have People tags in the photo metadata, then they can now be searched for these tags, in addition to being searchable for descriptive tags.

    – You also state: “Some of the tags shown by OneDrive were assigned in Photo Gallery. The newly created tags are, of course, only shown in OneDrive”. According to Microsoft’s Greg Edmiston, tags added in OneDrive will be put into the photo metadata, so they will show up in Photo Gallery if it is watching your OneDrive folders. This feature will be gradually turned on over the next few weeks, apparently.

    – The text extraction feature has been there for some time, since July 2013, I believe.

    – Personally, I dislike the fact that a # is added to all tags; I wish that Microsoft reserved its use to automatically-generated tags only. Now I need to be aware which tags are mine, and which are Microsoft’s.

    • Ludwig says:

      Thank you Geoff for your kind words and the clarifications and additional information. I have not warmed up to people tags in Photo Gallery as they did not show up in Picasa or Flickr. I have not kept up with Microsoft on what they are doing with people tags – my bad. I don’t have my Pictures folder synced to OneDrive. That folder is on a separate, large hard drive because of the large storage needs for first the raw files and then the converted “working’ picture files. OneDrive gets just small JPS. That’s just how I work. As you point out, when synced together is can be a huge advantage. Files are effectively backed up and available on different devices.
      I go along with you on the #-hash prefix. It seems OneDrive generated tags all start with a capital letter. I have in the past year or so been converting my tags to all lower case, so I have a bit of an advantage in being able to tell the generated tags from my own. The downside is that I now have both “Bird” and “bird”, for example.

  2. Linda G. says:

    I just started to use OneDrive. My husband has a subscription to Office 365 and is sharing that subscription with me. As a result I have 1TB storage on OneDrive. Presently, I intend to use OneDrive to backup pictures that I take with my iPhone/iPad. From what I have seen thus far, I prefer OneDrive to iCloud.

    • Ludwig says:

      Thank you Linda. OneDrive with 1TB is a lot of online storage. My photo archive is over 500GB and I am currently shooting with a borrowed D800 – that is 100 MB or so per photo (RAW plus processed JPGs) – I will have to win the lottery soon to afford my future storage requirements 😉

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