APLawrence.com -  Resources for Unix and Linux Systems, Bloggers and the self-employed

Tiger's Spotlight

© December 2005 Tony Lawrence

The Spotlight search tool is often described as the best part of Mac OS X Tiger. It was the "breakthrough feature in OS X version 10.4--the reason to get Tiger" (https://www.pcworld.com/news/article/0,aid,120646,00.asp) and so on.

So how come I never use it?

Oh, it pops up every now and then when I accidentally hit its hot key, but except when I played with it to find out what it was all about and how it worked, I've never had a reason to use it. That must be because I never have to find files, right? Must be nice to have such a great memory, you say.

Nope. My memory is as flaky as anyone else. I often have to find files. But.. Why would you ever want to just find a file? "Oh, I was just curious where I put that foo-bah file.. thanks, Spotlight!". Or "Ayup, I just wanted to check that it's still there. I see it is, thanks" or "I wonder which of my files have the word 'extra' in them?".

Not very likely or very often. Usually when I want to find files it's because I want to DO something with them. I want to delete them, copy them, edit them, or look at them. Spotlight isn't particularly helpful for any of that. It brings up a list of matching files, but you have to take it from there.

That's why I'm more apt to be running "grep" or "find" at the command line. I can do:

 vi `grep -l foo *html`
 find . -empty -delete
 find . -name '*.html' -exec cp {} /tmp \;

and of course much, much more.

The command line version of Spotlight (mdfind) can be piped to other commands, but although in some ways it has much more power than the venerable "find" and "grep" that I do use constantly, in other ways it really has less. For one thing, both Spotlight and mdfind ignore text files with extensions they doesn't understand. I'll talk more about that in another article, but for me, the limitations far exceed the usefulness.

Update: Spotlight improved in Leopard and I now use it frequently.

Got something to add? Send me email.

(OLDER)    <- More Stuff -> (NEWER)    (NEWEST)   

Printer Friendly Version

-> Tiger's Spotlight

Inexpensive and informative Apple related e-books:

Take Control of the Mac Command Line with Terminal, Second Edition

Take Control of Apple Mail, Third Edition

El Capitan: A Take Control Crash Course

Take Control of iCloud

Take Control of Preview

More Articles by © Tony Lawrence

Printer Friendly Version

Have you tried Searching this site?

This is a Unix/Linux resource website. It contains technical articles about Unix, Linux and general computing related subjects, opinion, news, help files, how-to's, tutorials and more.

Contact us

Printer Friendly Version

It's a wonderful, wonderful opera, except that it hurts. (Joseph Campbell)

Linux posts

Troubleshooting posts

This post tagged:

Unix/Linux Consultants

Skills Tests

Unix/Linux Book Reviews

My Unix/Linux Troubleshooting Book

This site runs on Linode

SCO Unix Sales, Support, & Service

Phone:  707-SCO-UNIX (707-726-8649Toll Free: 833-SCO-UNIX (833-726-8649)