How far will Spotlight go?

Discussion in 'macOS' started by bankshot, Apr 11, 2005.

  1. bankshot macrumors 65816


    Jan 23, 2003
    Southern California
    This is partly for speculation, partly to throw my own ideas out there, and partly to see if anyone who knows something might chime in with details. ;)

    I think a lot of people here agree that Spotlight will bring a huge improvement to how we search for information on our own computers. Finding something in 1 second instead of thrashing the hard drive for 30 seconds will be great. Smart Folders will do to Finder what Smart Playlists did for iTunes -- the possibilities are enormous. But just how far will it go?

    I've been thinking about how this will affect me, and I've realized a few things about my current searching habits. First, I usually know where I put files I work with on a daily basis, so searches are relatively uncommon. Maybe a couple times a month. Second, I try to make regular backups to CD and DVD, removing data from the hard disk that I'm no longer working with. So when I do search for something, there's a decent chance it's been removed and only exists on a backup disc.

    So this leads to my first question: will Spotlight be able to index offline media like CDs and DVDs? If not, is it extensible enough that someone could easily write a plugin to do so?

    My most difficult searches are those when I know what content I'm looking for, but no longer have any idea what I might have called the filename. I keep an online catalog of all my backup discs, but this just stores disc name, file name, date, and a few other bits of information. If I can't remember the filename, I'm not gonna find out which disc it's on. Spotlight could solve this problem entirely if you could insert a disc and select a function to index that disc.

    Second question: is Spotlight smart enough to look inside archive files, like zip, tar, dmg, iso, or Stuffit archives? Meaning if I have gettysburg.txt inside will it actually look inside the zip file, extract the text file, and index its contents? My homegrown backup disc cataloging system does this (without the contents indexing, of course), a feature of which I'm quite proud. It'll go as recursive as you want, opening up any kind of archive inside any other kind of archive, and so on. Spotlight needs to do this, but does it now?

    Final question: Smart Folders are great, but how are they implemented? Specifically, are they a feature of, using Spotlight to generate their contents on the fly, or are they embedded deeper in the system at the filesystem level? If the latter, then that's HUGE. Any application will be able to take advantage of Smart Folders, including command line apps. Imagine you make a Smart Folder for all images above 1024x768 in resolution. Then you could point the Desktop Preference Pane to randomize the desktop image from that Smart Folder. Any app could go to Smart Folders for opening new files. The sky's the limit.

    If it's just a feature of Finder (and maybe other apps that were rewritten to be aware), then that's cool but not nearly as extensible.

    How far does Spotlight go? I really think all 3 of these features should be in it, but I'm kinda doubtful, at least for the initial release. Kinda makes me wish I had been a paid ADC member so I could submit feedback on this stuff early on and make sure Apple was aware. Anyone have any details (non-NDA, of course ;))?
  2. john1123 macrumors regular


    Jan 26, 2005
    Down Under
    i think spotlight is meant to shorten the way to your files (as well as traditional file searching of course). Instead of having to navigate your way through different folders to get to the file, you just type in what the topic of, say a text document is and spotlight will instantly find it for you.

    i really like the offline media cataloging idea too :D that would be a nice bonus!
  3. NaMo4184 macrumors member

    Mar 1, 2005
    Burnable folders?

    Tiger is supposed to have these things called burnable folders. They are special folders that contain alias to files that you want to burn. I am sure you can archive these folders so when you search they will come up. so you know exactly where everything is. hope that helps some.

    I think that for certain apps spotlight will be a revolution for them. The one i am thinking about is quick silver. This is a very search heavy and smart app so I think it will use smarter searching and cataloging with spotlight.
  4. aswitcher macrumors 603


    Oct 8, 2003
    Canberra OZ
    I print heaps of website pages and docs out as PDFs. If Spotlight indexes all them - character recognition - I'll be pretty happy with that alone.
  5. iGary Guest


    May 26, 2004
    Randy's House
  6. vocaro macrumors regular

    Mar 5, 2004
    You shouldn't need character recognition for this. The text data of the website should be embedded into the PDF, and Spotlight would index that.
  7. vouder17 macrumors 6502a


    Apr 30, 2003
    This would make spotlight awesome!! If it can do this, it would be great. It is like if you loose something you can actually find it OUTSIDE your computer. If spotlight doesnt have put it in. This would save me sooo much time, i have lost count how many times i have spent hours searching for the right cd where i recently burnt some stuff on. if i could just use spotlight to do that it would be great. I am lazy so i never write on my CD's what is on them....

    good idea Bankshot..go work for apple :D
  8. wrldwzrd89 macrumors G5


    Jun 6, 2003
    Solon, OH
    I haven't the foggiest idea if Spotlight could recurse (scanning archives within archives). What I do know is that Spotlight is based on plug-ins for all the file types it indexes and searches. Apple will almost certainly provide a DMG plugin with all installations of Tiger, since that's a native, proprietary Apple format. Apple will probably provide plug-ins for ZIP, TAR, and ISO with Tiger as well, since the Apple utilities and/or UNIX base support these formats natively. StuffIt (and related format) support will depend on whether Allume Systems (the makers of StuffIt) write a Spotlight plugin for their formats.
  9. mkrishnan Moderator emeritus


    Jan 9, 2004
    Grand Rapids, MI, USA
    Yeah, that's why Google can search PDFs too. :) But I did notice that for some reason, Acrobat on PCs seems to print PPT files in a non-searchable PDF format -- the text is not rendered as text, and so you can't select it, highlight it, or search it in Preview, etc. At least that's what seems to happen to my advisor's slides for his class. I should check if it's the same way on Office 2004.

Share This Page