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Leopard Review: Spotlight and New Things

By Francine Schwieder


Spotlight has been extensively redone, and while the changes are mostly for the better, there are a couple of really really bad decisions in the GUI. One that seems to drive a number of people crazy involves searching the home Library folder. Apple, in their infinite loopy wisdom, decided to classify the user's own Library as a System File, and, as you may recall, Spotlight by default doesn't return results from system files (with a few exceptions). At least in Leopard the system files ARE actually indexed, and you can get results in a search window, but you have to use the Command-F search window and explicitly tell it to include system files.

1. Bring up a search window using Command-F
2. Add a new criterion with the little + button at the end of the "Kind: is: any" line
3. Click the criterion's wee double arrows to bring up the drop down menu
4. At the very bottom is "Other..." select it
5. From the list scroll down to "System files" and select it, also put a check mark after it so it will appear in the alternate criteria list from now on
6. It will now be there, but crazily enough the default to Not Include is selected, change that to Include


Another confusion is over the different results returned, depending on whether one uses the menu bar Spotlight, or a Command-F search. The Spotlight menu bar search will return results on things, such as the contents of Safari cache and history files, which are not automatically included in a Finder search. Thus the number of items returned for any given search will often be quite different. To get a match between the two you need to add the criterion "Spotlight Items" to the Finder search. Don't remember whether that is in the default list or not, if not go to Others in the criteria drop down, then scroll down to "Spotlight Items" and select it, and put a check mark next to it so it will always be available quickly in the drop down menu. Oh, and when you bring it up the default selected is "don't include" (which is asinine) so you need to select include. Every time.

Also you have only two choices about where the search takes place. If you hit Command-F you can then select the folder you are in--it will be right next to This Mac (and why This Mac is the default rather than the folder you invoke the search in is beyond me). [Snow Leopard: This has been changed, you can now make the current folder the default search location, using the Finder's Preferences, from a drop down in the Advanced section.] You can only have one specific search location, the folder you are in, unlike Tiger where you could do a search on multiple locations. And why they left that out I'll never know.

The other really bad omission is that you can only arrange the results, in List view, by name, kind or date last opened. I consider this insane. You can search by size, but not arrange the results in order by size. You can search by date modified or created, but only arrange them by date last opened. [Snow Leopard: This has been improved, you can now add columns for Date Modified and Created, and sort the results. With a hack, you can add a size column, but the sort by size is VERY buggy.]

If you want to search by name only, not contents:

In the menu bar Spotlight type "name" a colon and then the name of the file, like this:


The results will only include items with the word "geranium" in the actual file/folder name of the item.

In a Finder window, instead of just typing into the search box of the toolbar, or hitting Command-F, bring up an actual search window using the keyboard shortcut of Command-Shift-F. The search window will open with Name Contains and an insertion point already blinking in the contains field. It still has the unfortunate property of defaulting to "This Mac" instead of the folder you invoked the search from, which is just plain wrong, and "Contents" is still high-lighted, but irrelevant.

Spotlight now provides a Dictionary definition for whatever word you type in. If you select the entry in Spotlight, the Dictionary opens, and if you want more information you can click on the Wikipedia button in the toolbar, and the relevant Wikipedia opens right there in the Dictionary window. Which assumes you are always connected to the Internet, of course. I thought it was pretty cool.

Another cool thing: there's a slider at the bottom of a search window which is in icon view that you can drag to make the thumbnails larger--unsurprisingly, you can go all the way to 512x512. And, of course, if even that monster sized thumbnail view isn't big enough to spot the right file, hit the spacebar to bring up Quick Look.

You can now search a Saved Search (Smart Folder) to refine the results, although it appears to be a wee bit buggy. [Snow Leopard: this is fixed and now works as expected--if you are using a saved search typing in the search field no longer brings up the search criteria, it simply uses what you type to prune the results.] I've always wondered why you couldn't do this: now you can. Bring up your Smart Folder, start to type in the "Search for:" field, you'll get to type one letter when sudddenly it seems to leave your original and start a new search, but you'll notice the search toolbar has suddenly appeared, just reselect the name of your saved search. You can then continue typing whatever you want to in the "Search for:" field. For instance, one of the canned searches present by default is Yesterday, clicking it brings up files that were last opened yesterday. Suppose I want only Photoshop files, and only those in psd format. I would type a p, then click the Yesterday entry, then go back and type:

photoshop psd

Presto, I now have a list of the psd files I worked on or looked at yesterday.


Furthermore, if you want to amend the original criteria list, you can do that too! In the Finder's toolbar make sure you have added the Action tool (the little gear thingy if you have your tools in icon form), click on it and select "Show Search Criteria"--and the Search window then displays the original criteria, and you can modify them to anything you want.

You can now navigate to wherever you want in the Save dialog box for Saved Searches, rather than having no choice except whether to have your Smart Folder in the Sidebar or not, while it automatically saved to only ~/Library/Saved Searches. Now you can freely save your Smart Folders anywhere you please.

For more illustrations of how this all works, go HERE.

Discoveries and More New Things

Useful Discoveries:

Column View can now be arranged by name, OR Date Modified, Date Created, Size, Kind, Label. You can also have little custom thumbs in the column list, not just in the preview column. Furthermore, you can choose to also show custom thumbs in list view, whether the file has a custom thumb or not. Take a look at the new View->Show View Options. Finder behavior has been revamped in the way it behaves in regard to window settings, and evidently while they were at it they added these new options. The Column Preview has also been changed, to reflect the addition of the 512 thumbs, you can resize it to really large, in fact at 512 you can actually read some text documents. You can scroll thru a PDF document: just place the mouse over the preview and little back and forward arrows appear which you click on to move thru the PDF preview. Of course, perhaps as Karmic balance, the QuickTime previews of media such as music or movie files operate the same way, to wit, you place the mouse on the preview and you get a little Play button, a la YouTube embedded videos. Yep, that means no more scrubber and no volume control. To get access to those you have to hit the spacebar to bring up Quick Look.

The drive icons now stay where you put them on the Desktop thru a restart. Oh, and speaking of drives, in the Finder's General Prefs, the Apple engineers finally discovered the difference between an external drive and a CD! Drives and removable media are at last separate choices to show on the Desktop and in the Sidebar. It's the little things that count....

Preview will open icns files, just make sure the focus is in the main window and NOT in the drawer display (where it is by default when you open the icns file...why am I not surprised by this wrong headed default anymore?), so click in the main window pane, select copy, and now you can paste into the GetInfo window of any file or folder to give it the icns icon, complete with the transparency (preserving the transparency is the new feature), as a custom thumbnail. Make sure you click to select the wee little icon at the top of the GetInfo window--when it is properly selected a faint blue line halos it. It is just as well, that you can now use Preview this way, since the old icns2icon program seems to no longer work.

preview icon

There is now (finally) an adjustable grid spacing option in Finder windows set to icon view, and also for the Desktop. Just be aware that if you set the grid real small the names of the items on the Desktop will get truncated: instead of "MyRealLongFileName", you'll see "MyRe...me."

Also new is a handy Empty Trash button inside the Trash window, so you can open the Trash to see what's in there, decide if you really do want to get rid of everything, and click Empty right on the spot. The Trash empties and the window closes. I really like this feature.

More New Things:

Apple has developed a new "style" for the Finder to draw and display thumbnails for items that don't have a "built-in" custom thumbnail: to wit, the cute white borders around the the thumbnails. I had a bordered tif file, opened it in Preview and resaved as a psd file. I then used my Automator Workflow to add a custom thumbnail to the psd version, once it ran the icon was normal, no more border, while the original tif still had the border. I then used Terminal to check the file attributes, and sure enough the tiff file showed as having no custom thumb, while the psd file showed it did. I opened a folder full of Photoshop files (I have the option set in Photoshop to always add a custom Mac thumb), and none had a border. I then opened a folder full of Photoshop jpegs, which had the custom thumb stripped for my web site, and they all had the border. Below are three sorts of icons: the first has a transparent background, and I used my Automator Workflow to add an icon which preserves the transparency, next is a file with a Photoshop generated icon, and finally there's a file with no custom thumbnail "built-in" at all, so Finder drew it and gave it a cute border.


Anyway, that's my theory: if the file has a custom thumbnail, that is what is dispalyed. If it doesn't, then Finder uses its new style to draw the thumb and slap a border around it.

The first time you run an application, such as Firefox, that you downloaded off the Internet, you get a warning box that the application you are launching was downloaded, do you really want it to run...Well, you do. But I suppose it is nice to be warned, just in case you forgot.

The old collection of little fav icons in Safari--you know, the folder full of a gazillion little cache files for each place you visited that displayed a custom icon in the address bar, and which got bloated and/or corrupted, causing various problems--is now gone. It has been replaced by a single data base file:


Which evidently can ALSO get bloated or corrupted. Anyway, the other day almost, but not quite all, my fav icons in my bookmarks and RSS feeds list were abruptly replaced by generic ones. Revisiting the places did not get the custom ones back. I tossed the database file, restarted Safari, and now as I visit web sites their fav icon is added.

File and folder sharing made easy (OK, easier): I tried this out just a bit, to share some things with my other admin account, and it seems to work, although perhaps not quite the way I thought it would. You access this in System Preferences-Sharing.


You put a check in front of File Sharing, then you can add a folder you want to share by clicking the the + button underneath the Shared Folders list and navigate to it and select it. You then click on it in the list and you see the users who are allowed access, and what their permissions are. To add another user to the folder, click the + button under the Users list and select the one you want to add from the drop down sheet. You can change the read and write permissions for each entry by clicking the double arrows. The Options are for network sharing, AFP, FTP and SMB. If you are just sharing your iTunes folder with another user on your computer you don't need these options. Once a folder has been shared, when you open it there will be dark banner letting you know the fact:


I got iTunes all shared, and my other account was able to play the music. You might have noticed that I also tried sharing my Movies folder, and that turned out a little less well than I had expected. I couldn't open projects in the other account with iMovie without changing the read/write permissions on the individual files. Ah well. I just remind myself that this sort of thing is what saves us from the horrors of viruses and the other malware ghastliness endemic in the Windows world.

Next: Gotchas, Bugs, Boo-boos and Broken Things

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