Finding Unity in Diversity with Spotlight and .Mac

by Matthew Russell

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I don't know about you, but after having Tiger for many months now, I can say without a doubt that Spotlight is my favorite feature. It changes the way I do my work, and a while back, I wrote an article on how it can really shave some time off of your daily grind. My dependence on it has continued to grow steadily since then, and I've especially come to appreciate the productivity I gain by using it to look up bookmarks. It's indispensable during research, and for that matter, I don't even bother hierarchically organizing bookmarks anymore.

Like many of you, however, I often switch back and forth between several different browsers -- mostly Safari, Firefox, and Camino -- and along the way, I've noticed that Firefox (as of 1.5 beta 2) still isn't making its bookmarks searchable. Of course, can use a workaround, but I find this rather annoying and disappointing, so I just started working on Bug 293323 to get Spotlight integrated into Firefox. Hopefully it'll come to closure soon.

And since we're talking about bookmarks, it looks like .Mac makes a pretty good sidekick to Spotlight. I tote my PowerBook around everywhere I go, so I don't experience many of the .Mac frustrations that I so often hear about, but as I understand it, the iDisk is continuing to be a real crowd pleaser. Safari can automatically sync bookmarks with .Mac, and there's a Firefox plugin that can export them to the iDisk for you, but unfortunately, Camino is still lagging behind a bit. It looks like the best way to work out Camino's shortcoming (for now) is to export your bookmarks as a webpage via the Edit menu and manually save them to the iDisk. Heck, this is an easy one to knock out, so I figured I'd go ahead and crank on it, Bug 228123, as well. I'd like to see Camino continue to fight the good fight. And besides, you gotta do your civic duties, and I'd rather lay down code than pick up cans on the side of the road any old day of the week. But that's just me.

Is Spotlight and/or .Mac changing the way you work? What apps do you use that could make better use of them?


2005-10-30 03:11:23
Spotlight Too Slow For Me
I REALLY want to love Spotlight and, to a degree, I do. It works wonders in Mail and it works well, in terms of functionality, across the rest of the system. My problem with it, and why I don't use it very often for finding files, is that it's too damned slow on my old 1GHz PowerBook. Steve's Power Mac might complete its searches instantly but that doesn't happen for me and I have to wait quite a while (anything up to around a minute) for the results to finish displaying. It's most likely that a relatively slow hard disk and several thousand files in my Home directory is to blame (if anyone knows different, please let me know), but I can generally find my files faster using the Finder if I already have a reasonable idea where they are. Given this I am still relying on hierarchical storage of data rather than Spotlight but I welcome the day when it becomes fast enough. In the meantime (with the exception of finding old e-mails) I'll be relying on the Finder and Quicksilver still.

To be honest, I find Tiger has made my PowerBook slower when compared to Panther and I kinda miss the fast searching facilities of it...

2005-10-30 13:57:42
sluggish Spotlight?
Sounds like some issue(s) with your system. Have you tried basic troubleshooting, like rebuilding the index?

I typically get completed Spotlight results in under five seconds on my 600MHz iBook G3 (640MB RAM). And a search for '.' (minus the quotes) currently returns 18128 results in under 15 seconds.

Fortunately, speed hasn't been a major issue for me with Spotlight. One objection is that it doesn't index every file (e.g. hidden and most system folders are omitted). And the UI inconsistencies in different contexts can be awkward (e.g. the command-option-space Spotlight window vs. Finder searches). Oh, and being too clever with queries for Smart Folders can cause Finder to beachball for a long time and sometimes it and/or mds(?) will eventually crash. Ouch.

Overall I'm satisfied with Spotlight in its V1 incarnation. Using it as a "hierarchical folder flattener/navigator" is a huge time saver. And I frequently use the command-shift-F Services menu shortcut for Spotlight in apps that support it, including several times while composing this text in Safari.

2005-11-06 10:47:25
Let's fix the problem
I'd recommend doing some diagnostics and possibly reindexing just to see if it makes a should! We can guide you through that process here if you're not to savvy on it.