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Speedier Spotlight searches and exact matches

October 20, 2005 | Computers

I just read a "hint" about spotlight for speeding up searching via Spotlight in OS X 10.4 Tiger. It seems that no matter how quickly you type that spotlight will try to make matches as you go along.

The hint I read comments that you can copy and paste your search term from another location to only allow spotlight to search for that entire word.

Well, it is in fact much easier than that but wasn’t something that I had really thought about until considering how utterly convoluted it was to type out your word, copy it, and paste into spotlight.

The answer is simple – start of the search with a quote mark. Spotlight will only return exact matches, and will return them even before you close the quote, so you really only need to type "bobblehead to find your famous bobblehead photo. With Spotlight’s reaction time it is actually faster to write out your entire word.

Now that I’ve been forced to think about doing this it just might become my default method of searching with spotlight – I typically know the word I’m shooting for, just not the location of the item or I am pulling up a rarely used application for launching. The exact match method works significantly faster and thus reduces the frustration of waiting for Spotlight to finish displaying "ip-to-country" when going for "iphoto"

11 Responses

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  • That would almost work, if Spotlight indexed plist files. (:

    I also found out that Spotlight does support boolean operators, although limited: Linkie Poo

    James Badger, November 5, 2005 8:49 pm | permalink

  • You can also find some good stuff here and here.

    It is much of the same info but presented in different ways that highlight different abilities.

    Shawn, November 6, 2005 8:55 am | permalink

  • That’s actually a pretty nifty tip.

    Ya know what’s weird? I hardly ever search my hard drive. Seriously. Almost never. Am I the only one who doesn’t search often? Sure, from time to time I’ve got a file and I can’t remember where it went, and I go fishing for those, but normally, never.

    Well, that’s not entirely true. I use it at work on 10.3 a lot. Not that I don’t know where the files are, I genuinely do. It’s just faster to type command-f, the 5 digit job number, and hit return than it is to go digging.

    But anyway. I suppose the next hack is getting the opening quotation mark to appear by default. Placeholder text, as it were. Get hackin!

    John Pennypacker, October 22, 2005 6:44 am | permalink

  • I don’t really use it too much at home for actual searching – I typically use it to call the file name directly and open the file.

    I don’t use search at work because Windows is so slow at it. Pitifully slow. But if I had a Mac with 10.4 at work I’d be all over spotlight for opening files – the ability to use it in open dialog boxes simply rocks my socks. I’d be all over that in a work environment.

    Shawn, October 22, 2005 10:17 am | permalink

  • Nice tip, but too bad I don’t use Spotlight… at all. However, I also found out that this works for Mail search and just regular Finder search. I guess it works for all search fields in Apple Mac OSX.

    I better go direct those bitter Tiger users who complain about Spotlight to this article.

    [off-topic] Froggy emblem on the left seems to be too small for two-line headlines. Any possible fix? [/off-topic]

    Tom, October 22, 2005 4:33 pm | permalink

  • Yeah, Tom, I need to adjust the line height on the headline so that the date can nicely tuck under the image with a two line headline. I think so long as the headline doesn’t poke below the image it’ll look OK.

    Shawn, October 22, 2005 7:00 pm | permalink

  • I don’t organize my files anymore, thanks to spotlight. If i need a document, I can just search for some text in it, and if all else fails, I can search for the teacher’s name.

    Tobias Butler, October 26, 2005 1:03 am | permalink

  • Shawn, Mac OSX 10.4.3 Update seems to have delayed search trigger so that once I stop typing, it starts searching. Apple is vague about the update description in this area but it reads as follows: "Improves responsiveness during Spotlight searches in the Finder."

    So, get it now! 🙂

    Tom, October 31, 2005 6:22 pm | permalink

  • Yeah, 10.4.3 seems less aggressive in its searching – though it would be nice to be able to adjust the delay.

    Shawn, November 1, 2005 9:46 pm | permalink

  • I could see an APE module providing that functionality, if it isn’t already a hidden preference setting somewhere. For example, there was one setting you could change to modify the delay for an open/save panel to slide out, so maybe Spotlight has some too.

    James Badger, November 2, 2005 5:22 pm | permalink

  • You should search for the setting. Get it? "Search" for the setting… haha? … No?

    Joey B., November 4, 2005 10:55 am | permalink

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