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OS X Upgrades

Spotlight Improvements In Leopard 356

Posted by kdawson
from the following-spot dept.
Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard is set to feature several new enhancements to Spotlight, Apple's desktop search, and ComputerWorld outlines them. The improvements include searching across multiple networked Macs, parental search snooping, server Spotlight indexing, boolean search, better application launching (sorely needed), and quick-look previews.
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Spotlight Improvements In Leopard

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  • by Whiney Mac Fanboy (963289) * <whineymacfanboy@gmail.com> on Sunday February 11, 2007 @08:25PM (#17976894) Homepage Journal
    From tfa One of the biggest advances in Spotlight is that it will be able to search remote computers.

    Beagle [beagle-project.org] has done this for a while.

    Also from tfa As powerful as Spotlight is, it actually offers a somewhat limited set of search options. (then detailing the new, 1996 search engine style AND/OR/NOT operators).

    Beagle's also ahead [beagle-project.org] here:

    Beagle supports a search syntax similar to the major search engines you are probably familiar with. If you see too many results for a query, consider refining your search.

      Required words: By default, Beagle will return results containing all of the words you specify, with the exception of common "stop words" such as "a", "the", and "is".

      Phrases: To search for specific phrases (one word next to another), place the words in quotation marks. For example:

                        "White Album"

      Partial words: Beagle supports partial word searches using asterisks as wildcards. For example, to find words like "black", "blackbird", and "blacksmith":

                        black*

      Excluding words: To exclude a word or phrase from your search, prefix it with minus sign ("-"). For example, to find items with "Beatles" but not the word "George":

                        Beatles -George

      Optional words: To indicate that the word A or word B be in results, use OR, i.e. to find items which contain either "George" or "Ringo" (or both). The OR is case-sensitive.

                        George OR Ringo

      Property queries: By default, Beagle looks for your search terms in the text of the documents and their metadata. If you want to search for a specific property, use the format property:keyword. You can find a list of supported properties by running beagle-query --keywords. Property queries follow all the rules mentioned above; so you can search for properties by phrase, using wildcards, exclude terms, or provide optional terms. For example, the following query will return all of your Beatles MP3s or Ogg/Vorbis files that aren't on the Abbey Road album:

                        artist:Beatles ext:mp3 OR ext:ogg -album:"Abbey Road"

      Searching file extensions: You can use either *.mp3 or ext:mp3 to search for documents by file extension. (In this example, MP3s.)

    I guess sometime's Spotlight's ahead on features & at other times Beagle's ahead.
    • by anagama (611277)
      I have several macs and linux machines (the macs are laptops, the linux boxes desktops or servers). Everyone says all the time that linux isn't desktop ready, and yet, all these cool things I can already do keep creeping into OSX. I like OSX because I can legally have certain features which I can't on linux (basically mass market media), but I'm always wishing they would add things, like OS integrated multiple desktops (coming soon) and middle click paste. I suppose I'll have to wait to OS X Siamese Cat
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by yo_tuco (795102)
        ...wishing they would add things, like OS integrated multiple desktops..."

        If you have a PPC version of OSX, multiple desktops [macupdate.com] has been around quite awhile. But it's an add on and it has cool switching effects to select from.
      • by LKM (227954) on Monday February 12, 2007 @08:39AM (#17981416) Homepage

        The thing to keep in mind here is that for most users of Mac OS X (and Apple customers in general), "more features" does not equal "better" - see also: iPhone, iPod.

        If you're one of those people who like tons of features, being able to replace system-level functions, tons of settings (possibly in arcane text files), the Mac may not be the best OS for you.

        Apple's claim to fame is not "we have the most features," it's "we have the features you need, and we make them usable."

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Khuffie (818093)
          Don't you mean: "we have the features (we say) you need, and we make them shiny." ?

          Fixed it for ya! (Now I can't wait for people to miss the joke and flame me to hell :D)

    • by Winckle (870180)
      Beagle is fucking difficult to set up.

      No really it is.

      I've been using Linux for some time now, and I tried to get beagle working. Don't get me wrong, I did, but damn it was tough. If you tell a new linux user, "Oh sorry, your new mono libraries are incompatible at the moment, you'll just have to wait for beagle to catch up" They wouldn't put up with it. Also, telling them to activate extended attributes, they aren't going to know how.

      You can't fault apple. Nice friendly magnifying glass, no set up. I hope t
      • Dont know what distro you were using, but in Ubuntu 6.10 (Edgy), it was as easy as installing anything else.

        sudo apt-get install beagle python-beagle

        Just put the Deskbar app in the panel and enable the beagle plugin in the Deskbar (for Spotlight-style search-from-panel goodness), and everything works.
        • by Winckle (870180)
          As i said, i'm using kubuntu, but I last tried installing it on 6.04. The interface was horrible because it had zero integration with KDE. Don't take that deskbar app for granted.
          • My bad. /me finds his dyslexia pills.
            Back on topic, in 6.10, Beagle has a KDE frontend by the name of Kerry, which is more or less a KDEized version of the GNOME beagle app. (the deskbar app is a GNOME thing). It also has a KIO slave, but no OSX-ish deskbar.
      • Beagle is fucking difficult to set up.

        Incorrect. Beagle was difficult to setup in it's early development phase.

        I hope that in the future my kubuntu release will just have beagle installed by default and working nicely.

        In future? How about the past? The last kubuntu release had beagle installed by default and it does work nicely.

        Just how old is your kubuntu install anyway?
    • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 11, 2007 @08:47PM (#17977040)
      Sorry, but with the exception of network search, Spotlight's search query engine has been able to do *all* of those things from the beginning, the difference is that this is now supported in the blue menu at the top of the menu bar (not jsut from the command line or code). You can perform incredibly complicated queries in Spotlight that you simply cannot do in Beagle.

      Why? Because Beagle uses the Lucene search engine. Speaking as someone who uses Lucene every day, has written numerous analysers, query parsers and filters, it doesn't come close to Spotlight's engine. Examples? Queries can't start with a wild card, queries cannot comprise of a NOT clause by itself, results are stored in an immutable data structure that does not support merging, queries containing wild cards and ranges of values get translated into an enormous query with an OR clause for *every term in the index*. Thats fucking disgraceful. Lucene is also *much* slower then Spotlight, and contains numerous memory leaks relating to index readers and writers.

      Lucene is exceptionally easy to use and develop for, and Beagle ain't half bad, but Spotlight is superior in every way (except being closed source, yawn).
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        Examples? Queries can't start with a wild card,

        Incorrect [apache.org]:

        Leading wildcards (e.g. *ook) are not supported by the QueryParser by default. They can be enabled by calling QueryParser.setAllowLeadingWildcard( true ). Note that this can be an expensive operation: it requires scanning the entire list of tokens in the index to look for tokens that match the pattern. Currently this code is in the Lucene development trunk but is not yet in any release.

        queries cannot comprise of a NOT clause by itself,

        Are you sure?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Blakey Rat (99501)
      Yes, yes, that's great... but I don't think Apple is CLAIMING that it's doing anything new. It's just adding features to program it already makes.

      Frankly, I don't get the point of your post. Does Beagle even run in OS X?
      • Frankly, I don't get the point of your post.

        A comparison of the proprietary software being discussed with it's open counterpart.

        Does Beagle even run in OS X?

        Who cares?
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Mr_Matt (225037)
        Does Beagle even run in OS X?

        No, thank Christ. Round our office, first thing we do with new Linux boxen is uninstall Beagle, 'cause if you don't the goddamn program will easily spend the first day or two of the box's life eating half of your CPU indexing where your 82 brazillion files are, even when a user has a priority process running. The *last* thing I wanna do is have to renice a bunch of processes because some idiotic GUI finder program wants to index files.

        Beagle sucks. So does Spotlight, but at l
    • The original article is slightly misleading: Spotlight in Tiger actually already supports AND/OR/NOT:
      http://www.macosxhints.com/article.php?story=20050 503165951266 [macosxhints.com]

      Spotlight can actually already do all the things you mentioned. Unfortunately the syntax is totally whacked. For instance. spaces matter when they shouldn't; e.g. "hello|world" is not the same as "hello | world". (The latter doesn't mean what you think it means.)
      • by larkost (79011)
        The underlying Spotlight system is very capable of boolean serarches in 10.4, it is just the GUI that does not really support things like this. I think it was a conscious decision not to include this because they could not put a normal-user-friendly GUI on it (in time). It sounds like they might have taken a whack at doing just that, but we will have to see whenever 10.5 comes out.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by GaryPatterson (852699)
      Beagle sounds very nice. Nothing whatsoever to do with Spotlight, and doesn't run on OS X, but still nice.

      So... you're hoping to be modded 'offtopic' I guess.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by mkiwi (585287)
      One thing to note about Spotlight is that you can hook it's network capability into Bonjour (zeroconf) and we can find all sorts of fun applications for that. As for all the AC Microsoft apologists, Windows Search is nowhere nearBeagle or Spotlight. The windows search is more like what was available in Mac OS X 10.0-10.3. The ability to open up a window and do a search of your documents by looking at each and every single file on your hard drive. The thing about Spotlight is that it caches metadata about
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward
        Er, indexed search is exactly what Windows Desktop Search and search in Windows Vista do.
  • I'm still somewhat of a Mac n00b, so perhaps I don't get it right now (using Tiger), but when I type in something in the search field at the top of a Finder window when I'm in a particular folder, why doesn't it just search in that folder instead of using Spotlight to search the entire computer?

    Or am I missing something?
    • >Or am I missing something?

      yes, the bar that pops up under the search box and lets you select the search source.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by grrrl (110084)
        Yeah and it's *so snappy* when you select "Search just this folder" - ie it still freaking searches the whole computer but just displays results from that folder! (or at least it takes long enough that it might as well have!)
    • by Blakey Rat (99501) on Sunday February 11, 2007 @08:56PM (#17977122)
      Yes, this:

      Finder sucks ass.

      That's pretty much all there is to it to answer your question. Most things on OS X are great, but Finder is a huge, festering piece of crap that doesn't handle network drives worth crap, doesn't handle large folders worth crap, and doesn't have as many features as Finder in OS 9 did. And 5 releases later, Apple still hasn't fixed it.

      It's infuriating.
    • It already does search that folder only and not the entire computer. You can change sources in the little metal bar that appears at the top of the window. Notice that it defaults to the current folder.
      • by grrrl (110084)
        It feels like it displays results just for that folder (intermixed with all subfolders - URG dont get me started) but it really still takes as long as searchnig the whole computer! (I'm not convinced it doesnt still do this!)
    • I'm still somewhat of a Mac n00b, so perhaps I don't get it right now (using Tiger), but when I type in something in the search field at the top of a Finder window when I'm in a particular folder, why doesn't it just search in that folder instead of using Spotlight to search the entire computer?

      Or am I missing something?


      This is how searches work by default in Vista. Too bad Macs aren't easier to use.

      Maybe it is time to switch to Vista?

      Non Troll point of this post is...
      Why doesn't MS Marketing slap back at A
  • by Aphrika (756248) on Sunday February 11, 2007 @08:35PM (#17976938)
    ...it'd be great if they also indexed your offline media too?

    The number of times I have to swap out CDs trying to find an image file or an old piece of code - it drives me nuts! Now with DVD it gets worse, HD-DVD, Blu-ray - forget it, that's a needle in a haystack. How difficult could it be to have the drive index offline media too - a bit like some tape library software or the like? Maybe it could index when you burn? The last time I saw something like this was when I got a Zip drive back in 1997 and some nifty free software came with it. Now, it seems that you can only search your local drive - a bad idea when removable media is the norm.

    So, at the risk of sounding like a total banana; why doesn't anyone do this, or am I missing some glaringly obvious checkbox somewhere in OS X/XP/Fedora/Vista?
    • by Blakey Rat (99501)
      I think the obvious point you're missing is that harddrives are huge and cheap. Disks are fine for backup, but if it's anything you might conceivably need ever, just keep it on the drive.
      • by Aphrika (756248)
        True, but don't you think it'd be cool if it did index offline media? Imagine a quick "don't worry, you've got another copy of it on blah blah CD..." message popping up when you'd searched for a file name and it returned no results. So you plonk the correct media in and voila! You find your file.

        That said, I'm thinking purely in filename terms here, if you stretched it to the kinds of data that say Google Desktop Search indexes, I'd imagine your repository of info would get large pretty fast if offline med
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by fontkick (788075)
          Searching offline files can be done with CDFinder:

          http://www.cdfinder.de/ [cdfinder.de]

          It's an excellent volume catalogue utility. I use it to search through the 1000+ CDs and DVDs that we have burned for backup. Searching the entire catalog produces almost instantaneous search results.

          It can also be used as a replacement for Spotlight by dragging your hard drive icon into the main library to make a catalog of it. Searching by filename is also extremely quick - the fastest I've used on any platform.

          I've had Spotlight t
      • I think the obvious point you're missing is that harddrives are huge and cheap.

        At some point this really has to stop being considered a valid answer. In reality I download five or ten movies a week, some which I watch immediately, some which I don't and watch later. In that same reality I can't be arsed setting up a RAID and buying a 200GB drive every year or so when it's so easy to burn to DVD every week, update my crappy plain text file index (really should use a Db, see above laziness) and when I want to
        • Why bother saving the movies to DVD-R? If you ever want to watch it again, you can just download it again, right?
    • So, at the risk of sounding like a total banana; why doesn't anyone do this, or am I missing some glaringly obvious checkbox somewhere in OS X/XP/Fedora/Vista?


      Vista does index offline content; however, I think it is only network resources. (And it is on by default, so you can search your network offline files no matter if you are on the network or not.)

      I never tried to make removeable media marked as Offline available, but this is an interesting thought.

      In today's world I think you would be better off to ar
    • by Hao Wu (652581)
      What I need isn't better searching - but better sorting of search results.

      Not just by category (name, size, date, etc.), but by subcategory -- preferably as many subcategories as one wants.

      • Not just by category (name, size, date, etc.), but by subcategory -- preferably as many subcategories as one wants.


        Um, try Vista, you can do this type of searching, and it also has a very rich search syntax system to filter to your heart's content.
    • ...it'd be great if they also indexed your offline media too?

      That's actually an interesting idea. I have numerous DVD backups of my computer, and while I wouldn't want to see search hits from those backups by default, it'd be great if I could check a "search CD/DVD" box and see all media containing a particular backed-up file. One problem I see is identifying the media: You'd have to give meaningful labels to your CDs or input the labels manually.

  • but will it find widgets by 'wdgt' in /Library/Widgets? Will it find files inside .app? I'm unimpressed with spotlight in it's current form, especially the widgets.
  • I've used File Buddy exclusively since spotlight became the standard OS X search. I've only used spotlight couple times and I hate it.
  • by sokoban (142301) on Sunday February 11, 2007 @09:06PM (#17977192) Homepage
    New version of program contains features and bug fixes not present in previous version of program.
  • Apple's aliases bypass traverse checking. This is not the case for UNIX symbolic links, and is a problem that Apple created when they decided to stick with the single-user-oriented HFS+ and not use the more reliable and security-minded Berkeley fast file system from NeXTStep and FreeBSD.

    So, will they fix the "alias hole" while they're doing this?

    You don't want a situation where someone is denied access to a file while browsing through the Finder because they lack permission to an enclosing folder, but can a

    • by Space cowboy (13680) * on Sunday February 11, 2007 @09:36PM (#17977420) Journal
      example:

        prompt% ln -s /tmp/already.exists /path/to/symlink
        prompt% mv /tmp/already.exists /tmp/this.is.a.new.name

      The symlink is now screwed. An alias set up to point at /tmp/already.exists would work just fine and peachy when the file was renamed (or moved elsewhere on the disk) as above.

      Simon.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by fuzz6y (240555)
        So you're saying an alias has some way of figuring out whether a file is the same as the file you originally specified or not?
        Hey, so does a symlink. It's called the damned path.
        Now, there are lots of times when changing the path of a file doesn't mean to the user that it is no longer the same file, but there are lots of times when it does. What if my editor saved my old file as .bak and created a new one in its place? What if my logrotate script moved my old log to .0 and created a new log in its place?
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          Actually, aliases are designed to try to cover all bases.

          An alias can be created in either full or minimal forms. The exact internal makeup is something I've not had the need to really go into, but for example a minimal alias will contain the current path for the item and that item's file number in the volume catalog, and also something describing which volume it's on (a volume number perhaps, but not enough information to go and mount that volume if it's not already available). A full alias can also conta

    • Ok, I'm not the total Mac nerd at the company, so when I read your post, I was OMG, surely OSX isn't this stupid and insecure.

      Well as it turns out, you are right, OSX is this stupid and insecure.

      MS takes crap for Voice Recognition actually working well enough a sound file could prompt the computer to do something(Assuming the user doesn't have Mic cancellation turned on and has their speakers turned up all the way.)

      However, if MS ever left a security hole this big, the industry would have a field day with i
  • by shunker (851615) on Sunday February 11, 2007 @09:19PM (#17977284)

    Currently, I hardly use Spotlight on my iBook G4 800 MHz. The application launcher capability is what I need most, and I find Launchbar [obdev.at] to be far faster than Spotlight for this. Launchbar even does a decent job for many of the searches I need, at the same speed as application launching, but Spotlight search for the same can take very long.

    Can't Apple employ the technology used in Launchbar or Quicksilver [blacktree.com] along with their existing technology to make the searches faster? I know Spotlight is lower because it has to index far more data as it searches inside files. However, most searches perhaps don't need the data that is inside files, but merely the same metadata that is indexed by Launchbar/QS. So, why not have a two-step search: first search the data that is not inside the file and give results as quick as Launchbar/QS, then search inside the files to give other search results?

    I understand this may be a non-issue for the latest Intel Macs, and so, Apple may not bother.

    • by rsborg (111459)

      I understand this may be a non-issue for the latest Intel Macs, and so, Apple may not bother.

      Hate to break it to ya, but as an owner of a C2D Macbook, I'd have to say, yeah, Spotlight still takes too long to not optimize... faster than my G5 iMac, but could definitely use improvement

      Can't Apple employ the technology used in Launchbar or Quicksilver along with their existing technology to make the searches faster?

      Sounds like an awesome quick improvement. I'd be all over that in 10.5 if they could add that

  • I am hoping Spotlight will be consistently fast in Leopard, rather than the current situation where sometimes it's instantaneous and other times it takes many seconds to display results.

    I've tried getting rid of Quicksilver, since launching apps and finding docs is all I ever use it for; but Spotlight just isn't consistent enough speed-wise for me yet. Quicksilver's searches are reliably fast.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by DurendalMac (736637)
      If the elimination of filesystem lag when opening folders is any indication, then Spotlight should be much faster as well.
  • by grrrl (110084) on Sunday February 11, 2007 @10:28PM (#17977898)
    and I'm not convinced anything mentioned in the article is going to make the different and make me like Spotlight.

    The Spotlight UI is what needs the major overhaul - it's freaking ANNOYING and inconsistent with the Finder. If you do a spotlight search from the menu bar, items in the drop down list cannot be dragged and dropped or have their path shown. You have to go 'Show All' if you want to actually USE that image you found.

    If you do go to the 'Show All' window (which doesn't appear in CMD-Tab) then you have to click the stupid huge "I" to get the path - unlike in the Finder version where it appears at the bottom of the window.

    I hate the Finder search - it is so slow that even if you just want to search that directory, it feels as though it is searching the entire computer and just filtering the results. It also recursively searches without any decent feedback as to where the files it finds actually ARE (and you can't turn it off). And the worst part is - if you trash something IT STAYS IN THE SEARCH RESULTS. That really fucks me off.

    It's the small details that make using Spotlight (and spotlight-as-part-of-the-finder) absolute Hell. They have better fix that sort of stuff (and the whole freaking finder....) before stupid network searching!
    • by shmlco (594907)
      "If you do a spotlight search from the menu bar, items in the drop down list cannot be dragged and dropped or have their path shown. You have to go 'Show All' if you want to actually USE that image you found."

      The drop-down is a shortcut to opening (most common). Just type the word and hit return.
  • I don't care about all of that stuff.

    All I want is something that will stop command-F from always popping up with the idiotic search "Kind = Any," "Last Opened = Any Date."

    How about letting me set a preference for the default search? Or...

    How about repeating whatever it is I did on the last search?

    (To all those who are going to flame me by saying there is some way of changing it by rewriting some XML code in hidden directory somewhere... oh, go away and edit a Registry, why don't you?)
  • I am a Windows, but also want to buy a macbook. Should I wait until Leopard comes out? Does Apple give discount for the upgrade to people who buy very close to new releases of OS X?

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