Spotlight: Needs ability to open a smart folder directly in editable state

Posted by Pierre Igot in: Macintosh
June 2nd, 2005 • 6:36 am

Right now, when you have an existing smart folder and you open it in a Finder window, in that window, by default, the Finder only displays a heading row with the title “Smart Folder” on the left-hand side and the “Edit” button on the right-end side, and then a refreshed list of the search results for this particular smart folder.

However, I have several smart folders that I actually use as smart searches, i.e. as file searches with predefined criteria that I want to modify from one time to the next, but only slightly.

For example, I have a smart folder called “Text Documents – Containing Words” that consists of the following criteria:

The search only applies to my “Documents” volume

The search looks for any document that is either some kind of Word document or a Pages document (using the raw query: “(kMDItemKind== "*Microsoft Word*") || (kMDItemKind== "*Pages*")“)

The search looks for documents that match the two above criteria and whose contents include the words “xxxx“.

The key criterion here is the third. “xxxxx” changes from one search to the next. Today, for example, I want to find all Word/Pages documents on my “Documents” partition that contain the words “severely disturbing behaviour“.

Tomorrow, I might want to find all Word/Pages documents on my “Documents” partition that contain the words “verbal abuse“.

And so on. You get the picture. I want to do the same kind of search (i.e. two of the three criteria are always the same), but a different search each time. And I want to be able to change the third criterion as easily as possible.

Right now, with Mac OS X 10.4, I have to define a smart folder — but then each time I open the smart folder, I have to click on the “Edit” button to make the search criteria visible so that I can edit the third one.

I shouldn’t have to do this. I should be able to open my smart folder and then immediately tab into the appropriate field so that I can change the words that I am looking for.

In other words, I think Apple should give us the option to open our smart folders directly in their editable state, without requiring us to click on the “Edit” button first.

Granted, it’s a minor inconvenience, and the benefits of having such a smart folder in the first place far outweigh the drawback of having to click on the “Edit” button. But still, from the user’s point of view, the fact that the technology that he is using for his search is called a “smart folder” and has fixed criteria that he then has to edit is of little relevance. Here, all the user wants to do is search for some keywords in all his Word and Pages documents — and nowhere else. A really smart folder would let him do this directly, without requiring the extra step.

3 Responses to “Spotlight: Needs ability to open a smart folder directly in editable state”

  1. ssp says:

    Perhaps the UI bug commonly known as metal windows can help you here. Setting up a smart folder for all of your relevant documents and then using the search field in the toolbar area to look for the relevant words might do exactly what you want (or at least something pretty close to what you want more slowly than you want…)

  2. Pierre Igot says:

    There are cases where this would work in theory — although the example above was just an example. I have other examples where the criterion that I want to change is not “Contents”, but something more specific for which the default Search field in the toolbar is useless.

    Even when the Search field would work, there are two major drawbacks. The first one is that, without the criterion identifying specific words to search for, the smart folder contains all Word and Pages documents on the volume, i.e. tens of thousands of items. This makes the smart folder very unresponsive, which means you have to wait a long time before you can start typing a keyword in the Search field to narrow down the search.

    Secondly, when you open the smart folder, the keyboard focus is on nothing as far as I can tell, and you cannot tab into the Search field in the toolbar. So you have to use the mouse anyway — which defeats the purpose. If I have to use the mouse, I might as well click on the “Edit” button with it.

  3. ssp says:

    Just thought this might help…

    Personally I find Spotlight by far too slow (and incomplete and buggy) to be useful anyway.

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