Mac OS X 10.5 (Leopard): Spotlight results cannot be sorted by modification date

Posted by Pierre Igot in: Macintosh
November 8th, 2007 • 7:14 pm

I am glad, on the whole, that Apple did away with the one-of-a-kind Spotlight search results window and its weird design, which had severe usability shortcomings.

On the other hand, in Mac OS X 10.4, Finder-based Spotlight searches offered a variety of ways to examine search results.

Now, in Mac OS X 10.5, there is only one way to access search results, and it is through yet another kind of weird beast that is almost like a normal Finder window, but not quite.

And the big problem here is in the “almost” part. Unlike regular Finder windows, search windows have far more limited view options. Some of the limitations are obvious. For example, there is no column view option, simply because search results are not hierarchical.

Other limitations are clearly the result of design choices on Apple’s part, and these design choices are, in my view, highly questionable. When you are faced with a large number of results, it is quite natural to want to sort them in a variety of ways, in order to better isolate the search results you actually want.

Yet with the very limited view options of search windows in the Finder in Mac OS X 10.5, you effectively only have three sort options: by name, by kind, and by “Last Opened” date.

Where, oh where is the option to sort by “Date Modified” date? This seems a glaring omission to me. I have tons of older files on my hard drives that I have not opened a single time since Spotlight first came about. So they all have a totally irrelevant “Last Opened” date. On the other hand, they still have a very useful “Date Modified” date.

But there is simply no way to see that date and sort by that date in a list of search results in Mac OS X 10.5!

Similarly, it is not possible to sort by size, by “Date Created,” by label, by version, or by comment. Granted, some of these options might be of limited usefulness, but why place any restrictions at all? Why should Apple engineers get to decide how I want to sort the results of my searches?

To me, such a design choice smacks of arrogance. They think they know best, and you are just supposed to do as they say and use the feature as they please. I really cannot see any other reason for such limitations. And it’s not like these limitations help achieve a significantly higher level of simplicity or intuitiveness for the average user. On the contrary: because a search results window does not have the same view options as a regular Finder window, yet looks almost exactly the same, the average has to deal with yet more unexpected, unexplained inconsistency.

It really is a shame, because otherwise Spotlight is indeed much improved, both in its underpinnings and in its interface/usability.

4 Responses to “Mac OS X 10.5 (Leopard): Spotlight results cannot be sorted by modification date”

  1. danridley says:

    That’s just weird. It’s not just sorting; you can’t even *show* any additional columns.

  2. Pierre Igot says:

    Yes, it is essentially that search results windows have no view options at all. And I have no idea why.

  3. sjk says:

    in Mac OS X 10.4, Finder-based Spotlight searches offered a variety of ways to examine search results.

    Most of my Smart Folders rely on that to be useful. If it’s lost in 10.5 then third party Spotlight utilities that offer it will be a lot more tempting.

  4. Théoden’s Coding Tips » Blog Archive » Mac OS X (10.5.6) Spotlight search results are crippled says:

    […] Spotlight results cannot be sorted by modification date […]

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