Spotlight in Mac OS X 10.6 (Snow Leopard): More on view options for search results

Posted by Pierre Igot in: Macintosh
October 8th, 2009 • 2:24 pm

Yesterday’s post about the restrictions imposed by Apple in the view options for Finder windows displaying Spotlight search results generated a fair amount of e-mail feedback.

Most of it was to express agreement with the absurdity of the remaining limitations. But some readers provided additional information. Alan C. pointed out this text on Apple’s own promotional pages for Snow Leopard:

Sortable search results.

Sort your Spotlight search results by name, date modified, date created, size, kind, or label. Just open the Action menu, choose Keep Arranged By, and select the field you want to sort by.

That’s very interesting, because it’s patently wrong. Whether you go to the “View Options” palette or whether you try to use the “Keep Arranged By” options, you cannot sort Spotlight search results by size, kind, or label in Snow Leopard.

So what’s going on here? Well, it might become clearer with what another reader reports:

Soon after getting Snow Leopard, I dug into the Finder plist preference file and found that there were options to enable -all- columns in search results, including the size column. I submitted the tip to

So it turns out that the options are there, but Apple decided to disable them in the final release of Snow Leopard. Why? As VL-Tone suggests, it might be because the implementation of these other view options is still buggy and Apple didn’t have time to fix the bugs before releasing Snow Leopard.

You can use VL-Tone’s hint to make the options active. Even though they will still be inactive in the “View Options” palette, the columns will show in search results.

But of course, since this is not the default setting in Snow Leopard, you will be using this hack at your own risk. And given Apple’s recent history of tragically destructive bugs in Spotlight search results windows, which I experienced first-hand myself on multiple occasions, I suggest you be very careful about this.

Turning on additional view options might seem like an innocuous thing to do, but so did double-clicking on an already selected search result in Mac OS X 10.5.x to open it in its parent application. And yet that was sometimes enough to cause the file to be randomly renamed.

Apple eventually fixed that bug (although file names remain editable in search results windows, so you need to remain vigilant about what you do here), but it just goes to show that seemingly innocuous things can have pretty destructive consequences because of unaddressed system bugs.

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