Two Free Alternatives To OS X Spotlight [Mac]

spotlighthumb1   Two Free Alternatives To OS X Spotlight [Mac]There are several features that I like about OS X, but Spotlight is not one of them.  Spotlight is a desktop search feature for Mac OS X and when it was released in 2005, it was very nifty and useful. It felt cutting edge, even quick. However, it doesn’t seem to have aged very well. Spotlight only finds what I’m looking for about 80% of the time, which is not a good success rate for a search program. Apple’s love of simplicity gets in the way, as well – there just aren’t many options available for refining a search.

Fortunately, there are some alternatives to Spotlight available. Let’s take a look at three free alternatives to Spotlight that Mac users may find more functional.

Find Any File

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At first glance, Find Any File couldn’t be more basic. Once you open the program you are greeted by a single line of options and a search field into which you type whatever you’re searching for. The program did not even ask for installation – it just went, and suddenly I was greeted with the option to search for files with a name containing, equal to, beginning with or ending with the term I entered.

However, Find Any File becomes extremely robust once you begin clicking the More Choices button. You can refine your search by modification date, creation date, file size, location (in a folder or not in a folder), file type and creator. This list of search options should make finding any file extremely easy – although you’ll have to know a lot of precise information about the file that you’re searching for.

NotLight

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As the name of NotLight implies, this program was born out of the frustration of its creator, Matt Neuburg. He was “sick and tired of Tiger’s lousy Spotlight interface” and so he wrote an alternative search program that he (and others) could use instead. While some of the frustrations Matt Neuburg listed at the time of NotLight’s release have been addressed, many haven’t, and NotLight remains a useful Spotlight alternative.

The interface of NotLight is just slightly more complex than that of Find Any File, but it makes up for that by providing a paragraph of text with each type of search supported by NotLight that explains how the search works. This information isn’t helpful because the search functions are not always intuitive and because this helps you avoid errors in your searches that return poor results. NotLight also supports searching individual folders, which is enabled by dragging a folder into the program.

EasyFind

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By far the most user-friendly program here, EasyFind is a robust SearchLight alternative created by a company called Devon Technologies. Functionality, EasyFind isn’t that different from Find Any File or NotLight. It finds files in the same was (simple hard disk search) and it includes a number of similar search options, such as the ability to search file contents, all or any words in a file name, etc. EasyFind does not include the ability to search by file size or document extension, however.

This is made up for by EasyFind’s much better interface. Find Any File and NotLight are great programs, but they’re completely functional, consisting of a few simple buttons and drop-down lists. EasyFind places all the relevant options on the main program window, giving users no need to dig into menus or waste extra mouse clicks in order to find more functionality. For most users, EasyFind will be the easiest Spotlight alternative to use.

Conclusion

The three programs above should cover all of your search needs in OS X. While Spotlight can do the job in some situations, these freeware alternatives provide search options that Spotlight doesn’t. Do you have a favorite Spotlight alternative that isn’t covered here? Let us know in the comments.

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10 Comments -

Marko Dragstone

thanks for the article

Kade Ruddy

Before MacOSX there was a product called Ultrafind that came from the UK. It was very reasonably priced and did something I really liked but have not found since. When you searched you had the option of having your reply come back in three (maybe four) different layouts and you just chose the one you wanted. I loved the org chart like layout in one option showing graphically the location of the document in which the term was found, the file folder in which the doc was found and the master folder where the folder lay. Then there was the option of a list of “finds” with a paragraph showing the context of each term “find”. You could easily find the term you wanted without opening every returned document. Ultrafind had a very powerful index engine that I have not seen matched on the Mac. How I miss Ultrafind. Apple should stop cannibalising its own developers for that extra few cents that do not make Apple any richer but greatly impoverishes independent developers and the rest of us.

Guest

Also the Tembo beta.

crimemon

I’ve accumulated so much on my hard drive over the past ten years and recently have been searching for older but relevant items there. With EasyFind the boolean+wildcards search ability is very nice; it saves me so much time going through Spotlight’s returns. I like the simple way it is organized. Because I’ve compressed files I’m bummed neither it nor Spotlight accesses those. It does take EF a while to do searches but it’s a fresh, complementary way of doing things and I’m definitely keeping it.

Moshe Feder

I agree with Kate about the virtues of Ultrafind. I haven’t thought of it in ages, but when it was around, it was what I turned to when nothing else worked and it never failed me.

My current Spotlight alternative is HoudahSpot. It’s not the simplest, but it’s powerful and flexible and available in a second via a keyboard shortcut.

Moshe Feder

I agree with Kate about the virtues of Ultrafind. I haven’t thought of it in ages, but when it was around, it was what I turned to when nothing else worked and it never failed me.

My current Spotlight alternative is HoudahSpot. It’s not the simplest, but it’s powerful and flexible and available in a second via a keyboard shortcut.