Think different when it comes to searching your Mac and the web
In OS X Yosemite, Spotlight moved to the centre of the screen and gained some new tricks, such as currency and unit conversion, some integration with Maps, and the means to find items in the iTunes Store. El Capitan means to take this a stage further, with search results from a wider range of web sources: weather, stocks, sports results and video results are all available included. It also aims to make it easier to find what you want by expressing it using natural language.
This all sounds great, but we really wish Spotlight went further, and apparently the author of the free and open-source Flashlight (flashlight.nateparrott.com) did too. This Yosemite-only app uses plug-in architecture to inject a huge range of capabilities directly into Spotlight, including weather forecasts, the means to craft messages and emails, and system commands. YouTube video can be viewed directly in Spotlight, and by using Duck Duck Go (type \ and then your search terms), you can get fast access to stocks information, current events and sports results.
The snag: at the time of writing, Flashlight wasn’t functional on OS X 10.10.4, due to that system blocking Easy SIMBL on which it relies. It worked fine on 10.10.3, however, and its developers were busily working on a fix.
There are plenty of other Spotlight alternatives, including Quicksilver (free, qsapp.com), Launch Bar (free/€24 – about £17, obdev.at), and Alfred (free/£17, alfredapp.com), all of which offer far more granular control and extensibility than Spotlight. Relatively few search results are returned directly within the interfaces of these apps, although Alfred can handle weather; learn more about Weather Workflow at http://bit.ly/1SxRRLz). However, they do make it very quick and simple to trigger web searches on specific websites.
Moreover, these three apps share one major advantage over Spotlight: the means to directly manipulate files and information, rather than simply find things. So while Spotlight’s long-term intention appears to be keeping you away from the web, Alfred, Quicksilver and Launch Bar may find you largely avoiding Finder.
We’re big fans of Flashlight for Spotlight, and really hope it lives on beyond OS X 10.10.3.