Think dif­fer­ent when it comes to search­ing your Mac and the web

Mac Format - - IMPROVE -

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.natepar­ 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, qs­, Launch Bar (free/€24 – about £17, ob­, and Al­fred (free/£17, al­, 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 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.

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