Home Mac Hypercharge Search with Houdaspot

Hypercharge Search with Houdaspot

by Kerry Dawson

Apple’s spotlight search is a very powerful part of OSX designed to provide very capable search. Many applications use this engine to enhance their own search capability within an application.

This power engine in OSX left in the raw can be like a machine gun going off blasting off all over the place hitting many targets before it stops. The numerous targets are then left bare at your feet and you have to sift through them to find the one that is what you’re looking for. Although there are controls in Spotlight to refine your search they are of an esoteric nature of which few know the code. Houdaspot is a very powerful spotlight search overlay with the added benefit that it supports tagging to refine your search thus reducing the out of control machine gun like aspect of Spotlight.

Houdaspot a solution in Search of a Problem

Houdaspot has found the problem. Spotlight is great but it would be much greater if it had controls around the search function. As I mentioned, currently unless you apply a lot of the esoteric controls in spotlight to a search you will end up with a lot of results.

As an example, let’s say you remember you were talking to Sean at Apple and that’s all you can remember. You think as most would this should bring up the exact piece of information you’re looking for as how many Sean’s at Apple could I possibly have in my system. Depending on how you input your spotlight search it will do it’s best but you will get back every occurrence of Sean and every occurrence of Apple in your system. The machine gun will have done it’s work. You’re item maybe lucky though in that it is ranked near the top. Or not!

Houdaspot found a Problem so now let’s Apply the Solution

Now that we know what the problem is, Houdaspot is the perfect solution to it. In no way does this work at cross purposes to say Leap or Apple’s own tagging system.

Houdaspot is a program that builds its functionality on top of spotlight. Additionally, it allows you to add tags to help ensure your searches are fruitful.

Houdaspot can apply a tremendous amount of conditional logic to searching. I wouldn’t necessarily expect your first search would be bang on. However, with a bit of practice it will become second nature to you. Rather than going to the raw Spotlight, launch Houdaspot when you’re searching for an item in your system.

Houdaspot will present an interface, well refined, that will allow you to apply a lot or little conditional logic as you see fit to your search. As an example, you might tell Houdaspot to
look for Sean at Apple and in entries only in the last 7 days. Realizing that the entry your looking for was created say in DEVONthink or it’s a mail item and not in a PDF you can take the search further by telling Houdaspot to ignore all PDF’s. Then you give it a whirl but realize you’re still getting too many results back. So you add to the search only search in DEVONthink and if it’s not there only search in mail would be the next search. This time you’re lucky and the item is in DEVONthink and it is the first item. To avoid this in future tag the entry.

An Example

As an example, I want to find my Voodoopad that is about DEVONthink. I know it is in my documents folder but that’s all I know. It will be in some subfolder but where. With Houdaspot as with any Open Meta tagging system it flattens out the file system or folder structures and so I don’t have to worry about what folder I might have stuck if in.

The following is an example of a simple query that finds my entry on first go. Double clicking the entry opens my Voodoopad that I’m looking for and away I go. Productivity maintained rather than detracted from:

In the first diagram we see the fields filled in using Houdaspot and the result of my search being the Voodopad I’m looking for. The second diagram is simply showing the result of the first only based on the conditional logic I used to find the Voodoopad I want to work in.

Tagging Improves Results

To improve the results of any search ensure your file is tagged. If it’s not when you find the file tag it. Now when you go to search you’ll improve the results dramatically and significantly speed up the process. If you just want to find the one file with a tag that applies to a few files, use the conditional logic to isolate the file.

Houdaspot grows on You

When you first get Houdaspot it may be something like what the heck is this. Even reading the brief manual leaves a vague feeling as to how to use the product. Don’t give up. This product grows with and on you.

Keep using it and you will find it will become indispensable. You won’t want to use spotlight again. Actually with Houdaspot you are using Spotlight it’s just you’re using Spotlight on steroids. As you continue to use Houdaspot you will find you get better at defining your searches and start always getting back the results your looking for.

Ensure that you get into the tagging habit. Tag in OSX or using a third party product when you save a file. I like Default Folder X for the functionality that brings to the table including tagging. If you decide to use Leap as your file manager you can always tag with that system too. These products all work together.

I’ve talked about how DEVONthink is a product that allows you to relate information to produce knowledge. These products work at the file system level outside of DEVONthink to produce relationships amongst files when they are tagged with similar tags. Often things related creates new knowledge or that AHA! moment when you realize something new. DEVONthink can do all this for you within that product however, to have Houdaspot for stuff that resides at the file system level only makes perfect sense. It helps provide reliable management to your files, allowing you to find them quickly and possibly pull files together that you didn’t realize had commonalities. This can only assist in your productivity and doesn’t work at odds with anything else you might want to use.

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