macnews.net.tc
2005-06-09
Spotlight vs. Finder?
You can find many comments like this one on WIRED. They say that with Spotlight, you can (and should?) stop organising your files in hierarchical folder structures. Spotlight, they say, enables you to dynamically create relations. The latter is true, of course, but Spotlight's only an 80 percent solution - and probably always will be.

So you start working on a new project for an existing customer. Let's say it's a publication about a new product they're creating. The 'classic' way would be to create a folder called "projectname" in the folder named "customername". Inside this project folder, you'd create other folders, depending on the project, of course. For example, you might create a folder named "logos" inside the project folder. In there, you put EPS graphics of the different logos for the project. Another folder could be called "input" and contain the Word files, Excel sheets and other kind of input that you get from the customer. And then you start working in, say, InDesign to create the publication.
Now, they say, you can simply drop everything in the Documents folder. You'll find it anyway because of Spotlight. That's probably true for most files. But not for any files. One of the EPS logos might be called "vona_leb_2a.eps" and contain no text whatsoever, because the fonts have been translated into paths so it could be opened and printed without having the font around. Spotlight wouldn't find this file if you searched for "projectname". So while you'll find the Word files of input and probably the PDF files you created to send to the customer, you would maybe miss one or two graphics when trying to create a CD-R for the customer that includes all project files. You might even miss the InDesign files, because there isn't an InDesign plugin for Spotlight yet. Great.

I'm personally quite a chaotic person. Give me a room to work in, and any free space will soon enough be filled with paper, empty cigarette boxes and quite some pencils all over the place. And Spotlight's not a solution for me. Sure, I could work the computer like I do with the real office, but neither me nor Spotlight would possibly find everything I need in a decent amount of time. That's why I do folder structures. That's exactly why I do folder structures. That, too, is why I give files names like "projectname_contentdescription_exactdate.indd". So that searching for "projectname" will find it. So I know which is the newest version even if I accidentally (or intentionally) touched an older file and its date got modified.

Don't get me wrong: I'm all for better ways of searching. But to tell people they don't have to clean up after their work's done is bad practice at least. It's horror if you work with other people that have to take over after you leave. A clear structure - even if the other person thinks differently - is identifiable at least. Giving things good names is good practice at least. And dropping fifty files which all are named "logo.eps" into one Documents folder doesn't work either. Well, it does, but you'll end up with one logo only. ;)

I think Apple's done a good job with Spotlight (despite me hating how you can't simply search for parts of filenames but have to jump through a lot of hoops for it), but telling people they can use this instead of the Finder's tools of file organisation is merely a bad excuse for not finally - and for good - fixing the Finder.

So: No, WIRED, Spotlight isn't killing the Finder. At least I don't hope so. I hope that Apple will finally fix the Finder AND improve Spotlight.
Comments:
Think so, too. I like Spotlight but I miss the Panther-search terribly. It was so easy to find all pdf's in one folder or all doc's etc. and then do something with them. I miss it that terrible that I might even reinstall Panther (I'm usually someone who tries alpha grade software).
 
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