8
January
2006

Spotlight works as a filter 11:39 on Sunday

Yesterday I wrote about filtering instead of sorting data. I touched on the perceived difficulty of needing to type what to filter for, while changing a sort order merely requires a simple mouse click.

Filtering is almost synonymous to searching and often good search engines are the best data filters. Google is an excellent filter of gazillions of megabytes of data on the web. Apple’s Spotlight is a good filter for the data on my computer. Apple has also included a quite clever implementation of filtering-without-typing in their Mail application.

Apple Mail window showing integrated Spotlight search in the contextual menu for sender
Apple Mail window showing integrated Spotlight search in the contextual menu for sender.

The power and weakness of the Mail solution is that Spotlight not only finds all emails from or to the sender, but also every file that includes the search words (this time “dsp recordings”). The implementation is a system-wide search instead of an email filter and this can yield a lot of inappropriate matches. Spotlight also opens a new window and takes the user out of the Mail application.

Here is the resulting Spotlight search window from the above example. Spotlight makes pretty good use of filtering by allowing the grouped and sorted items to be filtered by date (“When”) or by location (“Where”).

Apple OS X 10.4 Spotlight search window
OS X Spotlight search window.

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