Apple's Tiger Has A Powerful Nose (1 Viewer)


Senior Member
Jun 9, 2003
Apple's Tiger Has A Powerful Nose
Arik Hesseldahl, 06.30.04, 10:00 AM ET

NEW YORK - If it's possible to search the Internet with the kind of precision that search engines like Google and provide, why has it always been so difficult to accurately search for what's in our own hard drives?

It almost makes you want to slap your head and say "duh!" And anyone else who was paying attention to this week's speech by Apple Computer (nasdaq: AAPL - news - people ) Chief Executive Steve Jobs may be thinking the same thing.

As part of his demonstration of several upcoming new features in Apple's forthcoming operating system (OS) upgrade, codenamed Tiger, Jobs unveiled a feature called Spotlight that acts like Google for hard drives, only a little bit more organized. It will be positioned directly in the upper-right hand corner of the screen.

Like the search function in the current version of the OS, Panther, users will see search results that begin as they type the first letter of their query into the search field. We found this feature to be distracting as files that appear in the results field change by the split-second as more letters are typed. Files that pop up among the results will launch their relevant applications directly when selected.

However, a few other search parameters have been added to the mix this time. If you have a fair idea of when you saved the file you're looking for, you can tell Tiger to search only among files saved over the course of the preceding week or day, for example. It will also let you search among specific file types, like documents or images, and hopefully even for documents created by specific applications.

This would be a great boon to many disorganized writers to be able to search for documents created only in Microsoft's (nasdaq: MSFT - news - people ) Word. Indeed anyone who spends a great deal of time using only a few applications will remember what program they were using to create the file they're looking for.

Power users of the old Macintosh OS may remember that every application had a little code attached to every file called a "creator code," that could be found using a geeky tool called ResEdit. If you knew the creator code, the search function could be tasked to search only for files bearing that creator code. But getting to that level of granularity, which is an obvious need, should have been easy enough for beginners from the very start. In the new search Apple should make it a cinch for even the most novice user to search for the most common types of files based on their computer's applications.

From what we've seen so far, Apple is getting pretty close to this. The core of its search technology is something called the Metadata Indexing Engine. If you're unfamiliar with the term, metadata is data about data that helps in searching. If you're old enough you'll remember searching for library books using a cabinet of drawers called a card catalog. Metadata is the digital equivalent of that card catalog.

As it happens many applications on the Mac, like Word, and Adobe Systems' (nasdaq: ADBE - news - people ) Photoshop produce a heap of searchable metadata with every file they create. Apple's new search function grabs this data transparently as new files are created and dumps it into an up-to-date index. This is a welcome change from previous indexing schemes.

Longtime Mac users may also remember a previous indexing effort that would get in the way. The old finder would have to more or less take control of the machine for several hours at a time to scan the contents of the hard drive and update its index. We remember on more than a few occasions actively starting the indexing function on a Friday night, going away for the weekend, only to see the indexer still running on Sunday.

One particularly good sign is that Apple has opened up the metadata search capabilities embedded within the OS to software developers so that they can use it to enhance their own applications, so even if Apple doesn't specifically put a search field in Spotlight that says "Search only for Microsoft Word files," then Microsoft itself can make build its own plug-in for Spotlight or somehow use the capability form within Word.

Tiger won't be available until sometime in the first half of 2005 and will sell for $129. We're betting it will be ready in time for Jobs' next big appearance at the Macworld Expo in San Francisco in January.

Buy on


Senior Member
Jun 9, 2003
  • Thread Starter
  • Thread Starter #7
    ++ [ originally posted by Martin ] ++
    Z, have you taken over for gray and I in posting these tech articles? :D

    Actually, I was just posting random threads of what I "thought" was interesting all over the place :D


    Junior Member
    Jul 27, 2002
    not to forget me.. i also have a mac...

    this is only one new feature of apple's forthcoming OS
    have you already read apple's slogans during the presentation? they are really very very funny:
    The banners read "Introducing Longhorn," "Redmond, start your photocopiers," "This should keep Redmond busy" and "Redmond, we have a problem."

    now please take this tour to get an idea of the new os - also if you don't like macs, plz check it out and you'll like it:,2393,l=&s=25986&a=130460&po=1,00.asp

    and keep the features in mind, so you can recognize them in longhorn, or any other feature windows os... and that's not just a joke, it's the truth - for example if you look at the new version of media player you'll see that it's becoming more and more similar to itunes (but it's still not that classy)

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