Mac Lab Report

A Big Oversight in Spotlight's Searches

- 2005.09.02

I have a great many files which my publisher requires to be named in a format like this: 3.2.4.thing.another. The Finder doesn't choke on this or cause any problems due to "." extensions, but Spotlight apparently cannot look for terms that begin with a number. To test this, I created several files on my desktop.

xylophone
xylophone.creosote
xylophone.creosote.prairie
xylophone.creosote.prairie.lingo
xylophone.creosote.prairie.lingo.1.2.3.4
1.xylophone.

and did spotlight searches. All of these terms were found except for the last one (as the picture below shows). Curious, I did a quick Google search on "spotlight fail" and came up with any number of articles on the topic, including a really excellent, well written article over at Macintouch (link below).

Failed Spotlight search

This article highlights several limitations in Spotlight technology. I think Apple should address these in a future revision, because if you can't trust your search program to actually find files that exist on your hard drive, what good is it? Certainly not good enough to spell the end of heirarchical file organization and the desktop metaphor as has recently been touted in the tech press.

At the very least, there ought to be a "deep search" function not dependent on the Spotlight index, perhaps limited to filenames if necessary.

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is a longtime Mac user. He was using digital sensors on Apple II computers in the 1980's and has networked computers in his classroom since before the internet existed. In 2006 he was selected at the California Computer Using Educator's teacher of the year. His students have used NASA space probes and regularly participate in piloting new materials for NASA. He is the author of two books and numerous articles and scientific papers. He currently teaches astronomy and physics in California, where he lives with his twin sons, Jony and Ben.< And there's still a Mac G3 in his classroom which finds occasional use.

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