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A Portion of This Mac that Apple has Declared Searchable

Shift-cmd-F is a handy keyboard shortcut for finding items by name. Though the UI gets a little messed up1, the concept still works. You can type "Pages" and find your Pages app, Pages documents, and even WhitePages.framework.

But hit shift-cmd-F and type in "loginit" to find "com.apple.loginitems.plist" and you're out of luck. Gee, the file's right there - in every user's home folder (~/Library/Preferences/) as well as the main /Library/Preferences/ folder (maybe).

So you open Spotlight in System Preferences and try to drag your ~/Library/Preferences library to the list of items. It refuses the drop.

Yes, friends, Mac OS X will let you search all of your documents… so long as Apple believes you should be searching for them. Your system prefs? No, you can't search those! "This Mac" doesn't really mean "This Mac" - it means "A Portion of This Mac that Apple has Declared Searchable." Perhaps Apple felt that title wouldn't fit very well in the space provided.

Sure, you can work around the issue by using the command-line tool locate2, but how Mac-like is that?

Shame on you, Apple. At the very least installation of something like the developer tools should "unlock" the ability to search all of "This Mac."

Footnotes

  1. "Contents" is selected with "Name Contains" provided as a constraint.
  2. /usr/bin/locate - and I recommend adding /usr/libexec/locate.updatedb to root's nightly cron job. Or just move /etc/periodic/weekly/310.locate into /etc/periodic/daily.

6 Responses to "A Portion of This Mac that Apple has Declared Searchable"

  1. The option you are searching for is right there in Leopard 🙂 .

    Press "+" to add a new search criteria, then choose "Other...". Select "System files" and press the checkbox to have it on the next search. Select "include", and com.apple.loginitems.plist will appear.

  2. Salvatore Insalaco said on November 25, 2007:

    The option you are searching for is right there in Leopard.

    Yes, but it would be nice to define what "This Mac" meant once and not each and every time you search. The "System files" rule even oddly defaults to "don't include." This workaround adds five clicks to every search you want to do that includes "System files." 🙁

    If "System Files" was a checkbox in the Spotlight System Prefs, this "System files" option in individual search windows would still be useful as a temporary override (or a permanent one for saved searches). As it stands now, however, a user who wants to search their System Files frequently must click five more times per search just to add this option back in - an option that already existed in 10.4…

  3. I'm glad that the option is there, but I agree this should be a lot easier for people who WANT to poke around in their system files. Perhaps a distinction between cmd-f and cmd-opt-space?

  4. In the late developer seeds this feature was exposed! — right next to "This Mac" was a checkbox to include system files. It was removed in one of the last builds.

  5. If you're going to use locate I'd recommend upgrading to slocate:

    % port info slocate
    slocate 3.1, Revision 1, sysutils/slocate (Variants: universal)
    http://slocate.trakker.ca/

    Secure locate provides a secure way to index and quickly search for files on your system. It uses incremental encoding just like GNU locate to compress its database to make searching faster, but it will also check file permissions and ownership so that users will not see files they do not have access to. The big advantage is that slocate will find files in your ~, even if you made it unreadable by nobody (who traditionally performs the locate database update), without letting another user find files there.

    Platforms: darwin
    Maintainers: pguyot@kallisys.net

  6. "This mac" should mean "This mac". I'm new to macs, so I believed it. 15 minutes later, I found this blog. Thanks.


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