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OS X Search Features
By Steve Manke

Most people know how to search the file system in OS X. It’s procedure that has not change since the days of OS 9 (and before). Just hit the hotkey combination of Apple+F and the Find File window opens. But did you know that 10.2 offers an enhanced ability to search without opening the find window?

A search field has been added to all of the Finder’s windows. In order to explain how the field can be used, consider this example. I am looking for a file called bookmarks.html. I know it is located somewhere in my Home directory, but I am not sure where. For simplicity sake, let also say I have my home directory already open in a window. I just enter my file name into the search field and hit return. The finder will automatically recursively search all files and folders located in my home directly for a file matching the search criteria.

(If you don’t have a Search field in the upper right corner of your windows, you may need to open the window a little wider. If you still don’t see the window, check the View menu and select Customize Toolbar. There you can add the feature to your Finder windows.)

Searching this way saves time, and eliminates erroneous results. First of all, I was already in the folder I wanted to search. Why should I use Find File to search the entire hard drive when I can easily give the computer a place to start? Second of all, why would I want to find files from locations I already know to be invalid? The search field gives me a convenient and efficient way to search without the need to open additional search windows.

OS X 10.3 further improves on the search field in many ways. First and foremost, the search field is a part of the interface by default. There is no need to add it to your windows manually. Secondly, you have multiple search options available now. As illustrated by the screenshot below, you can now narrow your search to all local drives (drives physically attached to your computer), your home directory, Selection (it is a funny name for it, but it gives you the same recursive search ability that 10.2 had by default), and Everywhere (this searches all local drives and any other drives that are mounted when you do the search). All you have to do in order to access the feature is click on the small magnifying glass icon in the corner of the search field!

The search features built into OS X are as powerful as they are flexible. Since I discovered the Finder based search field, I rarely use the Find File command. I love having the ability to search only a designated portion of my hard drive. As an added feature, in 10.3, searches are performed in real time. The search is actually being performed as you start typing your criteria in. As you enter more of the search phrase, the results narrow according. Hats off to Apple. Such a simple improvement- such powerful results!