Spotlight Comments using Quicksilver

While Spotlight is definitely cool, it doesn’t quite fit my workflow. Quicksilver remains the supreme app on my Tiger installation. At a glance these tools may seem similar – even potential competitors – but in the end they’re VERY different tools. Alas this is a discussion/argument for another day. Let’s set that aside and move on to the point of this post.

Spotlight has made itself a little home in my workflow by including Spotlight Comments. If you’re unaware, Spotlight Comments are a new section in each file or folder’s Get Info screen. You can add your own information to each item indexed on your system for additional Spotlight specificity.

For me, Spotlight Comments represent a way to tag my files a la Flickr, del.icio.us, etc. This is immensely more useful for me than the default full text indexing that Spotlight offers. I want a narrow result set most of the time. Adding tags that make sense to me accomplishes this nicely.

But there’s a problem. I’m lazy. I don’t want to have to click each file, CMD I to Get Info, enter my Spotlight Comments for that file, close the window, and move to the next file. That’s like 5-10 seconds of mouse movement and typing and, well, I’m tired just thinking about it. Enter my faithful sidekick, Quicksilver. (Hi-Ho Quicksilver!)

If you’ve installed the File Attribute Actions plugin in Quicksilver B40 (for Tiger), you’re ready to follow along.

– In the Finder, select the file(s)/folder(s) you wish to tag.
– Invoke Quicksilver
– CMD G (loads the selected file(s)/folder(s) into Quicksilver)
– Tab
– Set Comments
– Tab
– Enter the ‘tags’ or whatever Spotlight Comments you want
– Enter
– You’re done!

Now, you’re looking at that list, and thinking about 2 or 3 paragraphs up where I said I’m lazy. Well, if you’re using Quicksilver regularly, and it’s a natural part of your workflow as it is for me, this process is all of about 1.5 seconds. Plus, you can tag multiple file(s)/folder(s) this way in a jiffy. This process just fits much better for my style. try it out a couple times, I’m sure you’ll see what I’m talking about.

Speed it up even more: The more plugins you’ve got, the longer the list of available Actions (potentially putting Set Comments a ways down the list). Well the B40 release of Quicksilver has a nice Actions section in Preferences. Go there, and then to the sub section, File & Folders. You should see all the available actions for File & Folders. You can check and uncheck these actions depending on the ones you want to be able to use. (Unchecking will likely speed up Quicksilver’s performance somewhat, so leave checked those you know you’ll use, or at least try out.) Then, all the way to the right you may notice the Rank column. For me, the Set Comments action was way down the list. Click and drag it (or any of the actions) up or down the list to the Ranking you prefer. This will save you some extra time arrowing to that action later while you’re knee-deep in Quicksilver.

There is a slight niggle to be aware of though. When using Quicksilver to set a Spotlight Comment on a file/folder that’s already got comments, Quicksilver will load those comments and pre select all of them. At first blush this may seem like an annoyance rather than a feature. But if you use this process anything like I do, I update my Spotlight Comments regularly (more on this a bit later), and it’s simple to edit or delete those tags later on. If you want to append the Spotlight Comments, just hit your right arrow and you’ll be at the end of the list, ready to add whatever you want. Just something to be aware of so you don’t delete a comment you wanted to keep.

So now we’ve got some files/folders with unique tags/Spotlight Comments. This is where Quicksilver and Spotlight’s differences are magnified. Spotlight will recognize the changes to Spotlight Comments immediately. Quicksilver does NOT recognize or index Spotlight Comments at all. So now you can invoke Spotlight and grab the file or files with your own tags. You’ll get a short, and specific list as a result from Spotlight. For me – unless I’m looking for a file I just can’t find – that’s much preferred to the multitude of results Spotlight typically returns.

As I mentioned earlier, I tend to update my Spotlight Comments. Why would I do that you ask? I like a clean Desktop. I try to keep it to 5 items or less as I despise the clutter that results from tons of files/folders. So I created a Smart Folder that looks for the Spotlight Comment, “mytask”. That way I’ve got 1 folder where all my currently useful/necessary files are stored. They don’t need to be moved from their natural storage space this way. Very neat and clean. When I’m through with a file, I update its Spotlight Comment and remove the “mytask” tag. Simple, clean, efficient. This starts getting into a lot of other tricks/hacks/processes, but maybe you get an idea of how to start stringing all these fantastic technologies together.

Interestingly, Quicksilver has made Spotlight more useful for me. So many people have been going back and forth about “Spotlight will replace Quicksilver/LaunchBar/Butler” and in my opinion, they couldn’t have been more wrong. Each of these apps has their strengths. I think Quicksilver and Spotlight compliment each other wonderfully; and on a daily basis, each makes the other more powerful for me.

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