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,, 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.



Hey… Somehow I cannot find how to set an hotkey in Quicksilver, e.g. for label red. I can select a file, open QS, actions label, color red. But how would I assign a hotkey, can anybody help, pleeeease? Thanks :)


For me, Spotlight Comments represent a way to tag my files a la Flickr,, etc. This is immensely more useful for me than the default full text indexing that Spotlight offers…

how do you get flickr to recognize your spotlight comments???


I used to use Spotlight all the time and could never get into Quicksilver. It wasn’t until I read some of the tutorials that I realised what was possible in Quicksilver. I now have some nice little hot-keys set up. The ones that are particularly useful are the folders I open regularly.

Plus the iTunes control means I can get rid of SizzlingKeys.


Again me: For those having problems finding the “set comment”-Action: You need to have the plugin “file attributes” installed and actived.


You can even be quicker by select the file in finder and press CTRL+ESC – and there should be the file seleced in QS.


If you have enabled the proxy objects plugin, then there should be a built-in trigger for “Command window with Selection” – just set a hotkey (I use command-esc.)

This saves you the trouble of invoking qs and then hitting command-g. Just hit command-esc (which invokes qs with your selection in the first pane, and automatically selects the second pane so you can type your action), type sc (you may set this as default for set comments), tab, then your comment.

More efficient.

There is also a specific tagging plug-in now, which will allow you to set, view and delete tags for files. Unlike “set comment”, each tag is preceeded by a “@”, and can be manipulated individually.

Stephen WG Sullivan

I wanted to add that the quickest way I know to Set Comments for the contents of an entire folder, is to select all of those files inside the folder before going to quicksilver, then command-g in QS, then Set Comments.

The other option would be using “the comma trick” in Quicksilver to select multiple files, but depending on how many files are in the folder, this may not be a practical solution.


a google search brought me here and i just thought i’d add: rather than keying down to the “set comments” function (or any other function) you can just type “set comments.” makes my life easier, at least.


Noah, you would have to write an Automator-Script or just a plain AppleScript that recursively does tagging on all files in a folder and then call that from QuickSilver.

Personally I have just killed Spotlight as I was no longer able to play iTunes without getting stutters because mds was indexing my drive, again, and sucking all processor power out of my ibook. sucks definitely.

Jamie Kirkpatrick

It seems that many of us are hot on this buzz (personally I saw the light following my read of the mamoth 20 page Tiger review on Ars)…

Anyway…this seems like a really good idea. Whilst I can code in Cocoa, this isn’t as easy as all that since contextual menu plugins are not availble from any Cocoa API and you have to resort to some rather antiquated Carbon code. If any one is up for the challenge I will gladly lend a hand; Perhaps we could also talk to the QS developers and see if they are interested in making a module (rather than a plugin) that can do this stuff?


after doing this today with all the files i accumulated today, i let iphoto and itunes import the ones which were relavant. unfortunately i realized that all of my tags had been stripped upon importing.

I was able to go into the respective folders and replace the imported files with the originals, but it was a bummer none the less.

cheers for the tips!

Nick Santilli

Noah, good question. I don’t know how you’d do that, but I’ll see if I can figure something out for ya.


Is there a way to have Quicksilver recusively update files? I love your idea, but when I select a folder and try and apply a comment it only gets set on the folder not the contents… am I missing a command to do this?

Jamie Kirkpatrick

If only Apple wwould build on the new xattr stuff and make metadata a real part of the OS (giving a very easy way to add and change this data)…

Alas, in the meantime this is a good compromise. Someone ought to design a QS plugin that addresses this specifically though – something a bit more tailored to the task as a stop-gap till Apple (hopefuly) get there…

for now I’ll go with your find though….great work!

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