Help find "lost" apps

7 March 2013, 09:00

App developers often title their apps in strange ways, and this can make it easy to forget the names of those you don’t use frequently. For example, can you tell what the following apps do based on their names alone?

  • Nocturn
  • GrandPerspective
  • Calibre
  • ForkLift

All these apps find semi-regular use on my Mac, and at various times I’ve found myself painstakingly searching through the long list of apps to find them. Here’s what they do:

A solution to “losing” an app by forgetting its name is to add keywords to the Spotlight Comments field of the Info dialog box that appears when you select the app and hit Cmd+I.

This will let you enter the keyword as a search term in Spotlight in order to locate the app, just like you’d find anything else. For example, for Calibre I might enter “ebook, convert, kindle”. Then when I use the Spotlight search the app should appear in the list of results when I type ebook.

Alas, it doesn’t work very well — if I search for ebook using Spotlight, for example, I’m likely to see lots of other results before I see the one for the Calibre. In fact, there might be so many other results that Spotlight doesn’t even show Calibre in its list of results unless I click to open the results in a Finder window. This is because Spotlight comments rank low in importance, and there’s no way of easily changing this.

However, one fix is to add an additional standard keyword to the Spotlight comments field — something like “whereis”. In other words, for the example used above of Calibre, I’d add the following to the Spotlight Comments field of its File Info window:

whereis, ebook, convert, kindle

(Note that it’s good practice to separate keywords by commas, as above.)

From now on when I search using Spotlight for an app whose name I can’t remember, I just type whereis, followed by whatever descriptive word I can think of — in the case of Calibre, I might type something like whereis ebook. Calibre will be at the top of the Spotlight search results list.

The same standard keyword can be used for all apps. For GrandPerspective, as mentioned earlier, I could enter the following in to the Spotlight Keyword field:

whereis, disk, space, free, volume, usage, files

Not only can you enter descriptive words in the Spotlight field, but you can also enter the names of other apps you might have used in the past. For example, although I now use ForkLift to SFTP files, in the past I used CyberDuck and Fetch. Invariably, these leap into my mind whenever I’m trying to remember the name of ForkLift! Therefore, I added both of these to ForkLift’s Spotlight Comments field.

Note that my Mac kept wanting to autocorrect “whereis” to “whereas”. The solution was to type it again, and choose to add it to the system dictionary in the usual way by right-clicking it and selecting Learn Spelling.

Know better?