Spotlight searches and file management on steroids with HoudahSpot 5 for macOS 10.14
Mac users who thought the Spotlight search features that are readily available in the Finder are all there is to it, are wrong. HoudahSpot is a ﬁle search utility that builds upon the existing Spotlight engine but allows for vastly more options to search through your files. I used to search for files that are difficult to find – e.g. invisible ones – with Path Finder’s old-style search feature, but HoudahSpot 5 can make that a thing of the past. In addition, HoudahSpot 5 lets me do certain things with my files I can’t do quickly any other way.
Let me start with what you can do with files that you can’t easily do with the Finder from folders or a search. Using HoudahSpot, you can move – copying and creating an alias will work too – multiple files that live in different folders to another folder on your system. Only Path Finder lets you do that too, but it takes far more time for that app to come up with the search results.
Version 5 of HoudahSpot brings a lot of improvements. For example, you can personalise the default search setup or create custom templates, including the way windows are set up, the search criteria, locations, and the results display. New also is that you can make incremental adjustments to the default setup.
HoudahSpot 5 adds support for dark mode, Touch Bar, Finder extensions, and Quick Actions. My personal favourite is the Folding Text Preview. Once you’ve found files that contain your search text, the Fold button shows you only those parts of the file where the term appears.
You can arrange search results in groups by kind, date, file size, or application. Especially the latter is quite useful. I grouped my files by whether they have been written with the Ulysses editor or Apple’s Pages. Also, when you add a search criterion that is not a usual one, like ISO speed, the results list will automatically make a column available for ISO speed (although that won’t be visible until you right-click on the column headers and select it).
There’s a Compact mode that shrinks and slides the whole HoudahSpot window out of the way for when you want to drag a file from HoudahSpot into another app. In Grid view, you can have two extra lines of useful information below the icons. For Mail messages, for example, these show the email parties’ names, which I found both surprising and useful.
To tag files quickly, you can give them keyboard shortcuts. HoudahSpot’s list of favourite tags, however, is separate from the Finder’s. In HoudahSpot, you can set up as many favourite tags as you want. The first seven will be available as “colour dots” in the context menu on files. Once you input the name of a tag, HoudahSpot asks the Finder for the associated label colour. When these two – the name and the colour – don’t match in HoudahSpot, the colour dot stays grey.
The list of favourite tags is used to populate the sidebar and auto-completion menus where tags can be entered. With the option to “list favourite tags first”, these will appear at the top of the combo box for Tags in the Refine pane.
The best part of HoudahSpot, however, is that it allows you to save searches into templates and to have multiple searches open (in tabs), all running simultaneously.
So, if you find yourself searching for the same type of files over and over again, HoudahSpot 5 is much more efficient than any other search utility I know. It does general file search like no other and delivers a healthy dose of additional functionality by integrating some file management features like copying, moving and renaming.
In short, HoudahSpot 5 should be permanently running on your system, ready to work for you whenever you need it. It costs €38 for a single licence.