It's apparently plug-in week here at Mac Gems headquarters, as I show you ways to extend Mac OS X's built-in features using useful add-ons. On Tuesday I covered several plug-ins for Leopard's Quick Look feature; today I focus on an addition to Spotlight.
One of the ways I free up space on my hard drive is by compressing older files that I don't use frequently but I want to keep around; for example, I've got plenty of old Macworld projects that I keep handy just in case I need to refer back to them. I do this using the Finder's zip-compression feature. But this practice presents a dilemma: when I need to use an older article or image, I generally turn to Spotlight to find it, but Spotlight can't search within zip archives.
Bartas Technologies' Ziplight 1.2 ( ; free) helps Spotlight overcome this limitation—at least partially. To install Ziplight, you just drag the plug-in to ~/Library/Spotlight to add its functionality to only your own account, or to /Library/Spotlight to enhance all accounts on your Mac. Once you've logged out and then back in, and given Spotlight time to update its index, Spotlight searches will include the names of files hidden inside zip archives.
For example, in the screenshot to the right, I've entered the search term "oddly-named file"; on my hard drive, this file exists only inside a zip archive. Spotlight instantly found the file, even though the file's name is different from the archive's name.
You may have noticed my comment, above, that Ziplight only partially overcomes Spotlight's zip-archive limitation. Unfortunately, even with Ziplight installed, Spotlight can't search the contents of the files inside a zip archive; for example, the text inside a Word document. According to the developer, doing this "would require [Spotlight] to unzip every archive on your system" In other words, Ziplight lets Spotlight search only the names of the files within an archive.
Despite this limitation, I find Ziplight to be quite useful. Combined with BetterZip Quick Look Generator, which lets me use Quick Look to peek inside zip archives, it means I no longer have to expand archives to see if a file I'm looking for is hidden inside.
Ziplight 1.2 requires Mac OS X 10.4 (Tiger) or later.