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One of the most impressive new features in Mac OS 8.5 is Sherlock. This replacement for Apple's Find File function does much more than just find files. It also lets you search for a word or group of words within documents (see "Take Your Search Offline"). But what is most compelling about Sherlock is the way it works with the Internet: it lets you do searches on multiple sites simultaneously, right from the desktop. All you have to do, once you're online, is select Sherlock's Search Internet tab, enter a search term, and click on the Search button. In a matter of seconds, Sherlock posts results gathered from multiple sites such as AltaVista, Excite, and Apple's Tech Info Library. Click on any item, and Sherlock displays a small portion of the selected Web page's contents. Double-click on an item, and Sherlock opens your Web browser to that page.

Searching the Internet by using Sherlock could hardly be simpler. But there's room for improvement. Here's how to customize Sherlock to make it even more powerful.

Consider the list of sites in Sherlock's Search Sites window as nothing more than a starting point. Just about any Web site that has a search engine, such as Yahoo, can be added to the list. All you need is a plug-in file for the Web site.

There are a lot of plug-ins out there for the taking. Apple offers a dozen or so free plug-ins (find them at ), including one for Apple's own Web site. You can obtain an even wider range of plug-ins from sites such as the Sherlock Internet Search Archives ( ) and the Sherlock Collection ( ). If you can't find a plug-in for a particular site on any of these lists, check the site itself. It may have its own plug-in posted. It's also a good idea to get the updated version of Sherlock in Mac OS 8.5.1 or later. It comes with many more plug-ins than the original version.

If even this doesn't satisfy your craving for plug-ins, you can create your own. You'll be in familiar territory if you already know something about HTML; the language for writing plug-ins uses many of the same conven-tions. An Apple Web page ( ) can help you get started. Alternatively, you might want to follow Gord Lacy's step-by-step tutorial ( ).

To use a new plug-in, simply download it and drag it to your System Folder icon. The next time you use Sherlock, the new site will appear in the list (see "Sherlock's Homes"). As soon as you check a site's check box, it's ready to be searched. (Your Macintosh will put it into the Internet Search Sites folder, inside your System Folder.)

As your list of plug-ins starts to grow, you'll probably become increasingly frustrated with Sherlock's fixed window size. As it ships, Sherlock allows you to view a maximum of six plug-ins at a time. To end this irritation, install the free Moriarty patch ( ), which gives Sherlock an expandable window. After installing the patch, you can view as many plug-ins as can fit on your screen.

Moriarty may be unwilling to patch the new version of Sherlock included with Mac OS 8.5.1. If so, an alternative that works fine with this version of the operating system is an extension known as SherlockWindowSize ( ). It automatically sizes the Sherlock Search Internet window pane, based on the number of search engine plug-ins that you have installed.

Not satisfied that you get a maximum of ten items in the Items Found window when you do a search? No sweat–you can also expand the hit number you get from almost any site to the maximum the site supports. An Apple Tech Info Library file explains how ( ).

Most likely, you won't want all of your plug-ins enabled all the time. For example, there's no point in searching Apple's Tech Info Library to find the lowest price on a car. It's possible that each time you do a search, you'll have to turn on and off the check boxes of different plug-ins. To save time, you can create separate search sets for different occasions so that with one click of the mouse, you switch sets (although you still may have to enable some check boxes). There are several ways to do this:

1. If you have Conflict Catcher 8, choose the Listed by Folder view. Locate the Internet Search Sites folder. You can now create separate sets with plug-ins of your choice.

If the Internet Search Sites folder is missing from the list, go to the Folders portion of the Preferences panel and click on Add. Set the Starting Folder to the System Folder. Click on the Folder button, and select Internet Search Sites.

2. Instead, you can create search sets with some AppleScripts from Apple ( ). You use the scripts in conjunction with OSAMenu, a program included in the AppleScript Extras folder on the Mac OS 8.5 CD.

3. Finally, you can employ a third-party Sherlock set manager. The freeware No Shoot! Sherlock is a popular choice ( ).

Dig a bit deeper, and you'll find some buried treasure among Sherlock's features. For example, suppose you want to save a list of all the URLs in the Items Found window. No problem. Click in the Items Found window, select all (command-A), and then copy (command-C). The URLs for all of the items in the list will be copied to the Clipboard, ready for pasting wherever you wish.

You can also save URLs by dragging items from Sherlock's Items Found window to the Desktop. This creates Internet location files (basically clippings containing the URLs), on which you can double-click to get to the Web sites (see "Desktop Bookmark").

Is there some text in a document that you would like to use as search criteria? If so, simply highlight the text and control-click on it to bring up a contextual menu. Select the item called Search Internet from the menu, and Sherlock will initiate a search using the highlighted text as the search criteria.

You can also use the same search criteria repeatedly by letting Sherlock save the criteria. So, suppose you want to regularly check the Internet for all pages that mention both Mac OS 8.5 and the iMac. Once you set up and perform the initial search, select Save Search Criteria from Sherlock's File menu. This creates a Saved Internet Search File, on which you can double-click to open Sherlock and initiate the search.

One last trick is an easy way to switch between each of Sherlock's three window panes. Rather than click on Sherlock's tabs, it's more convenient to use keyboard shortcuts. Press command-F to go to the Find File pane, command-G to go to the Search by Content pane, and command-H to go to the Search Internet pane.

With Sherlock's Search Internet feature, you are no longer limited to searching your local disks from your desktop. You can now search the entire World Wide Web.

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Occasionally, when you use Sherlock to search the Internet, you'll run into problems. For instance, search results may never appear or you'll get an error message. In the worst case, you'll get a freeze or a crash. When trouble strikes, work your way through this checklist.

1. The Find Preferences file (in the Preferences folder of the System Folder) may be corrupted. Go ahead and trash it. A fresh copy will be created the next time you start your Macintosh.

2. If you've added plug-ins, Sherlock may need more memory. To increase memory, select Get Info for the Sherlock application (it's in the Apple Menu Items folder of the System Folder), select Memory from the pop-up menu, and increase the Preferred Memory size.

3. You may need an updated plug-in. To check, select Update Search Sites from Sherlock's Find menu. Sherlock will search for updated versions of plug-ins and then replace old ones with the new ones it finds. (Some plug-ins will automatically update themselves when you try to use them, if a new version is available.)

4. You may have a corrupted plug-in. To check, disable all but one of your plug-ins. See if the problem disappears. If so, repeat this procedure with a different plug-in each time. When the problem resurfaces, you've identified the culprit. Replace the plug-in with a fresh copy. If that fails and no updated version is available, notify the author of the plug-in about the apparent bug.

5. If you double-click on a URL in Sherlock and nothing happens (no browser launches or you get an error message), it's probably because the Mac is preconfigured to use Microsoft Internet Explorer as the default browser but you don't have Explorer installed. If you're using another browser, such as Netscape Navigator, open the Internet control panel and select the Web tab. From the Default Web Browser pop-up menu, select the desired browser.

6. If you connect to the Web from behind a firewall, especially one that needs user authentication, you may have problems using Sherlock. First, make sure you have defined a Web Proxy server, using the Internet control panel. To define a server, select Advanced User Mode from the control panel's Edit menu. Click on the Advanced tab, and then select the Firewalls icon. Here you will be able to enter the needed Web Proxy server data (obtain the specifications from your network administrator). If Sherlock still doesn't work after you've followed these steps, it may be the fault of a bug in Sherlock 2.0. To fix it, get version 2.0.2 of Sherlock, which comes with Mac OS 8.5.1.

You may have a problem that you don't even know about. If you renamed the original Sherlock file or moved it out of the Apple Menu Items folder and later installed Mac OS 8.5.1, the operating system's Installer probably didn't find Sherlock. That means the new version of Sherlock may not have been installed. To make sure you got the latest version, check Sherlock's Get Info window to see if it says version 2.0.2.

Not only can Sherlock ferret out information on the Internet but it can also do some of its most powerful searching right where it sits–on your hard disk. This reinvigorated Find File program lets you search for words inside your documents (using its Find By Content feature). For instance, you can find all occurrences of the phrase in the future in any document. Here's how to make sure these searches are as fast as they can be.

Create an Index Doing a search for words inside documents is amazingly fast if you've allowed your Mac to compile its own card catalog (an invisible file in your System Folder called TheFindByContentIndex) of every word in every document. You do that by clicking on Index Volumes (in the Find By Content area), then your hard disk's name, and then the Create Index (or Update Index) button.

Index in Absentia Unfortunately, the indexing process can take hours. Fortunately, you can use the Schedule button to make the dirty work of indexing (and reindexing, to keep the index file current) take place when you're not around–for example, overnight. (In the Find By Content window, click on the Index Volumes button, and then click on the Schedule button.)

Time It Right If you would rather not leave your Mac on all night to do indexing, you can try another technique: use the Preferences command's system-responsiveness slider to give you the right balance between working on your Mac and creating an index. If you move the slider to the left, Sherlock runs in the background, letting you continue to work on the Mac. This means indexing will proceed slowly, however. If indexing speed is of the essence, move the slider all the way to the right (but don't expect to work on the Mac during indexing).

Don't Overdo You can speed the indexing process in yet another way, using the Don't Index Items With This Label check box (in Sherlock's Preferences window). Before indexing, use the Finder's Preferences command to define a special label. For example, you could create a label called Don't Index. Then go on a folder-labeling spree. Apply the Don't Index label to your System Folder, the folders that contain your applications, and all other folders that contain no documents or e-mail. Then, return to the Sherlock program, check the Don't Index Items check box, and specify the Don't Index label (see "Keys to Speed"). You'll be astounded at how much faster the indexing goes.–david pogue

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