Searching your Mac is pretty much a universal task—everyone will eventually need to find a file. Indeed, many people search for files often enough that making file-finding easier, faster, or more accurate is a good way for a utility to earn the Mac Gems badge—witness Tembo, EasyFind, MoRU, NotLight, HoudahSpot, and TorchFS. (The number of search-related Gems is also a reflection of the disappointing state of OS X’s built-in search interface.)
My latest file-searching find, if you’ll pardon the pun, is Find Any File (Mac App Store link). If Tembo is a throwback to the search-results interface of Tiger (Mac OS X 10.4), Find Any File will remind many users of the Find interface of the “classic” Mac OS.
Launch Find Any File, and it presents you with a small, simple window for initiating your search. First you choose the location you want to search; your options include all mounted volumes, all local disks, just server volumes, any specific volume, or a specific folder you choose. (I’d like to see the Documents folder as a preset, as well.)
Below the location pop-up is where you enter your search criteria. By default, you get a single search option, set to Name Contains yoursearchterm. But you can modify this item, and you can add as many additional search criteria as you like by clicking More Choices. Your options for searching include name, modification date, creation date, size, item type (is or is not a folder, is or is not an alias), file-type code, and creator code.
Unlike Tembo, Find Any File doesn’t use OS X’s Spotlight indexes for searching; rather, it uses the file system’s search features. The advantage to this approach is that Find Any File can be faster than Spotlight for finding some files, and Find Any File can find files Spotlight doesn’t index—more on that in a moment. The downside is that Find Any File doesn’t search the contents of files.
Click Find, and in a few seconds Find Any File presents its results window. The default window displays a simple list of found items along with each item’s kind, modification date, and (for files) size. Select an item and you can view, at the bottom of the window, the folder hierarchy leading to the selected item.
But the more useful listing, in my opinion, is hierarchical (Tree) view. Switch to this view, and Find Any File lists each file within its folder hierarchy, letting you see, at a glance, where each found file resides.
In either view, you can select an item and press Spacebar to view a Quick Look preview of the item; you can also open the item, reveal it in the Finder, get info on it, or delete it (by either moving it to the Trash or deleting it immediately). The full path to the selected file appears at the bottom of the window; right-click (or Control-click) the path to copy it—in Unix or Mac format—to the Clipboard. If you enable Tooltips (View -> Show Tooltips), hovering your cursor over an item displays additional information, including creating date, file ownership and permissions, and type and creator codes.
Both views also provide options to show hidden files and to show package contents (the latter, when enabled, displays items found inside Mac OS X packages). A nice touch here is that Find Any File explicitly tells you how many hidden items were found: In the top-right corner of the results window is a count of items in the results window; if you see # not shown, you’ll need to enable one or both of the Show options to see everything.
Another useful feature is the capability to run with root privileges. Before starting a search, hold down the Option key, and the Find button becomes Find All. Click it, and enter your admin-level username and password when prompted, and Find Any File will be able to find system files and other restricted items Spotlight doesn’t even index. (Note that searching with root privileges won’t affect searches of network volumes.)
You can also save your searches as Find Any File documents. Double-click one of these saved searches, and Find Any File immediately runs the search again—a useful feature for queries you perform frequently. I also like that each time you search, Find Any File opens a new search-results window—it’s handy to be able to keep multiple results windows open at the same time. (However, the name of each window is based on the originating search’s first criterion; this means that if multiple searches use the same first criterion, there’s no way to determine which window belongs to which search.)
One glitch I did experience is that if you choose a specific folder to search, and you later want to search a different folder, there’s no obvious way to choose another custom search location. The trick is to first switch the location to one of the stock locations and then switch back to the custom-folder item, which will bring up the dialog to choose a new folder. But here’s a tip: You can just drag the desired search folder onto the location pop-up menu.
The biggest drawback of Find Any File is, of course, that it doesn’t search inside files. If you want to avoid Spotlight, the free EasyFind can search contents and provides a few additional options compared to Find Any File—although I much prefer Find Any File’s search-results display. I keep both utilities on hand, and I use them both regularly.
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