I still fail to put into words how insanely great this Tiger feature will be, and to some lucky developers, already is. Here's yet another feeble attempt.
Apple's Spotlight technology will revolutionize the way we interact with data on our computers. No-longer will be required to scour our hard drives for some obscure file deeply nested in a clumsy folder hierarchy, or perform lengthy "file search" operations in a brute-force approach. No-longer will be forced to constantly reevaluate our folder hierarchies to "keep things organized" and "easy to find".
Apple will be allowing users to type what they're looking for in a box and watch results appear instantly, at each keystroke. In other words, you are now offered the ability to access information on your computer, based on what little you already know about it:
Upon initial installation, Spotlight will index the data on the entire hard drive. Once this initial lengthy process has been performed, any new piece of information that gets subsequently stored on the computer is automatically indexed in real-time, and instantly available via Spotlight. No-longer are we "searching". We're accessing. Right-away.
SearchAll Your Stuff
Conveniently appearing in Tiger’s menu bar, a powerful new search field called Spotlight gives lightning-fast search results encompassing not only files, folders and documents but also messages in Mail, contacts in Address Book and iCal calendars. It’s as easy as searching for songs in iTunes, but Spotlight searches your entire personal computer
Apple will be shipping Spotlight with support for many existing file types (bottom of the page). Apple seeded Tiger to developers this summer at WWDC, exhorting them to write their own Spotlight plug-ins for their applications to dramatically improve user experience. By the time Tiger ships to the public in "the first half of 2005", I would expect many application developers to release their own Spotlight plug-ins at roughly the same time.
Does your Application offer a Spotlight plug-in? Rumor has it that Quicksilver, one of a few pioneers in this "instant" access field, will require Tiger in its final version. Tiger and Spotlight should allow these products to no-longer perform their own background indexing and focus on presenting and correlating information in compelling user-interfaces. They're also a boon to those of us who don't yet run Tiger.
While I attended SIGGRAPH, I saw at least one software vendor that offered a similar third-party solution for Windows, it created a custom Windows "drive" with a custom highly-optimized file system where things would get re-indexed in real time upon saving new files. I can't for the life of me remember their name, I need to look back through the fliers I got. Hopefully the Scobleizer, can point me in the right direction. There's X1.com. There's the Desktop Google Search. While awesome solutions, just like Quicksilver, they still need to somewhat rely on periodic background indexing since they can't yet be integrated with the Windows file system at a low-level. From what little I can tell, results can never be as "fresh" or "instantaneous" as what Spotlight offers through its integration with Apple's file system.