Make Spotlight find your kind of files
Spotlight is a great feature in Leopard, one that I use every day. My primary use up until lately has been to launch applications with it; if I don't see the application I want in the Dock bar I simply hit Command-Space and type in the first few letters of the application. Since applications are pushed to the top I can often just hit Return and my application is loading up. Even if the application is in the Dock bar sometimes I'll use Spotlight because it's so quick.
I was working through a fantastic article from Kirk McElhearn in Macworld about finding files fast. He has a bunch of tips on how to make the most of both Spotlight and Finder. It's an excellent read and I highly recommend it.
With a plethora of tips available I realized that I really would not incorporate all of them into my daily usage. There was one tip however that jumped out at me as very helpful.
Using kind: in the search to find that pesky PDF file
Spotlight searches for a great many things; applications, documents, bookmarks, etc. This is both good and bad. Good in that it can find anything, bad in that it shows nearly everything. If you know that you want to find a specific class of file you can specify it using the "kind:" keyword.
As an example I have a PDF file that I've been referencing on and off lately. I don't want to throw it on my desktop and see it every day though, nor do I want to hunt for it in the Finder. Now I simply type "kind:pdf bgc" and the PDF file for the Boys and Girls Club that I need is right there.
Finding that web site I visited a couple days ago
Another example is when I try to look for a site that I visited recently. I want to scan through my bookmarks history but given the volume of bookmarks that can take time. I was reading a great tutorial on building Ruby on Rails applications but could not remember the title or author's name and I didn't bother to bookmark it at the time. When did I visit that site? Two, three, four days ago? Scanning through my history just took too long.
By firing up Spotlight and entering "kind:history tutorial rails" the page I was looking for was in position 5 on the list. Without the "kind:history" filter I would never have seen it just typing "tutorial rails" into Spotlight. That alone is a huge time saver for me.
There are lots of different kind keywords that you can use. The ones I find valuable are bookmark, history, pdf, email and todo. You can get a complete list from Kirk's article.
Keeping Spotlight current
I mentioned before that Spotlight's index can become corrupt and gave a tip on how to fix it. If I had to pick out a single thing that will drive me away from using Spotlight it's that occasionally files cannot be found in the index and it needs to be rebuilt. Apple really needs to understand why this happens and fix it. I've thought about putting the reindex command into my nightly script but that likely won't help the problem since I don't know what action is corrupting the index in the first place.
On second thought, one thing I have noticed is that my index has become corrupt on my MacBook several times, yet my Mac Pro has not had that issue yet. I wonder if there's a correlation between putting the MacBook to sleep (closing the lid) and reopening it just a few seconds later while it's still writing the disk image? Hell, I'm not sure what could be causing it but something needs to be done by Apple about it.
Maybe it's time I give Quicksilver a second look.