Super User is a question and answer site for computer enthusiasts and power users. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

I do understand that the point of Spotlight is to look inside files, but it also returns file name matches, and that's what I need most of the time. Besides, Spotlight is running so absurdly slow on my system (Snow Leopard on the iMac '08), it's just unusable. I downloaded Canary and Spotlight wasn't able to find the app file for 15 minutes. It was already in the download stack, but as far as Spotlight goes, the file doesn't exist.

Hence, I would like to know of a way to make Spotlight only index the file names, which would perhaps make it a bit faster. I'm looking at mimicking the behaviour of Windows applications such as AvaFind or Search Everything

Edit: Let me highlight the fact that I am looking for an AvaFind or Search Everything replacement for Mac OS X. Go try one of these on a Windows machine and you'll understand my disappointment with Spotlight or any other popular search tools in OS X.

share|improve this question
up vote 6 down vote accepted

As far as I know, Spotlight is hardcoded to work this way. Most people in your situation simply disable spotlight, and use an alternative, like EasyFind.

If this is too drastic, you may want to clear out Spotlight's .Spotlight-V100 file at the root of your drive to force reindexing. Once reindexed, you might see better performance (and you might not).

share|improve this answer
F***! EasyFind is exactly what I needed! Well, I'd have liked find-as-you-type, but when did hitting Return once hurt anyone? Thank you so much! – aalaap Sep 2 '09 at 13:05
always glad to help. :) – jweede Sep 2 '09 at 13:08
I've been using EasyFind for a few days now. While it does deliver results faster than Spotlight, it's still slow for the kind of results I'm expecting. Still, it's free, so... – aalaap Sep 6 '09 at 4:56

There is also the command locate, which is already installed.

From the locate man page:

    The locate program searches a database for all pathnames which match the
     specified pattern.  The database is recomputed periodically (usually
     weekly or daily), and contains the pathnames of all files which are pub-
     licly accessible.
share|improve this answer
Note that, by default - at least on earlier releases of Mac OS X - the command to update the locate(1) databases only runs once a week and excludes some directories. – jrg Sep 5 '09 at 23:27
I didn't spend $1000 on an iMac with Mac OS X to open a Terminal window and run UNIX commands! :-P I always prefer using Locate when I'm in Ubuntu (on a crappy old laptop and on my PS3), but when in OS X, the standards are a bit high :-) – aalaap Sep 6 '09 at 4:57
@aalaap Whatever. (Actually, $1000 for a Unix workstation with the power of an iMac is a steal. But I understand, you don't want to type.) – Richard Hoskins Sep 6 '09 at 5:05
aalaap: No, you spend $1000 on an iMac that searches your files contents AND filenames in seconds. – Josh Hunt Sep 6 '09 at 5:10

Actually, you just need to use an alternate interface to Spotlight. HoudahSpot allows you to search by any criteria of your liking. E.g. search by file name only.

share|improve this answer

Just type name: Your search string in spotlight, that'll be it. Check out this article guys, Power Search using Spotlight

share|improve this answer

I would highly recommend switching to Quicksilver or Alfred. Both are free. Quicksilver is still in beta, but don't let that scare you off; I've had virtually no problems at all. The only time I did have a problem was when I had a lot of applications open, and QS froze. I still keep Spotlight just in case QS freezes again. Hope this helps!

share|improve this answer
+1 for Alfred.. – Andrew Lazarus Sep 21 '11 at 18:23

Rather than using spotlight, do your search in the upper right hand corner of a finder window. That'll search only file names.

share|improve this answer
That too defaults to searching contents, but even after switching to just file names, it's still too darn slow! – aalaap Sep 6 '09 at 4:51

Since this is already off the announced topic, you should try Google Desktop or quick search box, depending on your OSX version. It's been a good alternative to search for files on desktops for a long time already, including linux and specially on Windows.

share|improve this answer

I use Google QSB, HoudahSpot, Quicksilver, EasyFind & every other search app and spotlight GUI available. Still none of them come close to AvaFind or Search Everything. I use both OSX & XP/7 daily, but the horrendous search capabilities (or lack thereof) in OSX make it real a deal-breaker for me. Even OS7's find was much faster and more relevant. I always ask other OSX users "how do you find files quickly?", and they almost always shrug their shoulders. Seems like everyone hates Spotlight, unless you like getting dictionary definitions in place of a file's location. Is there a GUI front end for the locate command and does it work as quickly as Search Everything or AvaFind?

share|improve this answer

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .