Having switched to Linux Mint as my primary OS, one of the few things that makes me miss Windows are the built-in search capabilities.

In Windows, I can simply hit the "super" key and immediately enter search terms in the start menu. The search results may include the names of many PDFs, spreadsheets, text files, etc., if I have told Windows to index these files. Note that the search includes the text inside the files. If I want a little more information, a few intuitive keystrokes will get me to a file explorer with a longer list of filenames, including full paths and a few matches in context. From there I can, again very intuitively, refine my search with different keywords or by searching specific folders only. Overall, Windows does most of what I want here, and more or less out of the box.

Is it possible to achieve this kind functionality in Linux with existing tools? My impression is that it is not. Google Desktop is dead, other tools either don't index or only look at file names, etc... but any contrary suggestions are welcome.


The main solution I have found so far is to use Launchy as my primary tool, and Tracker as a second step when needed.


Good because it launches quickly with CTRL+ALT+Space, shows results quickly, and will index the paths and filenames of many files (Gnome DO is limited to 5000).

Bad because it 1) indexes filenames and paths only, not the contents of the files, 2) requires frequent system restarts due to all kinds of apparent bugs no matter which version I install

Desktop Search (tracker-needle):

Good because it indexes file contents for many kinds of files. It seems far more reliable all around then the alternatives I tried (recoll, DocFetcher, etc.).

Bad because its a separate program and therefore takes a few extra steps to get. In general I'm not so happy with the interface either.

Other issues:

Neither of these programs is integrated with Nemo (or Nautilus on other gnome systems). Nemo's search function does not include the file contents and is extremely slow (apparently because it is not indexed, although specific search results can be saved).

I have also tried various command line tools (mostly find, grep and pdfgrep), but even if I take the time to learn how they work, they are not really designed to do anything like what I am looking for. I imagine there must be some way to create indexes for them but they are absurdly slow for the kind of broad searches I am trying to do.

  • These days I am using Synapse rather than Launchy. It's not as buggy as Launchy, but it similarly lacks the ability to search the text inside the files.
    – Brian Z
    Dec 14 '14 at 15:38

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