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Updates that boost Mac searching and content discovery

Searching for data with Spotlight and the Finder provide Mac users with a capable base set of tools and features such as Spotlight's Smart Folders and the Finder's Quick Look. However, Mac users who really want to find data quickly may be interested in third-party tools that build on Spotlight's technology, several of which were updated recently.
Written by David Morgenstern, Contributor on

Searching for data with Spotlight and the Finder provide Mac users with a capable base set of tools and features such as Spotlight's Smart Folders (folders that show files from around your system without moving the files from their original saved locations) and the Finder's Quick Look (that lets users view the contents of documents without actually opening them in their parent application). However, Mac users who really want to find data quickly may be interested in third-party tools that build on Spotlight's technology, several of which were updated recently.

Managers who have content in prepress and other professional content-creation applications may be interested in Markzware's PageZephyr 2.0 announced last week. The $199 Mac product searches a variety of "uncommon" file types (meaning something other than PDF, .DOC or text). PageZephyr 2.0 can index files from Adobe InDesign versions CS through CS4, Quark QuarkXPress versions 4.0 to 8.x and interestingly, Microsoft Publisher versions 2002 to 2007.

What is very useful about PageZephyr is that it doesn't require you to have the original application to view documents and extract their content. Of course, Microsoft Publisher is a Windows-only app, so its use on the Mac desktop would require a Windows virtualization solution or BootCamp.

Here's a bit from the company's PR:

With PageZephyr 2.0, Markzware is essentially releasing 4 products in one: content searching, content viewing, content extraction and content distribution for these unique file formats. eDiscovery firms trying to find that 'smoking gun,' or companies trying to manage risks while reducing the cost of maintaining content compliance will benefit from PageZephyr 2.0. Companies in various vertical markets having the need to recycle premium content contained in these document types to market their goods or services, especially through the internet, will find PageZephyr 2.0 invaluable.

PageZephyr relies on Mac OS X technology to work, in fact, current Leopard technology. While it will index both local and server volumes, they must be located on systems running Leopard or Snow Leopard; so, it can't index volumes on Windows or Linux machines. This includes the .PUB files. All must be located on Spotlight-enabled Mac OS X 10.5.8 or higher volumes.

In addition, content is exported to text or RTF formats. And there are issues with font substitution when handling Publisher files.

Markzware said that until March 31, customers can use a web-coupon to purchase Version 2.0 for $149.

If you want to search for data stored on Windows volumes, then you should take a look at Group Logic's ExtremeZ-IP AFP server solution. This is Windows-based software and for searching, it lets Network Spotlight connect to Windows Search (the technology formerly known as Windows Desktop Search). To the Mac user, Spotlight returns the search results as if it was from a Mac-based volume. (Of course, you should know what file formats are supported for that search. For example, not all info in PDFs are supported without special plugins.

For those focused on finding the right stuff on our local data, there's Houdah Software's HoudahSpot. Many of the company's products are about search. When I spoke to the founder/programmer Pierre Bernard at Macworld Expo, he was pushing updates to his geotagging software HoudahGeo and a recently released iPhone search app called ACTRocket, which offers shortcuts to searching on various Web search engines such as Google and Yahoo.

HoudahSpot is really what Spotlight should be. It knows all the different criteria that are available to search for, or at times, not, since it lets you also restrict your searches as you drill down towards the right data. You can save your queries as a document, which not only remembers what you wanted to search and where as well as the layout of columns and sort order. And you can preview files with QuickLook.

Version 2.6.x offers Text Preview with highlighting, buttons for Boolean operators and support for Mac OS X services. A newer feature is that the program now remembers which inspectors were open and restores them on launch.

This software has such a spare interface that it's hard to express all the things it can do. I suggest taking a look at the screencast videos that run down the elements of searching and HoudahSpot's interface.

At the same time, most Mac users don't know that Spotlight is extensible. There's a download page that gathers together plugins for all kinds of special file formats, such as cataloging applications, image files and others.

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