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marc (marcn) wrote,
@ 2006-12-15 17:52:00
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    Where are all the Spotlight Comments?

    From the unpublished archives... :)

    We’ve had file comments for eons, and now they’ve graduated to become Spotlight Comments, yet this valuable user information, that adds context to documents, is basically ignored throughout the interface.

    In a classic catch-22 this potentially useful feature goes almost unnoticed by everyday users, and the fault lies with the ‘interface’ -- neither the OS nor third-party applications make anywhere near enough use of this ubiquitous field.

     Of course there is at least one justifiable reason; this meta-data does not survive cross-platform, and of course that also means emailing un-encoded files. 

    I’ve made the simple request, to numerous developers, to expose the Spotlight Comments field within their application where there has been the need to add context to a file. Doing so would enable those comments to be immediately available to every other application on the System.

    It takes little thought to see there are so many areas in which these comments should be available, with some of the most obvious being in Spotlight search results, and in tool-tips for the Spotlight menu. Others include Finder Column View -- if you can show me a rendered thumbnail of the document, show me some text of the document, along with the Spotlight Comments. These comments could (optionally) be shown when hovering over a file in the Finder, in effect by pausing over a particular file the user is gesturing deeper interest in this file.

    Open dialogues are another simple, yet potentially empowering use for this data.

    As for third-party developers, many types of application could make use of this most basic pieces of data; the Document Manager in NisusWriter Express is really just a basic front-end to the ‘Documents’ sub-folder they use to auto-save your files, and it would be both simple and useful to expose the Spotlight Comments in this window.

    Other than managing their own files, applications that interaction with many file-based assets could also clearly make use of this data, Curio being a prime candidate.

    While there is an argument for Curio’s own custom notes within the application, at the very least the Spotlight Comments should be visible in the Asset Library. Better yet, Spotlight Comments should be just as available as ‘Curio notes’, renamed as ‘Project Notes’ to better reflect their actual usage. This would allow the user to see and use system-wide Spotlight Comments at the file level, and maintain a higher level context within Curio itself.

    There’s long been talk of meta-data improving on Mac OS X (and a lot of arguing that it desperately needs to improve!) Perhaps Leopard will better expose Spotlight Comments, and make their use both more reliable and desirable, to both developers and users alike.

    Of course I've banged on about this a few times before.

    ...of course the ever prolific Daniel Wilson had covered Spotlight in his detailed notes on Tiger.



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