An open laptop computer sitting on top of a wooden table

I recently reviewed a Mac OS X search tool called EasyFind that, although it worked, was not quite what I was looking for. While EasyFind attempted to be a metadata search tool that didn’t need to index files first (which ended up meaning that although it saves setup time and hard drive space by not indexing, the actual searching takes a lot longer than with Spotlight, for instance), I ended up not really liking it all that much.

Recently, however, I found a search tool for Mac OSX called SpotInside. Not so much a search tool by itself (as it uses Spotlight’s search index and comes up with the exact same search results as Spotlight), SpotInside, as the name indicates, allows you, while searching, to actually look “inside” the search results to see if a particular document is what you’re looking for.

Using SpotInside is pretty much like using a standard search tool. You start it up, tell it where to search (it searches your entire computer by default, but if you want lightning-fast results, you can only have it search a particular folder), and what to search for. Almost instantly (as it’s using Spotlight’s index to find results), it spits out the files it’s found. The list isn’t categorized at all (and in fact you can’t even tell what type of documents you’re looking at, except by browsing the file name extensions), but you can see where the files are located on the hard drive, what they’re named, how large they are, and their creation/modificaion dates.

If that’s where SpotInside ended, it wouldn’t be worth the download time, in my mind, but SpotInside does a whole lot more. The best feature is, as mentioned, the ability to look inside the files. To do this, just highlight a file and suddenly the bottom panel of the SpotInside windows comes to live. This is the text of the file you’ve highlighted, with every instance of the search term highlighted. In the example screen shot, you can see that I’ve highlighted a HTML file, which came up during a search for the name “Warren.” Each instance of Warren is highlighted in green in the image. In this way, I can see right away whether or not the file I found is the one I really want.

As mentioned, SpotInside lets you refine your search, not just to the whole hard drive, but to specific folders on the computer. To do this, simply drag the folder into the left pane of the main search window. That folder (or whatever you dragged in… partition, external hard drive… whatever), will now appear. To search just that folder, all you need to do is highlight it, and SpotInside will search through it, just as if it was searching through your hard drive. This is definitely a nice feature, since if I’m searching for a word processing document, I don’t really care what results came up that are located in my Music or Photo collections.

Finally, you can refine your searches (if using Leopard, Apple’s recently-released update to OS X), by using AND/OR/NOT strings. To do this, simply connect search terms with AND, OR, or NOT (must be capitalized), like this:

party AND animal

This would bring up searches where both party and animal were returned, but not results in which both search terms were not present.

Another feature is the ability to use Apple’s built-in Smart Folders. It’s unable, unfortunately, to create these smart folders, but if you go to the Finder and create one, you simply need to drag it into the same left pane of the search window, and SpotIndex can use it.

Overall, I’m pretty happy with how SpotInside works. Since it’s based on Spotlight, I know the search results are going to be good. And it gives me more options than Spotlight, which means I’m more likely to return to it than I am to delete it from my hard drive. And it’s completely free, which means that I’m more likely to overlook any deficiencies, since I’m not paying for it. Overall… a winner. If you’d like to try it out, head over to it’s home page and give it a try. You may just have found what you’ve been looking for