Wednesday, October 27, 2004

LaunchBar interview -- a great piece of OS X software From NEXTSTEP to Now: An Interview with LaunchBar's Norbert Heger

I adore LaunchBar. I really miss it when I suffer with my XP machines. It wasn't until I read this article, however, that I realized it's supposed to index my folder names. I'd never bothered to use it beyond its basic program launcher capabilities.

Turns out it was indexing my folder names -- but the data was lost in the noise of indexed address book entries, bookmarks, file names, etc. Fortunately I've had lots of experience with indexing software over the last few months (mostly on XP -- Lookout and several others). From that experience I've learned:

1. Full text indexing of email works great. In fact, the easiest way to locate a file on my work machine is to find it as an attachment, identify the file name, and then find the current version in my file system. Why does email indexing work better than full text indexing of the file system? In a word ... metadata. Email has tons of metadata -- people's names, all kinds of dates, surrounding text, subject lines, file names, etc. Way better than any currently popular file system, and all "free".

2. Full text indexing of the file system isn't as useful as I'd have thought. Too much noise.

3. Full text indexing of folder names is VERY useful -- especially as one learns to create descriptive folder names. They provide a sort of enclosing metadata. (Yes, categories as in gmail work as well or better, but folder names are what one gets nowadays.)

4. I don't use bookmarks very much. I use them for a few frequent things, otherwise I search Google and/or my blogs. (I want a searchbar that integrates google search with searching my blogs and bloglines subscriptions.)

So I applied that knowledge to launchbar:

1. index all application names
2. index names of folders
3. ignore most everything else.

What do you know ... it's twice as useful as it was! Just by doing less -- and more.

LaunchBar's configuration UI, btw, could use a bit of work.

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