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kewms
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Mon May 06, 2019 12:45 am Post

I'm intrigued by the mentions of HoudahSpot on this thread. I've looked at it before, but it seemed to be just a prettier interface on top of Spotlight. Given the number of smart people who swear by it, what am I missing?

Katherine
Scrivener Support Team

Da
David G.
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Mon May 06, 2019 4:00 am Post

kewms wrote:I'm intrigued by the mentions of HoudahSpot on this thread. I've looked at it before, but it seemed to be just a prettier interface on top of Spotlight. Given the number of smart people who swear by it, what am I missing?

Katherine

HoudahSpot is a very useful tool. It allows a deep menu of criterion to search by, as well as a full ability to focus on specific folders, drives, and to exclude specific folders and drives. I use this when I am trying to remember which files to keep and which ones to delete. For example, I can exclude the folder that is supposed to have the correct files in it. Every other version I can either drag in and say yes to replace, or deal with in some other way.

Yes, you can do a lot in Finder if you are comfortable writing in code for advanced searches. I personally do not like to write code to do what I want done. HoudahSpot makes it easy. It is quite robust. And, last but certainly not least, is that you can save searches as a template.

What this means in HoudahSpot, is that a saved template search will appear in the left column which is similar to Scriveners Binder area. What I have done is to have sections with dedicated searches in them. I have one for PDFs I added in the last 24 hours. I have one for image files added in the last month.

I have a folder for anything created by my various apps so for example, if I am having trouble remembering what I did with a file but, I can remember it was something I probably did in Scrivener, I can click on the Scrivener saved search and I get a list of all the files made by Scrivener. I have an app specific search for all my different high use apps.

I have a folder for when I am done with my day and I want to relax with a movie. I have searches saved that point to my external movie disk and then I have a separate saved search for all my action movies, comedy, documentaries, etc.

One other thing that may come in handy with HoudahSpot, I can export a saved search as a stand alone file. This can be useful when you have a folder with all the things that you are working on for a project. You can build a custom search using any and all criterion you might want to see in a search in HoudahSpot, similar tags, etc. Then you export that search as a stand alone file and you place it in your project folder. When you are in your project folder and you launch that stand alone search file, it opens HoudahSpot with that saved search running with all your project’s collected documents.

I tried DevonThink. With DevonThink I have to continue to remember to update its indexing system in order to find files. With HoudahSpot it makes better sense to be able to search in real time for a file that I am looking for. HoudahSpot finds files, easily and with a great many power options that you don't need to understand code to apply. Short answer, HoudahSpot is very powerful and at the same time, very easy to use.

PS: You can search for so many criterion. One method is to search for any text containing "whatever you are looking for". I just tested this in a Scrivener document by putting a unique, made up word in a Scrivener document. Then I had HoudahSpot search for any text containing that made up word, et voila, the Scrivener file was found by HoudahSpot.

You can use boolean searches as well as in,
ALL:
any text contains “a red house”
any text contains “the river”
any text contains “a cloudy day”
date modified was after (a date)

You can also search by filename, type of file, date modified, date created and so much more.

mb
mbbntu
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Mon May 06, 2019 8:21 am Post

kewms wrote:I'm intrigued by the mentions of HoudahSpot on this thread. I've looked at it before, but it seemed to be just a prettier interface on top of Spotlight. Given the number of smart people who swear by it, what am I missing?

Katherine

Brett Terpstra must be one of the geekiest people on the internet (I hope he won't mind me saying that -- the person who created nvALT is worthy of admiration) and if he says he finds HoudahSpot useful, I don't think it is because it is merely prettier (see https://brettterpstra.com/2019/04/04/houdahspot-5-dot-0/). He is the kind of person who cheerfully issues commands in Terminal, so HoudahSpot must be doing something extra for him.

For me, HoudahSpot presents the search results much better than Spotlight alone, which helps me. And now that DEVONthink has a new update (v 3) which means money out of the door, and what I am doing is changing subtly, I'm beginning to question whether I need DEVONthink any more if I can find things using HoudahSpot. DEVONthink has been a fixture in my life for many years, but I never exploited all its capabilities. I may upgrade DEVONthink anyway, but I am going to experiment and see if HoudahSpot is good enough for me now. The one thing I might miss is replicants, but I begin to feel they are not necessary with tagging and smart folders, so that a single file can "appear" in many different places. We'll see.
You should judge people not by how close they get to the top, but by how far they have come from the bottom. Some people have a mountain to climb just to get to the place where others start out. (Me, 2010)

Da
David G.
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Mon May 06, 2019 12:40 pm Post

mbbntu wrote:For me, HoudahSpot presents the search results much better than Spotlight alone, which helps me. And now that DEVONthink has a new update (v 3) which means money out of the door, and what I am doing is changing subtly, I'm beginning to question whether I need DEVONthink any more if I can find things using HoudahSpot. DEVONthink has been a fixture in my life for many years, but I never exploited all its capabilities. I may upgrade DEVONthink anyway, but I am going to experiment and see if HoudahSpot is good enough for me now. The one thing I might miss is replicants, but I begin to feel they are not necessary with tagging and smart folders, so that a single file can "appear" in many different places. We'll see.
While I must admit DevonThink was too complex for the way my mind works, the one thing it did that “seemed” really useful was its Artificial Intelligence (AI). DevonThink was good at finding similar documents to one you highlighted based on similar wording or, … something.

On the other hand HoudahSpot is very good at finding things, period. As previously self disclosed, I have a difficult time associating a thing with its location. I can usually remember the context of a thing, something that was said in the document that I am now searching for, but I may well have forgotten the documents name or where I last found it. HoudahSpot allows me to look for things.

DevonThink expects me to have kept up with indexing my files before I want to find something, DevonThink has its own built in ways of doing things such as “replicants”. If you have used it for years and you are already familiar with this term I am sure it is very useful. I was just not able to make the transition to the DevonThink way of doing things. With HoudahSpot, I can simply apply the many and vast tools that are in HoudahSpot to, you know … find things. The more I use HoudahSpot the more I appreciate it. And, as previously mentioned, creating saved templated searches in HoudahSpot for what I regularly look for, has been a huge relief and simplification of my work flow.

As an example of how I have been using HoudahSpot, I have been in full battle mode with the VA (US Veterans Administration) for the past six years. My records were lost for decades and only recently found. I have had to fight what is essentially a legal battle to get my records corrected. In fact, after I post this I have to spend the next three hours working on my VA case before meeting with yet another person working in their system.

I have to research when a thing was mentioned and in which claim, which denial, or what i still consider to be valid evidence. I might remember a phrase or a few words that were mentioned that the document I am seeking would contain. I might remember that it was a PDF file. But I cant remember when, if, or how many times it was mentioned and, if they mentioned it - or I mentioned it, in making my claim.

HoudahSpot is great for this. Finder would suck at doing this. I can quickly and easily look for something that is very difficult to find, altering my search criterion on the fly until I find what I am looking for.

HoudahSpot is just very good at finding things that you want found. Once you get the hang of ALL, ANY, NOT and how you can combine them, the sky is the limit. I have already pretty much stated all this earlier.

Just to mention it, the developers of HoudahSpot also make Tembo which is a more spotlight-like app that is still not as powerful as HoudahSpot. In Tembo you just start typing and it finds matches grouped into sections for PDFs, Documents, Mail, Images, Events and reminders, Folders and Disks, Applications, System prefs, Fonts, Movies, and Evernote. All can be set or unset as criterion for searching in preferences. This can be very helpful when you want to use it like you use Spotlight.  But unlike Spotlight, Tembo is an app that remains open and allows for the searching of the found set more than Spotlight can do.

Beyond this, Tembo is not at all customizable where HoudahSpot is very much customizable.

An example of HoudahSpot search criterion:
HoudahSpot Screenshot.jpg
HoudahSpot Screenshot.jpg (70.23 KiB) Viewed 944 times
Please note that in this screenshot, selecting "other" gives many dozens of additional choices.

PS:
The lower part of the menu has past search information. I was using Device Model and, Content Creator to search for photos taken by a specific camera I had at the time.

Also, the YouTube Templated search in the screen shot is referring to my YouTube downloads folder. As far as I know, HoudahSpot is not a tool for searching Youtube online.

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kewms
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Mon May 06, 2019 4:33 pm Post

Thanks for the comments, everyone. Much to ponder.

I won't be abandoning DevonThink Pro anytime soon. It's as integral to my workflow as Scrivener is. For HoudahSpot to be mentioned in the same conversation speaks well of HS's capabilities, though.

Katherine
Scrivener Support Team

Da
David G.
Posts: 138
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Tue May 07, 2019 1:12 pm Post

kewms wrote:I won't be abandoning DevonThink Pro anytime soon. It's as integral to my workflow as Scrivener is. For HoudahSpot to be mentioned in the same conversation speaks well of HS's capabilities, though.
And, you shouldn’t. DevonThink Pro is a very useful tool. I think of DTP as more of a system built to do what it does. HoudahSpot is a tool to do one thing, FIND. With DTP you can import everything you want to track into a DTP database, or you can index all the files you want to track where they are in the Finder system of folders. This was one reason I was not comfortable using the DTP import feature, I have been working too hard just to get my folders organized and deduplicated. I didn’t want to set up yet another organization system with it’s own rules and terms.

Mind you, this is myself I am talking about, I am not in any way being critical of DTP. DTP also has built in tools for viewing documents which is something I generally prefer to handle in the documents I am using already.

I recently got a license for NeoFinder thinking it might be useful. I discovered too late that NeoFinder may be good for photos, but it is terrible for documents. The preview in a NeoFinder document is just a photo preview icon sized image so the text page you want to see in NeoFinder in a PDF is going to be blurry.

With DTP I have great text viewing and document viewing.

BTW, one trick to mention is that, I use multiple monitors. I use KeyboardMaestro to set up one key macros. I have one monitor set to vertical orientation. One of the reasons I have taken to HS is that I have learned that a quicklook window will respond to window resizing commands just like any other window. Knowing this, I have a macro triggered in a key that will take the current window and make it full sized to a monitor. When I have a list of found files in a HS search (HS will also show thumbnails in different sizes), I select a file, hit my space bar, hit the macro key and, voila, I have a full screen quicklook window of the file in a HS list. Of course, you don’t have to keep hitting the macro to send the quicklook window to full sized as once you have done this and start this process - it stays there. Now when I want to review a bunch of files in a found HS search I highlight the first one (spacebar, trigger key) and press the up or down arrow key while I focus my attention on the screen.

This is somewhat similar to what you can do in DTP. Only with DTP it is all built in and rather elegant. Once again, I have no problem with anyone enjoying DTP as many people do. HS is perhaps more like having one tool which, in an informed user’s hands, can do quite a lot. HS is like a samurai sword compared with a regular sword, perhaps. My aim is to find things that I am continually losing. With DTP I had to spend more time trying to remember and understand its way of doing things than I had the brain power to spare.

Perhaps it is because I have a distinctly Thoreau-esque philosophical bent and I am inherently suspicious of an app that, no matter how well meaning, wants to do too many things for me that I am already using other apps to perform tasks with. Somehow … this also seems related to my refusal to purchase subscription software. I prefer my independence. None of this has any bearing on how well DTP does what it does. I enjoy a little independence in my thinking and with DTP, you either understand it and embrace it - or you don't understand it and you can't embrace it.

I occasionally will grumble here and there about HS. But, the developer is very responsive. I recently tried to leave HS behind and tried NeoFinder, then DTP again. But, at the end of the day, it is still HS for me. I envy that DTP works for you. I bought a full license thinking it could work for me. Alas, alack, and Alaska, I could not fathom the DTP way of doing things. Ah well, c’est la vie.

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kewms
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Tue May 07, 2019 4:14 pm Post

I don't use DTP as an all around place to store things. Maybe that's the difference. I use it as an alternative to Scrivener's "research" folder to store the (sometimes voluminous) materials related to specific projects.

I've found it doesn't work as well (for me) as a general "everything" box, maybe because it assumes that things are neatly categorized.

Katherine
Scrivener Support Team

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annewalk
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Fri Jul 19, 2019 2:00 pm Post

kewms wrote:I don't use DTP as an all around place to store things. Maybe that's the difference. I use it as an alternative to Scrivener's "research" folder to store the (sometimes voluminous) materials related to specific projects.

I've found it doesn't work as well (for me) as a general "everything" box, maybe because it assumes that things are neatly categorized.

Katherine


This is sort of what I've been using one of my DEVONthink databases for as well :)

My research for the novel I'm writing is in the neighbourhood of 200 documents divided into folders according to topic. That's too much for me to deal with in Scrivener, even with keywords and searches.

So, in DEVONthink, I read through each one, highlighting the parts that are useful in each document and add annotations directly to the pages.

Then I make highlight summaries of each document I've annotated. I merge the summary documents of a given topic into what I call a Digest. I send these digests over to the Research folder of my Scrivener project.

In Scrivener, I now have only the most relevant info ready to use. I'm only dealing with a dozen or so documents rather than 200.

Each of the digests has links to the original documents which open in DEVONthink when I click on them so if I forget what a particular quote is about or want to dive in further, all I have to do is click on that section of the digest.

Doing all of this took a lot of work but I also discovered things I wouldn't have discovered otherwise and came up with some great details and fixes for my plot holes.

It's made a huge difference to my Scrivener research folder. I no longer feel disorganized and overwhelmed. Now I actually WANT to use my research!