I’ve just come back from a special Apple presentation in London, a “sneak preview” of the new features in Tiger.
Apple’s Brian Croll had made the trip from the States to make a short presentation to a bunch of typically skeptical British journalists in a plush hotel suite in the centre of Soho, and he did a great job of whizzing rapidly over all the new, exciting stuff.
A lot of which most of the journalists knew about already, of course. We’ve been following the weblogs and the news coverage and the apple.com preview material too, so we’ve already heard about Dashboard and Spotlight and Automator.
Still, it was fun to see them in action, and to have a chance to (very briefly) grill Brian on some details afterwards.
Brian made a great show of Spotlight, the search tool that lets Tiger users find anything on their computer. He demonstrated how it employs filenames, metadata, and file content to find search results. It’s fast and it updates changes to the file system in real time (at least, it does on a PowerMac G5, which was the demo machine being used).
I thought the most interesting quote came in the informal chat session after the presentation. We were all hanging round drinking good quality tea, munching those delicious biscuits you only get in hotel hospitality suites, when I heard Brian talking to another journalist:
“The first thing you start doing is cease using hierarchy as a means of storing stuff. I know this, because I’ve been using this for a few months and I don’t bother to file things anymore. I don’t give a rat’s ass where my files are, because Spotlight finds everything for me.”
That’s the crucial, boiled-to-the-bone reality of something like Spotlight. If it really is capable of finding what you need, why bother keeping your stuff in any kind of order?
Another journalist at the same event, an old pal from the 1990s dotcom bubble days, told me how his computer desktop is a complete mess because he saves everything to it, and rarely gets round to sorting it out.
“I might have a folder called ‘January-March’ and I’ll throw everything into it, but it’s still a mess,” he confessed. Maybe Spotlight could help him, I thought.
As much as Brian seemed like a genuine guy, as a typically skeptical British journalist I can’t just take his word for it. Thankfully, I don’t have to.
I was having an email conversation with a web developer recently, someone who has been in the fortunate position to play with beta versions of Tiger for some time now. He didn’t break his NDA, but he did say this: “All the hype about Spotlight is justified, you know. It really does rock, it’s amazing.”
So might Tiger help people like my disorganized journalist friend? Might it ultimately spell the end of the Finder?
Just as some people have abandoned any sort of filing system for the email (the ‘Gmail mentality’, I call it), I think Spotlight (if it’s as fabulous as we’re being told) will lead to a new trend for single-folder file organisation.
People really will be able to put everything into their ~/Documents folder, without creating hierarchies of sub-folders. Throw it all into the one place, and use Spotlight and the equally entrancing Smart Folders feature to keep everything in order, and find what you need, when you need it.
Which would you rather do? File everything yourself, or just forget about it?