Why I'm Excited About Apple's 'Spotlight' Technology
Posted by Clark Venable on 3/17/2005
Rumor has it that Apple will release its next iteration of MacOS X, code named 'Tiger', in April. One component of it that is not a rumor is its new built-in search engine called Spotlight (tech preview pdf). The list of supported files types includes (but is not limited to):
- Plain text
- Keynote presentations
- Microsoft Office Word documents
- Microsoft Office Excel spreadsheets
- Microsoft PowerPoint presentations
- iChat logs (if logging is enabled)
How might this be useful to a clinician? For years now, I've been dropping files onto my hard drive because they contains information I want to have access to in the future. I have an entire textbook of anesthesiology as html files. Literally hundreds if not thousands of pdf files of articles I've saved from NEJM, Anesthesia & Analgesia, and other journals. Every lecture I've ever given. All the CME I've ever done (if available electronically).
I have tried mightily to keep it all organized. Seth Dillingham actually made some software for me to be able to use a local webserver to organize, index and serve all those files on my local machine. Extended to something we called the Reference Laptop Project, we endeavored to put everything an anesthesia resident could need during their training on a $1,000 20 GB Apple iBook, complete with automatic updating of reference materials via wireless LAN. I've installed Plone and learned some Python to be able to make a system that works for me. But now, finally, coming to OS X, is the core technology that will allow me to do what I want as a feature of the operating system itself, or perhaps even as a custom application.
Underneath it all, there's even an API that lets applications access Spotlight's power. Imagine a new application that imposes a structure on the information you already have or will add! As an example, imagine an outline of relevant topics in anesthesiology. For each topic, the application would use Spotlight to create Smart Folders for, say, information on malignant hyperthermia, and airway management, and peri-operative beta blockade. I have a great deal of information on each of these topics already on my hard drive. Some in the Documents folder, some under Sites. Some exists as HTML files, some as PDF, some as powerpoint. And as I add more information, the Smart 'Chapter' will automatically update. Perhaps the very capable makers of Delicious Library will explore creating 'Delicious Reference' just for me.
The future is here. It's just not evenly distributed yet. --William Gibson
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