EasyFind is a free alternative to Spotlight

EasyFind is a free application that helps you find files and folders on your Mac. And yes, it's better than Spotlight.

EasyFind is made by the folks at DEVONtechnologies who are well-known for developing powerful search software DEVONthink, DEVONagent Pro, and DEVONagent Express, which is to say that EasyFind is made by people who know a lot about search. Compare that to Spotlight, which was a marquee feature of OS X six years ago but never grew into something great.

When you launch EasyFind, you will see several options and choices. Don't let years of Spotlight's simplistic UI overwhelm you; options and choices are a good thing. Take a minute to see what's available, and just start searching.

Down the left-hand side of the window are criteria for searching: Files and Folders, Only Files, Only Folders, or File Contents. Next choose to search for All Words, Any Word, a Phrase, or Unix-Wildcards. You can also specify whether or not the search should be case sensitive, whether it should look in package contents, or include invisible files and folders.

You can also set the scope of the search to be a specific volume/disk, or a specific folder such as your Home folder. 99% of my searches are for things I know are "somewhere" in my Home, or "somewhere" in my Dropbox. Spotlight only lets you choose "current folder" or "everything" which is almost never what I want.

That's far more control and options than what Spotlight gives you (or at least what Spotlight gives you without resorting to byzantine keywords), but what I really love is what you get in the results of your search. Of course you get the filename (and you can expand that column to make it wider, I just made it narrow in the screenshot above), but you also get the creation date, the modification date, the size, the kind and location. If you don't want any of those columns, you can turn them off. If you want to change the order of those columns, or if you want to sort your results by any of those columns, you can do that too.

EasyFind can search for the content of files, but it is not using Spotlight's database, it is actually running the search when you enter it. That means that it won't be as fast as Spotlight, but on my MacBook Air it is still very quick (the speed will be determined by the number of files you are searching plus the speed of the disk). I keep Spotlight around for those times when I need it, but in actual practice I rarely even do. In fact, I've reassigned my Spotlight Keyboard Shortcut to launch EasyFind instead.

(Aside: I had even disabled Spotlight for awhile on my Mac, but there are many things which just don't work properly if Spotlight is completely disabled, so I ended up turning it back on and just ignoring it. YMMV.)

You can download EasyFind from the Mac App Store or directly from DEVONtechnologies. If you download it directly, you can get a version which will work on Mac OS X 10.5 or higher (PowerPC or Intel), which is good news for folks running older versions of Mac OS X.

Thanks to the folks at DEVONtechnologies for this cool app. Take a look at their other freeware apps too!