Do I need Houdahspot?

I’m constantly looking the right file- most of the time it’s either a PDF or Office doc. I have DevonThink for personal and important docs and its search seems better than spotlight.
My question is if I should buy Houdahspot (tembo maybe?) or maybe even just use DevonThink instead of Finder? I spend way too much time looking for files.

I LOVE Houdaspot! Be advised, however, that (at least according to the description at Summerfest) some features won’t be supported with macOS 14…

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I agree, it is much better than Spotlight. I’ll give an example from this morning. I was searching for a quote for a book project I’m working on. Specifically, I was looking for this: “Hire slow, fire fast.” I knew it was from a book I’d read; I even knew part of the title. I could not find it using Spotlight or from Finder. I went to DT and found it instantly. It was part of an atomic note I had on the book. The full quote is:

Mission True organizations we interviewed tended to have a “hire slow and fire fast” mentality and grasped the consequences of having the wrong person representing the mission.


Have a look at FoxTrot search.

I’m seeing no such information at Summerfest. Can you provide a link?

I absolutely love Houdahspot. Much more powerful than Tembo. Try it out … there’s a trial. You can save custom templates with is a huge bonus. Never had one problem with it.

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There are at least two different types of file search tools.

  1. Each search goes through the file system meta-data and attempts to find matches on each search. These do not generally search the content of the file, only meta-data.

    Spotlight, Houdahspot and the various other tools which use Spotlight as their source provide this sort of tool.

  2. A search index is built as each file is added to the collection. When a search is run, it looks at the index, not the files themselves. These generally include the content of the files in their search results.

    For reference, a search index is basically a list of words with each word pointing to every file that it occurs in. So, when you do a search it just looks up the words in your search query and returns the combined list of files. Needless to say, this sort of search is very fast and complete. Devonthink, Foxtrot, and EagleFiler provide this sort of a search tool.

    The primary downside to these tools (other than the fact that they tend to be much more expensive) is that the files generally need to all be stored in a predefined location. This is required as the index is created when the files are added (or saved) to the collection. The upside is that there is no need to read the file during a search.

Of course, there are various hybrid solutions which combine parts of the two above systems. For example, some non-index-based tools will still search file contents. But usually that means grinding through the contents of each file while the search is being run, which is intolerably slow.

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You need Find Any File.

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My apologies… it was in an email I received from Houda Software:
" At WWDC 2023, Apple announced macOS 14 Sonoma to be released this fall.

Preliminary testing has shown that HoudahSpot, HoudahGeo, Tembo, and Photos Workbench work quite well on beta releases of macOS 14 Sonoma. We plan to release updates to fine-tune these applications for the new system.

Photos Workbench

Photos Workbench works closely with the Apple Photos application and your photos library. As a precaution, Photos Workbench 1.1 refuses to run on macOS 14 Sonoma. We will thoroughly test Photos Workbench as macOS 14 nears release and provide an update.


HoudahGeo still needs you to install Rosetta on M1 and M2 Macs. Work on an Apple Silicon version of HoudahGeo has started. We cannot yet commit to a timeline when this will become available.

HoudahSpot and Tembo

HoudahSpot and Tembo rely on an Apple Mail application plug-in to search mail messages. Mail on macOS 14 no longer supports plug-ins. HoudahSpot and Tembo will lose their ability to find Apple Mail message files.

Two technologies power the local search capabilities of the Spotlight window. Traditional Spotlight maintains an index of files. HoudahSpot and Tembo also rely on the Spotlight index. The newer Core Spotlight can index pieces of information regardless of how these are stored. The Notes application, for example, does not save notes to individual files. Notes are stored in a single file one can think of as a notebook. A file search can thus only find the notebook, not the individual notes. Yet Core Spotlight can index individual notes and allow the Spotlight window to find these.

On recent versions of macOS, the Mail application uses Core Spotlight rather than Spotlight to make mail messages searchable. Even though mail messages are saved as individual files, these can no longer be found using traditional Spotlight.

Unfortunately, Apple has not made Core Spotlight fully available to third-party developers. Third-party applications can add to the Core Spotlight index and thus make data items available through the Spotlight window. These applications may also search for data they added. However, third-party applications cannot search data added by other applications. That privilege is reserved for Apple’s Spotlight window. Only the Mail application and the Spotlight window are allowed to search mail messages.

As Mail application plug-ins are discontinued, HoudahSpot and Tembo are once again locked out from Mail searches."

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I use HoudahSpot nearly every day. I thought I only used it for work, but that notion was quickly disposed when I didn’t install it on my new MacBook Air that I only use for personal stuff. I think I lasted 3 days.

I particularly like the ability to open an enclosing folder from the search window. And not just the immediate enclosing folder, but up through the entire hierarchy.

The only feature that is being lost in macOS is the ability to search Mail messages.

This is a running battle with Mail. I’ve gone through periods where Mail was not accessible. For me, it’s not a deal-breaker. But it is great to be able to use HoudahSpot for mail: Spotlight just isn’t up to it.

I hope Apple relents and allows HoudahSpot to again be able to search Mail.


Thanks so much for this additional information.

Fortunately I don’t use Apple Mail, but it could be an issue for Mail users. Good to know.

I like Houdahspot but don’t use it often because most of the time I’m looking for a file I recently opened, and I can get there quickly through Launchbar. InfoClick from Nisus software is a great option for searching mail, though I haven’t checked to see if there are any issues with the upcoming version of macOS.

I love that app! I can find anything! it comes with Setapp.

Bear in mind, DEVONthink is not a Finder or Spotlight replacement.
While it has a powerful internal search engine, Spotlight has a broader reach in terms of what it’s indexing. And no, you shouldn’t drop entire hard drives or home directories into DEVONthink.


HoudahSpot is a very powerful way to flex Spotlight’s functions. Spotlight is very capable but it may not be as easy to create very specialized filters. HS makes that easier but also has templates for reusable searches. Also, the developer is great and a super nice person too! :slight_smile:


Have you tried Apparent Software’s Trickster ?

I actually bought it but never used it. I’ll take another look at it

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