Flashlight for OS X

Ever since Apple unshackled Spotlight from OS X's status bar, it's been a much better experience for search on the Mac desktop. However, I'm always looking for ways to push Spotlight farther and do more with it so I can get things done.

Enter Flashlight, a free application that builds upon Spotlight's basic native search functionality.

Flashlight adds useful controls to your Mac that you would normally have to remove your hands from the keyboard to your mouse, then back again to the keyboard, to perform. It helps you keep your hands on the keyboard to perform mundane tasks - like a Google Search - and turns you into a productive beast. Some things I use it for are:

  • Search: duckduckgo classicyuppie will return search results for the term classicyuppie in your Spotlight window. You can perform other searches on sites like Google, Reddit, Flickr, and Twitter too.

  • Email: Need to shoot off a quick email but don't have Mail running? Simply type email <recipient's name> subject <subject line> and press Enter. An email will be started for you in Apple Mail or Gmail and all you have to do is type the body. You can even include attachments.

  • Terminal Commands: If you run a lot of servers like I do, SSH'ing into them can be a pain. With Flashlight, I just type terminal ssh user@server.com and I'll be prompted for my account password in a new Terminal window.

As you can imagine, it's very handy for when you don't have a particular application running but you need to perform a task within it. Typing a command that relies on a particular application (like Apple Mail) will launch the application for you, so you don't have to root around in your Applications directory, or mess around with that unsightly dock. This will save you time even if you launch applications from Spotlight already, like I do.

Flashlight is a great addition to the basic functionality provided in Spotlight already. It's a great way to provide a minimalist slant on otherwise heavy applications like QuickSilver or Alfred. I personally liked QuickSilver, but it quickly became to over-featured and obtrusive for me to use. The one thing it doesn't currently do that QuickSilver and Alfred do have a leg up on is workflows, because the application is designed to provide a one-step approach to performing basic tasks, not as a tool to manage automation of tasks. If you're a user that absolutely needs that functionality, you're better off sticking with QS.

All in all, for the casual or power user both, Flashlight is a great way to simply get things done. If you're looking for a way to be more productive on the Mac, try it out. You just might thank me.