Is Spotlight becoming a command-line tool?


I was just working through my podcast backlog and hit Apple Tip #44 which demonstrates using Spotlight for doing simple calculations and defining terms. Google’s been sneaking similar features into their basic and advanced search for years. Maybe it’s just me, but it feels like command-line tools are making a slow, under-the-radar comeback.

As much as I love the Mac’s GUI, I’m a UNIX guy and just need a command line from time to time. GUIs are great for arbitrary selection, but command lines provide better related-set definition and complex processing via wildcards, regular expressions, and pipes. That was my initial attraction to Mac OS X–best of both worlds with a new GUI on top and BSD underneath.

I have to admit I don’t open terminals much lately: Bluehost‘s control panel and Coda let me handle routine web hosting activities, and I’m more likely to open Python than use bc to do simple math. There’s also Quicksilver, an interesting hybrid of keyboard control and graphical display worth investigating. Parsing a raw dump of my currently-subscribed podcasts still benefits from some sed/awk magic, but I’m getting comfortable enough with AppleScript to try that approach next time.

Neither GUIs nor command-line interfaces are silver bullets. Improvements in Spotlight and Automator are giving GUI users some of the capabilities that previously were only available to the UNIX-savvy. I can’t wait to see how these new hybrid tools evolve to give me new ways to look at and work with my computer. Must be my Perl heritage, that need for more than one way to do it.

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