See more fields in Finder Spotlight search results

Rob Griffiths
15 September, 2009
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As detailed in my article on Snow Leopard’s old and new annoyances, my main complaint is that I can’t add the Size column to my Finder Spotlight search results, as I could in OS X 10.4. This feature broke in 10.5, and more than three years later, I’m still waiting for it to be fixed.

Now, thanks to Mac OS X Hints reader vl_tone, my wait is over. Please note that the following is an experimental solution—there may be very good reasons Apple hasn’t enabled this fix in the OS as of yet. If you follow this hint, there’s a chance you may cause yourself some grief in the future—I don’t think your system will stop functioning, but maybe the Finder will start behaving oddly. My persona experience, though, is that I’ve had no issues with this tip under either 10.6 or the just-released 10.6.1 update. That’s not a guarantee, of course, so proceed at your own risk.

Implementing this tip requires that you’ve installed the Xcode Developer Tools, as the hint requires editing a preferences file with Property List Editor. Alternatively, you can use PlistEdit Pro, TextWrangler, or any other text editor that can open binary preference files. These instructions, however, assume you’re using one of the propery list editors, as they make things much simpler.

Before you start editing, though, you need to make certain that the Finder’s preferences file has a certain section. To do that, run a Spotlight search in the Finder for whatever—it doesn’t matter what you search on. When you see the results of your search, switch to list view mode (Command-2), then press Command-J (View -> Show View Options), and then choose any one of the additional available columns—Date Created, for instance. You can then close the View Options dialog.

In your editor of choice, select File -> Open, navigate to your user’s Library -> Preferences folder, then open (You may want to make a backup first, or insure that you have one on your Time Machine disk.)

When the file opens, click the triangle next to Root to open all the preferences values, if they’re not already visible. Search for SearchViewSettings (in Property List Editor, just start typing that word to search on the fly), and then click the disclosure triangle for that section.

The Size column is shown here

Inside of SearchViewSettings, you want to then drill down into ListViewSettings -> columns. Here you’ll see a list of the various Finder columns.

Click the disclosure triangle next to a column name of interest—size, for instance, and you’ll see various options, as seen in the image at right. To make this column show up in the Finder’s Spotlight results view, check the box on the visible row. Repeat this with any other columns you’d like to see in your search results. When done, save the file.

The last step is to restart the Finder, which can be done in any number of ways. Hold Option and then click-and-hold on the Finder icon in the Dock, for instance, and you’ll see a Relaunch item in the pop-up menu; this is probably the easiest way to do it.

After the Finder restarts, run a Spotlight search, and enjoy your newly-added columns in the search result listing. These columns can be used just as they can in the “normal” Finder, so click on the Size column to sort the results by size. (Note that you won’t be able to toggle these columns off and on in the View Options dialog; they’ll always be on.)

As noted up front, there may be a good reason why Apple hasn’t fixed this problem as of yet, so proceed at your own risk. Personally, though, I’ve taken the risk and I’m living on the edge, thrilled with the ability to again (finally!) be able to sort my Spotlight search results by size.

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