Critical Essay

Apple’s Spotlight technology is great for two primary reasons: first, it is so tightly integrated with the OS that it’s index is always up to date, and when it performs searches, it considers not just content, but also metadata. While the degree of search is unparalleled for desktop search, there are improvements to be made with regards to the user experience.

First, the logo. While the name is “Spotlight”, and Tiger’s packaging and even installation animation show a whimsically roving spotlight, the logo remains a magnifying glass, evocative of Spotlight ’s less capable precursor, Sherlock. I first propose that the logo be changed to reflect an actual spotlight, similar to the illustration below:

redesigned apotlight graphic

The current method of summoning Spotlight is great -- the key combination shortcut is a satisfying nod to “power users” while the clicking of the logo or choice to use an F key makes perfect sense for everyone else. However, I would like to leverage the spotlight metaphor to bring up the search field and the following search results. The idea is this: once a user summons spotlight, the screen dims (similar to Exposé) and a roving searchlight careens into a corner of the screen to illuminate a search field that looks to have appeared out of nowhere (see demo below). Once the user types in his/her search text and results begin to come in, the spotlight pulls back to reveal that the search field is the search field for the search results window. This way, there is a single search field a user has to keep track of, opposed to the two in the current implementation (more on that later). The results window contains a list of search results, and will behave like a window of a common application, meaning that a user will be able to apple-tab to and from Spotlight. The current behavior of Spotlight is that it belongs to no other application and the window can only be brought forward by repeating the spotlight summoning command. For users used to toggling windows by using the apple-tab key combination, it is frustrating that one application cannot be brought forwards like any other application.

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