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Customize Your HoudahSpot Search Setup

In HoudahSpot, you can choose between hundreds of criteria to search for files. HoudahSpot also lets you specify in which folders to search and how to sort results.

Lots of options to choose from – and settings you don’t want to make over and again.

Search criteria, results display, and sort order are a matter of personal preference and habits. You may, for example, find yourself frequently searching for files by file name extension. You may prefer to search your full hard drive rather than just your home folder. You may want search results to always list file size.

Let’s see how you can set up HoudahSpot so that a fresh search window matches your preferred way of searching.

Configuring the Default Search Setup

The basic procedure is simple:

  1. Select File > New Search from the menu to open a blank search window
  2. Configure the search the way you want new windows to appear
  3. Select File > Save as Default from the menu to save your changes

Every new window will now use your new setup as a starting point. You can repeat the procedure to make further customizations.

Should you want to revert to the factory default:

  1. Select  HoudahSpot > Preferences… from the menu
  2. Select the General tab
  3. Check the Factory Default option

Let’s check out the options you have when configuring your default search.

Add (Blank) Search Criteria

You can add more search criteria. You will most likely want to leave these criteria blank when you save the setup as default. When you start a new search, you can fill in the criteria you actually need. Criteria left blank will have no effect.

You can also add duplicate criteria. E.g. if you find yourself frequently searching for files whose name contains both one word and another, you can configure your search to have two Name criteria.

Screenshot: Customized File Search Criteria
Refine pane: Customized search criteria


You may also want to add less frequently used file attributes to the drop-down menus in the Refine pane:

  1. Select Other… from one of the attribute pop-up menus in the Refine pane
  2. Locate the attributes you expect to use frequently
  3. Check the box in the In Menu column
  4. Click the OK button
Screenshot: Select file attributes to search by
Select attributes to appear in search criteria pop-up menus


Again: Once your search is set up the way you want new searches to appear, save it using Save as Default.

Search Locations and Excluded Folders

By default, HoudahSpot searches your home folder. You may want to change the default setup to include other folders or to search the entire disk.

Let’s extend the search also include to the Applications folder:

  1. In the Locations pane, click the “+” button to add an extra row
  2. In the new row, click the pop-up button that says Macintosh HD
  3. Select /Applications from the pop-up menu

Likewise, you can also exclude search locations by using the Exclude Locations button.

You can also extend the selection available in the pop-up menu:

  1. Select Other… from one of the pop-up menus in the Locations pane
  2. Navigate to the folder you want to add
  3. Click the Select button
  4. Repeat to add more folders
  5. Check that Locations are set up the way you want
Screenshot: Select folders for searching
Select folders to include in Locations


Again, once your search is set up the way you want new searches to appear, save it using Save as Default.

Limit: Maximum Number of Results

By default, HoudahSpot limits search results to the 10’000 most recently opened matches.

If you prefer not to deal with that many files, you can lower the limit. When the files you are looking for don’t make the cut, you can iteratively refine your search until you find what you are looking for. This may sound cumbersome, but can actually prove more efficient and than scrolling through a long list of partial matches.

Configure the Limit pane the way you expect to use it most frequently. Then save the setup using Save as Default.

Results Pane: Columns and Sort Order

HoudahSpot lists search results with their name, kind, and modification date. The View > Columns menu lets you add more columns like creation date, file path, and file size.

You can sort search results by clicking the header of a visible column. If, for example, you prefer to have search results sorted by content creation date rather than name, you would:

  1. Right-click or control-click the column header in the search results list
  2. Select Content Created from the contextual menu
  3. Click the header of the newly added Content Created column to sort results
  4. Click the header again to reverse the sort order
Screenshot: Custom file search result columns and sort order
Customize result columns and sort order


You can also customize the selection of columns offered in the View > Columns and contextual menus:

  1. Select View > Columns > More Columns… from the menu
  2. Locate the column attributes you expect to use frequently
  3. Check the box in the In Menu column
  4. Click the OK button

You may also want to re-order columns. You can do so by dragging columns by their header.

Again: Once your search is set up the way you want new searches to appear, save it using Save as Default.

Default Setup Versus Search Templates

You will want to set up your default search in a way that suits your most typical file searching needs. But there are also certain tasks that ask for specific search setups.

For example, when looking for photos, you may want to search by resolution, camera make and model, ISO speed, and so on. To cover such specialized need, you may want to set up search templates. HoudahSpot actually includes a sample template to search for photos.