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HoudahSpot: The First 15 Years

Fifteen years ago, we released the first version of what came to be one of the most popular search tools on the Mac: HoudahSpot.

🎂 Happy Birthday, HoudahSpot!

When Apple introduced Spotlight search with Mac OS 10.4 Tiger in 2005, we felt that the Spotlight technology held a lot of promise. It allowed for blindingly fast file searches by relying on an index. We soon realized that the Spotlight interface left much of that promise unfulfilled. It lacked the finesse needed to hone in on the files we were looking for.

Thus was born the idea for HoudahSpot: “unleash Spotlight”. HoudahSpot should combine the speed of the Spotlight index with the flexibility and precision of standard file search. The idea came to life on May 8th, 2006, with the release of HoudahSpot 1.0.

Over the years, HoudahSpot has grown to be ever more powerful and yet easier to use. This has earned it a spot in the hearts and the Dock of many Mac users. HoudahSpot has proven an essential tool for those who work with or rely on a large number of files.

With HoudahSpot, building precise searches is a matter of just a few clicks. A simple search form allows for finding files by name, text content, dates, as well as many other file properties. As Macworld reviewer Rob Griffith put it in 2008:

“HoudahSpot takes the power of Spotlight (…) and makes it both more powerful and easier to use. (…) you can use it to easily create complex saved searches that would be very complicated to construct (if possible at all) in the Finder.” (Macworld, 01/16/2008)

Fifteen years later, these are still the core strengths of HoudahSpot. In those years, much has changed, but our need to find the files and information we rely on. Over the years, HoudahSpot had to outdo itself over and again to keep ever-growing file collection in check. As technology advanced, HoudahSpot has always managed to keep frequently used files at users’ fingertips and hard-to-find files within easy reach.

Old HoudahSpot Screenshots
HoudahSpot, 15 years ago: Search criteria on the front side of the window, results on the flip side

The first version of HoudahSpot had to be very economical with screen real estate. HoudahSpot was developed on an iBook with a screen resolution of just 800×600 pixels. The HoudahSpot window had space only to show search criteria. Once the search was started, search criteria had to be hidden to make room to display results.

Screenshot: HoudahSpot File Search
HoudahSpot today: Search Criteria, Results & Preview in the same window

Today, HoudahSpot presents search results next to search criteria. To the right, HoudahSpot even finds room to show file information or previews. This layout makes it much easier to explore search results and progressively refine searches until results distill down to a manageable size.

Looking back, we are very proud of how much HoudahSpot has evolved over the past 15 years. We thank our loyal customers for the feedback that helped shape HoudahSpot into an irreplaceable tool for many Mac users. – Thank you very much!