Search DEVONthink Databases using HoudahSpot

DEVONthink is a smart document management solution for Mac. It lets you organize and work with all your documents — bookmarks, email messages, text files, images, PDFs — in one place, regardless where they come from.

Now that you have all your documents stored and organized in DEVONthink, you can rely on both DEVONthink and HoudahSpot to always find the piece of information you need.

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Find PDF Files That Need OCR Processing

Scanning paper documents to PDF files lets you archive important (and not so important) documents without filling up cabinets.

Optical Character Recognition (OCR) makes these scanned documents much more useful than their paper originals. Once a scan has been processed by OCR, the PDF file contains both an image of the document and an invisible text version. The text can then be searched using HoudahSpot.

Unfortunately, you will find that not all of your PDF files have text content. You may have forgotten to run them through OCR. Or you may have received the scanned document from someone else.

How can you find these files and rectify this?

With a little trick, HoudahSpot can find PDF files that lack text content. It is safe to assume that any text contains either a space or a period. Thus, we will be looking for any PDF file that contains neither space or period.

This translates to the following search:

Find PDF files that lack OCR text. The first search field contains a “space” character

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Find MacOS Files by Extension

The default search form in HoudahSpot lets you to search for files by name, text content and content kind.

Default HoudahSpot search
A fresh HoudahSpot search window

When you know the type of the file you are looking for, you may want to search by file extension.

Let’s say, you want to search for .png files. Here is how:

  1. Click the pop-up menu that is currently set to “Content Kind” and select “File Extension”
  2. Type “png” in the form field on the same row
Search for .png files

Do you frequently search by file extension? Wouldn’t it be convenient if the “File Extension” search was available by default?
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Search for Top Level Files. Exclude Subfolders

HoudahSpot searches always go into subfolders. For example, when you search in your home folder, you can find letters saved to your Documents folder.

When you don’t want files from a subfolder to clutter search results, excluding the subfolder is easy: just drag the folder from the breadcrumb path at the bottom of the HoudahSpot window to the Locations/Exclude list.

You can repeat the procedure to exclude more folders. But if you want to see only results from the top level folder, it is easier to use the path filter to simply hide results from nested folders.

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Quick Tip: Return Focus to the HoudahSpot Search Field

After you start a search, HoudahSpot moves the keyboard focus to the search results. You can then navigate results using the arrow keys. Press return to open the selected files.

When the search brings up too many results, you will want to refine it. One way to do so is to add to the search field at the top of the HoudahSpot window.

You may now be tempted to reach for the mouse to click the search field. Don’t.

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How to Access Hidden Folders

In macOS, it’s possible to hide folders. The user Library folder, for example, is hidden by default. Hidden folders are invisible to the Finder and don’t show up in open/save dialog boxes.

What can you do if you need to access a hidden folder, e.g. when searching for a specific file within? Continue reading How to Access Hidden Folders

Save HoudahSpot Searches as Finder Smart Folders

In Mac OS X’s Finder, you can save searches as “Smart Folders”. These give you quick access to all your files that meet certain criteria. For example, all Microsoft Word files modified this month. All JPG photos taken with a specific camera. Or all e-mails you’ve received from certain senders within the last seven days.

Because Mac OS X Smart Folders are actually saved searches, they differ from regular folders: they don’t actually hold anything – they only list files stored elsewhere. The content of Smart Folder is not static but dynamic. It is updated continuously as new files come to meet the smart folder’s search criteria. This means that its content changes every time files on your Mac are added, changed, or removed.

With HoudahSpot (4.1 or later), you can easily set up a search and export it as a Finder Smart Folder.

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Creating Snippets in HoudahSpot

In HoudahSpot, snippets let you to set aside frequently used combinations of search criteria. HoudahSpot comes with a few pre-installed snippets, but you can also define your own.

Snippets can hold a single search criterion or a group of criteria that serve a certain purpose. The pre-installed snippet “Date Created range”, for example, holds two criteria in an “All of the following are true” group: “Content created before” and “Content created after”. Use this snippet whenever you want to find files created in a range of dates.

HoudahSpot's Sidebar & Refine Pane
Drag the snippet from the sidebar to refine pane (example: Date range snippet)

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