Journal: News & Comment

Sunday, March 16, 2003
# 1:28:00 PM:

Bye-bye Sherlock

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Back in 1998, with the release of Mac OS 8.5, Apple computer relentlessly hyped its new all-in-one computer and Internet search tool, Sherlock. The hype is lower-key now, five years later, with Mac OS X, but it's still there. Sherlock has changed a lot in that time, undergoing several alterations (many for the worse) in its interface and function.

Dave Aton e-mailed me today, writing:

Have you noticed that Sherlock seems to be getting less emphasis from Apple? Methinks they may have realized most users would prefer to live in web-world and Google up what they want rather than use Sherlock, especially the latest lethargic incarnation.

I've hardly ever used Sherlock myself since it appeared in Mac OS 8.5, because of its very sluggishness. If Apple is de-emphasizing it, that's good. It was a bit misguided from the outset. It became less, not more, useful as its interface degraded into trendiness in Mac OS 9 and X, and Watson is generally a better application for the sorts of things Sherlock does anyway -- enough so that Apple has lifted many "new" Sherlock features directly from Watson.

One of my favourite discoveries about Mac OS X 10.2 -- and a key sign that Apple does listen to users, even if it takes long time to respond -- was that the old pre-8.5 Find window had reappeared, not requiring that we launch a big hoggy slow application (Sherlock) every time we hit Command-F to find a filename on disk. That, the new Finder toolbar search, and the Google field in Safari make the most common (if not most powerful) uses of Sherlock moot.

It seems that Apple has, quietly but decisively, realized that Sherlock was more about marketing and hype than usefulness, and is relegating it to the background. Just as well. It works fine as it is, but it's not a core part of the Mac OS. It's still annoying to have to use it in Mac OS 9.1 on my PowerBook 1400, which will never run OS X.

I've never found Find By Content (FBC) all that useful either. The results rarely come back with much of what I want, while searching multiple files with BBEdit seems to yield better ones. At least you can turn off FBC indexing so it gets out of the way.


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