Total recall

I've always been an enthusiastic supporter of the idea of a desktop search. It's weird that this idea has not acquired any significant acceptance among users, except for those on Mac OS where Spotlight gained huge popularity. In contrast, users of Windows and Linux exude great irritation and a kind of angry disapproval when confronted with the idea of an application which can find texts, mails, documents in seconds regardless of their location in the file system. These users vehemently stress that they know exactly where their files are, which is why they don't need such a thing (and never will!), that is anyway used only by total noobs who don't keep any order on their hard drives, etc. etc.

Now, nobody would accuse me as being disorganized — in fact, most would rather describe me as a meticulous, even fastidious person. That's certainly true with regard to electronic media: I stash away every file in the place it belongs and obey strict naming conventions. Still, I regard a desktop search as an invaluable tool for my daily work. Let me give you an example why.

Suppose you plan a project concerning Lucanus cervus, the stag beetle. You are particularly interested in its mating behavior and the preceding territorial fights. You have collected already many of the most important papers on this topics. Of course, you have discussed the issue extensively with potential collaborators around the world by email and chat. Together with some of them, you are on the way to a first publication, and you are also preparing a project application to the European Union.

Naturally, the files concerning this project are distributed across several different folders. Their names may bear no resemblance to the actual project. You may know where to find them in principle, but to get an overview of the discussion you had a year ago on Prosopocoilus giraffa would require substantial time and effort. A good desktop search would find this discussion and all related documents in the blink of an eye.

But is there a "good" desktop search for Linux? My previous experiences with the desktop search integrated into KDE were actually quite depressing. Whatever the KDE developers came up with ate way too much RAM and CPU and worked only occasionally. I wasn't too impressed with tracker under Gnome either. Actually, my most positive experience dates back to the times of beagle, perhaps fifteen years ago.

A year ago, I decided to quit desktop environments in favor of a simple and transparent openbox solution. Naturally, I wondered which desktop search I could profitably use on my new minimal desktop. And I found recoll, the desktop search I wanted to have since the beginning of time. Ironic that I had to ditch desktop environments to find a desktop search which really works...