Author Topic: Find Any File is a high speed application to search for files on Mac OS disks  (Read 2029 times)

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Find Any File is a high speed application to search for files on Mac OS disks

About Find Any File

From the Readme file:

About Find Any File, version 1.4.2
Written by and Copyright © 2005-2010 Thomas Tempelmann

This is a free program for Mac OS 10.4 and later that lets you search for files on your disks, primarily on HFS formatted ones.

Contrary to Spotlight, it does not use a database but instead uses the file system driver's fast search operations, where available.

This lets you search for file properties such as name, dates, size, etc., but not for file content (use Spotlight for that).

Find Any File can find files that Spotlight doesn't, e.g. those inside bundles and packages and in inside folders that are usually excluded from Spotlight search.

Finally, it is fast. Not always as fast as Spotlight, but faster than other, similar file search tools you might find for the Mac.


Find Any File has a few hidden gems:

1. If you hold the Option key down while choosing Find, you are asked for an administrator password - and then Find Any File will restart with root permissions, being able to find really any file on your Mac's volumes (something that Spotlight won't do). Note that this will only work on local disks, not on network mounts, though.

2. It sports a new hierarchical view for the found items. You can switch to it using Command-2 or click on the right little icon at the top of the results window. With this new hierarchical view, however, you can directly look for the results in the folders that interest you.

3. You can save your entered searches to files (they'll have the extension ".faf"). You can later open them again from within the Find Any File application, or you can double click them in the Finder - in the latter case the search will automatically start, unless you hold down the Option key while Find Any File opens the document.


This tool's design was inspired by the Classic Mac OS' Find File application, hence its UI design might look a little old fashioned. And the Icons aren't nice, either. I'm not a graphics person.

The user interface of this app gets sluggish when it's performing a search. This is mostly out of my control, as this app is written in REALbasic, which has a rather unsatisfying multi-threading implementation. I could work around it but I don't want to make the (rather big) effort for a free program like this. My apologies.

I know that the search options are a bit limited, but I had to stop adding features at some point. The "size" search, for instance, could work better with units, e.g. that one could enter "1 MB" or something like that. I rarely need this feature, though, so we have to live with entering the numbers in plain byte units.

Tips & Tricks

Setting the preferred disk to search

When Find Any File is launched, it always defaults to searching the boot volume. If you prefer to search a different volume by default, do this: Launch Find Any File, choose your preferred volume, then use the Save command to create a file. Next time, instead of launching Find Any File directly, open that saved file instead - Find Any File will launch with the presets you chose before.

Launch Find Any File by a keyboard shortcut, just like Spotlight

If you were used to pressing Command-F in the Finder to search for files, you can now do the same with the free program Spark. Download it from here:
After copying Spark to your hard disk, launch it and press the big button in the top center titled All Applications' Hotkeys. In the drawer that appears on the left, select the Finder and press Command-2 to choose an application shortcut. In the appearing sheet dialog, set the shortcut you want to use in the Finder to launch Find Any File, then use the Choose... button to select the Find Any File application. Choose Create to save. Finally, Press the button labelled Start Spark Daemon at the bottom of the window. Switch to the Finder and press your chosen shortcut. This should now launch Find Any File.

You can also combine this with the previous hint about creating your own preset files: Instead of adding the application, you can also add a document, i.e. a formerly saved .faf file. That way, you have quick access to many custom search presets.


Icon design by Chris Paveglio (
I also thank Michael Berglund, Edward Loveall and especially Alexey Volokhov for their contributions of alternative icons.

Questions, Feedback, Contact

A few notes:

I am a freelancer, and I am always open to contract work offers in areas such as data rescue, data conversion, file systems and more that is not related to web design and web programming, UI programming and so on - I'm more the low level kind of programmer.

Similarly, if you need custom features implemented in this app and are willing to pay for them, get in touch.
And now, I hope you enjoy using Find Any File.

FAQ and notes

Can you add more search criteria, e.g. logical combinations ("and", "or")?

I could, but that would add potential for much slower searches. The purpose of this tool is to use a special Mac OS function to search an entire volume very fast. Find Any File's speed relies on that OS function. The OS function only supports a limited amount of search criteria - pretty much just those that Find Any File offers you. Adding any "smarter" search criteria would require to make assumptions that may backfire, making the search inefficient and slow. Thus I find it best to stay with the OS function's limitations so that we're always getting a predictably fast search.

Can you add searching in specific folders instead of searching always an entire disk?

I have to ask: Why would you want that? Contrary to popular belief, it may not be faster. If you have a lot of files in that specific folder, then a flat search over the entire volume such as Find Any File does it, may still be faster than a recursive search in a large folder. And the problem is that Find Any File cannot predict beforehand how large and deep the folder is. To be on the safe side, it rather always does the somewhat fast "entire volume" search instead of running into the situation where it'll search a deep folder recursively which then may take 10 times longer than the entire volume search.
Do accomodate this better, I have added the hierarchical results view in which you can get to the folder of your interest almost as easily.

I had no idea that searching an entire volume was particularly fast

Yes, that's the funny part about it: Mac OS provides such a "fast search over entire volume" function since its HFS beginnings, i.e. for over 15 years, and it was used by Apple's own "Find File" and "Sherlock" in previous OS versions. Yet, when these apps were replaced by Spotlight, several other programmers tried to fill in the gap, but apparently all of them missed to use this special function. I couldn't believe it - that function was well documented, yet none of the new tools would use it even if these tools searched the entire volume, an example being the quite popular EasyFind. This annoyed me so much that, after waiting for a few years for others to "get it", I released my own tool using this feature. And guess what - two days after releasing FAF, someone else released a similar app (Find File), using the same fast search function. Go figure.

Why do some items, e.g. applications, show only "-" for their size?

Such items, usually called Packages or Bundles, are actually folders that are specially treated by the Finder. And Find Any File currently does not show the sizes of folders because that would cause a general slowdown as all the files inside a folder would have to be looked at to create a sum of their sizes.
I plan, however, to change this behavior a little in an upcoming release so that the sizes for these Bundles will be calculated as those folder are usually relatively small, thus causing hardly any performance penalties.


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