Mac users are usually proud of their machines and they should be even more so. Their operative system has an hidden engine running, very quietly, and putting everything into a catalog. It's called Spotlight and it's not secret at all, because every Tiger owner has used it at least once. In practice it's a substitute for the human memory. You type a word like "pepper" and it searches your computer for everything related to it: recipes, pictures, mails, pdf documents and, last but not least, the music of the late great Art Pepper. It works like Google but it's even faster: the first results appear before you type the final "r" in pepper! This engine can, potentially, search anything. You can, for example ask: "Search on my computer all carbon spectra containing a peak between 90 and 95 ppm" and can also restrict the search to a specific magnetic field, or solvent, or year. Potentially you can also search for all molecules containing a given substructure. The great thing is that it all comes with no effort. It's not like creating and building a database. The system does everything automatically every time a file is copied, changed or deleted. And it's also free. Do you want to learn how to do it?
- The first component is the the terminal command "mdfind". The simplest example of usage is: "mdfind pepper", which is equivalent to typing "pepper" into the Spotlight search field. Substitute a more articolate query expression for "pepper" and you can modulate the search anyway you like.
- A Spotlight plug-in that can parse NMR documents. The forthcoming version of iNMR (1.6) comes with a bundled plugin. A plugin can also be a stand-alone bundle. It is possible to create plugins for every kind of documents, generated by any application. For example you can create a plugin for Varian spectra, copy all your back-ups on the hard disc, and have all them indexed.
- Possibly a graphic interface that hides the complexity of the terminal to the average Mac user. Just like the plug-in, it can be written by any volunteer, it must not necessarily reside inside an NMR application. I am also going to write this small freeware application, which should appear in 2006, and should later be integrated into iNMR.
- The complete integration into iNMR represents the perfect solution. Whenever you find an unexpected and unknown peak into a spectrum, you'll directly ask the computer: "Where else have you seen such a thing?", and it will open, on the spot, all the old spectra containing a peak at the same position.
You understand that I will be busy in the next few weeks...