Friday, November 24, 2006


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?

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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...


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