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Tuesday, March 14, 2006, 11:00 am PT (02:00 pm ET)

Multiple Finder window selects coming in Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard?

Descriptions of several features and interfaces not present in shipping versions of Apple Computer's Mac OS X operating system have recently turned up in company patent filings, AppleInsider has discovered.

The filings, which heavily correlate to the Apple's metadata-based Spotlight search technology and appear to be disguised under the names of the company's intellectual property lawyers, were published between July 25, 2005 and Dec. 29, 2005 with the United States Patent and Trademark Office.

Most predominantly, the filings depict several new Mac OS X Finder interface windows with enhanced Spotlight search capabilities and integration. In one example, Apple software engineers describe a Spotlight "configurable pull down menu" that would reside horizontally between the toolbar and the file listing criteria bar in Finder windows.

Without first entering a Spotlight search term, users would presumably be able to use an initial Spotlight criteria pull down menu to select a search location such as "Local Disks" or "Network Volumes." Following the user's selection, the Spotlight pull down interface would then automatically spawn a secondary submenu allowing the user to refine the search by general file types such as "images" or more specific types such as "Photoshop," "Director," or "Excel." Again, users would then be able to further limit their search through a third Spotlight search parameter pull down menu, which would ask for a "last modified date" to be specified, and so forth. The functionality would presumably compliment keyword searches as well.

Within the filings, Apple employees list several alternative Finder interfaces for the enhanced Spotlight integration, described above. Another example anchors a Spotlight "Browse" icon in the Finder window bookmark bar, just above a computer's hard disk icon. In this example, selecting the Browse icon would spawn a new column view in the Finder window with a vertical listing of sub menus to help users refine their searches.

"Apple

Next-Generation Spotlight Finder Integration?


Another potential Spotlight features described in the filings is a "Recent Searches" option that would appear within the primary Spotlight search interface, located at the far right of the Mac OS X menu bar or in the upper right-hand corner of Finder windows. In the illustrations accompanying the filings, this feature also includes a "Clear Menu" option to erase Spotlight search histories.

Based on the filings, Apple also appear appears to be working on enhancements to Spotlight Smart Folders. One example details "Nested Smart Folders" while another appears to show a Smart Folder that can be assigned an expanded set of Finder view options along the lines of traditional Mac OS X folders.

"Apple

Next-Generation Spotlight Finder Integration?


Perhaps the most promising revelation to come from the filings is a Spotlight-supported Finder feature that would allow Mac OS X users to perform selections from multiple Finder windows simultaneously when organizing or relocating files.

In one example outlined in the filings, Apple engineers show a total of five Mac OS X files being selected simultaneously from three open Finder windows, in addition to a sixth file that resides on a Mac OS X desktop.

"Apple

Multiple-Window Finder File Selects?


The filings also describe a new contextual menu feature that would coincide with the enhanced selection capabilities. After making a multi-window file selection, users would be able to trigger a new contextual menu that would present three functions that could be applied to the selected files in a single operation: "Move to Trash," "Create a New Folder and Move Items to New Folder," and "Create a New Folder and Copy Items to New Folder." The filing explains that the move and copy functions may prompt the user to name new folder being created or create a new folder with a default name such as "untitled folder."

Apple is widely expected to reveal the feature set of Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard during its World Wide Developers Conference, which will take place in August. It's possible that some of the features described in these patents and others may make their way into the operating system. While Apple has provided little to no information on Leopard, it has stated that the operating system update would ship in late 2006 or early 2007.