Open Source Applications: Catfish

Every now and then I bump into a nice, little, relatively unknown but impressive application that makes my life a little bit easier. Catfish is one of those. From the website:

Catfish is a handy file searching tool for linux and unix. Basically it is a frontend for different search engines (daemons) which provides a unified interface. The interface is intentionally lightweight and simple, using only GTK+ 2. You can configure it to your needs by using several command line options.

The reason why it isn’t very well known is that most distributions/desktop environments come with their own search tools, like tracker, beagle, strigi, etc. The beauty of catfish is that it can be a front-end for all of those, and more.

Supported backends are find, (s)locate, doodle, tracker, beagle, strigi and pinot.

You can argue that any distribution that comes with heavy duty search tool like tracker or beagle already has a front-end available, making catfish unnecessary. On the other hand, users who prefer leightweight search tools will happily use find and locate from the command line. That’s what I did until a couple of weeks ago.

As far as I can see, catfish can be useful in two situations: first of all, there are so called “power users” who still like a leightweight GUI. Like me 😉 I have no objections to the CLI at all (in fact, I think it’s one of the best things about Linux in general), but in this situtation, I prefer my search results in a nice, little GUI where I can doubleclick and execute them. That’s not possible in a terminal.
The other situation is rarer, but still possible: what if you have an old PC lying around which won’t run the latest Ubuntu very well, but will be used by normal, everyday computers users. It’s easy to add “Search Files” to the menu, and link it to catfish.

One thing to keep in mind: catfish 0.3 doesn’t have preferences (the settings dialog is being rewritten for 0.4). For example, you can’t configure which search engine to use by default, or which directory to search. That all depends on what arguments you use to start the program, but it’s not difficult. Read the man page for more details.

All in all, it works well, looks nice, and runs fast. All I look for in a program.

San

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One Response to Open Source Applications: Catfish

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