I’m delighted at long last to release the first full version of Mints, my free collection of advanced diagnostic and system tools.
I have further enhanced its Spotlight diagnostic tools, and using those can now explain precisely what the bug is in late versions of Catalina and all released versions of Big Sur, which prevents Spotlight search of RTF documents.
Changes in this version are concentrated on those Spotlight diagnostics. In addition to performing search on test files generated by Mints itself:
- I have added two more built-in test file formats, for Numbers spreadsheets and Pages documents.
- You can add your own custom test files, enabling you to investigate problems with other document types and their Spotlight importers.
- Check Search not only checks which files can be found using Spotlight, but also provides information on test file types and the Spotlight importers they use.
To illustrate their use, here’s how I have worked out why Spotlight can’t find content of Rich Text (RTF) files.
When you click on the Create Test button, Mints creates its special test folder, and copies the standard test documents, including a test RTF, to that. Click on Check Search, and it finds all the other test files, but not that in RTF format. It now confirms that the RTF test file is recognised as being of the correct document type, and uses the bundled Rich Text importer which is part of macOS.
Thanks to comments from John, who reports that RTFD documents do work correctly, I then opened the RTF test file and saved it in RTFD format, once using TextEdit, and a second time using Nisus Writer Pro. This time, Mints’ Check Search was able to find the RTFD versions correctly, although the RTFs remained absent from search results.
RTFD documents are actually folders which contain text and image content for the whole document. What I did next was to open the RTFD document in the Finder, and copy its TXT.rtf file containing the Rich Text content into Mints’ test folder. Check Search demonstrated that Spotlight was unable to find the set search text in the TXT.rtf file from an RTFD document.
This demonstrates clearly that the importer is able to parse the RTF file perfectly well, but due to a bug, it won’t attempt that unless the RTF file is embedded within an entire RTFD document. This is therefore a simple logic error in handling different file types, rather than anything more complex involving the parsing of Rich Text, and could probably be fixed in a few minutes. I believe that this was introduced in build 319.60.100 of the Rich Text mdimporter which shipped with macOS Catalina 10.15.6, and is perpetuated in build 326 in Big Sur 11.0.1.
It also confirms once again that Apple doesn’t test its software before releasing it. Anyone who attempted to test whether RTF content indexing worked would have immediately noticed this complete and abject failure. As a matter of principle, I will not therefore be encouraging Apple to continue releasing untested software, by filing a bug report. Such basic testing is the responsibility of Apple, not of users or third-party developers. Until Apple takes effective action to put its own house in order, I don’t see why we should help it perpetuate a broken engineering system and failed quality management.