How to Search Google Data With Spotlight on Your Mac

Do you have a lot of documents in your Google Docs account, or maybe a lot of images in your Picasa account? If you do, you may find it convenient to be able to search through them all on your Mac via Spotlight. If you’re already using Spotlight to find files, applications, documents, events, and more on your Mac, doesn’t it make sense to use Spotlight to search through your cloud data as well?

Precipitate is a preference pane app that lets you search Google data on your Mac. Google Docs, Google Bookmarks and Picasa Web Albums can all be found using Spotlight on your Mac. It works by “creating files on your machine that are imported by Spotlight, then periodically checking in with the server and updating the local files to reflect any changes.” Just know that these changes can take up to an hour, so you’ll need to be patient.

1. To search Google Data on your Mac, you’ll need to download the Precipitate application from the official Google Project Hosting Web page. There are two versions of Precipitate that you can download: one version for Mac 10.4 and below and another version for Mac 10.5 and up.

2. To install Precipitate, unzip the file and double click to install it in as a new pane in System Preferences.

Install Precipitate as a new pane in System Preferences.

3. Once System Preferences closes and reopens, you should see the new Precipitation pane displayed under “Other.”

Precipitate should be listed under Others in System Preferences.

4. There’s not much to setting up Precipitate; it can be done in a matter of 30 seconds or less. You’ll need to enter your Google Account login (username and password), and then select the services that you want to sync (Google Bookmarks, Google Docs, Picasa Web Albums).

Enter your Google Account login and choose your synced services.

5. Once you click on the “Refresh Now” button, you’ll need to “Allow” Precipitate access to your Google Account in keychain. If you choose “Always Allow,” you won’t have to continually give permission each time you refresh your accounts.

Allow keychain access to your Google Account.

6. As stated above, it could take up to an hour for your data to sync with Spotlight. It all depends on how many bookmarks, documents, and images you have in your accounts. For my Picasa account, it only took a couple of minutes. However, my Google Docs account took about ten minutes.

7. Upon completion, you can begin searching Spotlight for bookmarks, documents, and/or images (depending on the services you choose in the preference pane).

Your Google data will display under Documents in Spotlight.

8. Items in your Google accounts will display under “Documents” in Spotlight and will have special icons next to them, letting you know that they’re from Google Docs, etc. When you select an item, it will open up in a new tab in your default browser. Talk about convenient!

9. You can refresh Precipitate as often as you’d like. Unfortunately, it doesn’t refresh on its own, so you’ll need to remember to do so – especially if you’re constantly adding new documents, bookmarks, and/or images to your Google accounts.

Although Precipitate hasn’t been updated in a little over a year, it still works great. I had no issues at all with it, and I can’t find any reason to not use it along with Spotlight to search Google Data on your Mac.