Survey: Types of content people search through

Hello everyone,

Search in GNOME has very limited automated testing. The Tracker and Nautilus test suites do some basic full text search across short text files, which represents only a small part of what people use search for in the real world.

I’d like to improve this by adding some more realistic search tests. That requires some realistic test data, and I need help from the GNOME user community to assemble it.

Could you take a minute to reply in this thread, telling me: what types of local content you have indexed, and how much of it do you have?

Examples of the type of answers I’m looking for:

  • I have around 300 PDFs of academic papers which I sometimes search through using the Shell overview
  • I configure my whole Dropbox directory for indexing, which has hundreds of accounting spreadsheets that I search using Nautilus fulltext search
  • I have a music collection of ~3,000 downloaded albums in FLAC format which I browse with GNOME Music
  • I disabled indexing completely because I have 300GB of PDFs in my Documents directory which caused the indexer to consume a lot of resources

The goal is to define common use cases for GNOME search and content apps, and produce a repository of redistributable test data that can be used for automated testing.

If you would like to use GNOME search / content apps but currently don’t due to some limitation around indexing and search, that’s also useful to know.

And if you can link to some redistributable test data I can reuse, that would be amazing.



In the above post that shows as a link, but it doesn’t go anywhere. Was it meant to be a link?

As for the survey I think my case doesn’t help you much;

  • Files search from activities overview I typically use to quickly open home administration files (like OpenOffice or plain text documents) somewhere in my Documents directory
  • Files search from Nautilus I really only use when in my work directory (not configured as a search location) to quickly go to a specific directory there (it has thousands of nested directories)
  • Most files searches I do from the command line (find, fd or plocate) because I usually want to do something with the search results, so to pipe the output to some other commands
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In the above post that shows as a link, but it doesn’t go anywhere. Was it meant to be a link?

Yes, fixed now, thanks.

The comments are useful! Is your use case for commandline search related to source code? That’s something Tracker isn’t designed for, so makes sense to use other tools :slight_smile:

For my work files I search file names. Like find all files across all directories in my work directory for a specific year or subject (which are in the file name) and for example run some commands on the matches to create a metadata catalog of them.

I also search the contents of source code files as you suggest, when I’m trying to contribute to FOSS project issues. GitLab search can be finicky.

The most common things I search for in the Overview are applications (e.g. Lorem, Weather), local files (e.g. some source code from a project), and calculations (e.g. 387 + 944) , I’d like to use the Overview to look up things on the internet as well but it opens up a new Firefox instance every time instead of creating a new tab in an existing open instance.

Thanks for the reply!

When searching for source code, I guess you only match against the file name? The indexer (tracker-miner-fs-3) is not designed to work with source code and tries to avoid loading it into the full-text search index.

I’d like to use the Overview to look up things on the internet as well but it opens up a new Firefox instance every time instead of creating a new tab in an existing open instance

This can be fixed in Firefox, by changing its built in GNOME Shell search provider.

The relevant code is: nsGNOMEShellDBusHelper.cpp - mozsearch

This executes firefox --search mysearch which opens a new instance, and could instead do firefox --search mysearch --new-tab to open a new tab.

It may be worth sending a patch to Firefox or at least opening an issue.

Yep, I do only search for the file name; I could have definitely worded that better. Now that you say it though, it would be really nice to directly search source code in the Overview but it would probably be quite difficult to implement. As for the Firefox-new-window-every-search issue, I legitimately thought that this issue was entirely on GNOME, I’ll try to open a bug report. Edit: See Bugzilla#1804659 .

Now that you say it though, it would be really nice to directly search source code in the Overview but it would probably be quite difficult to implement.

I suspect the “right place” to do this would be a GNOME Builder search provider. (And/or a VSCode search provider, etc.) We would need to speak with Builder devs to know more. I don’t think the Tracker indexer would be useful here without changes so it could tokenize source code and store it efficiently.

I use Search in GNOME

  • to search for files (mostly PDFs and text documents) and folders in Nautilus for my courses
  • to do Internet searches directly from my desktop (it saves me having to open a browser and wait for the homepage to load)
  • to search for content directly in an application (e.g. a Wikipedia article in Wike, calculations…)
  • to search for applications (more rarely)

→ A welcome feature would be to search/open websites in a browser directly by entering the website address in Search in GNOME :slight_smile:

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I use the calculator search a lot - both for simple arithmetic and currency lookups. Also the timezone/clocks providers and shutdown/suspend etc. app launching/installation as well, obviously.

For file search it’s mostly to get more quickly to specific files I remember the name of that contain process’ and checklists etc. in this case I want exactly one result! For more generic searches I usually find myself opening up Nautilus and searching there as I get a bit more context on that canvas.

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I need to search for PDF and office documents among thousands of them, hoping to find results based not only on their title but also on the contents. The current search is almost useless for me.

I have my entire home directory indexed (excluding hidden directories) and typically only search by file name in the GNOME overview. (Occasionally this will fail me, yielding no results even though I know my search query has worked before, but I have no clue why this happens.)
I also use the overview to search for applications that I have installed, GNOME settings and power options (shut down, suspend, etc).

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(note: i think there are separate use cases for “searching” to figure out what’s there and for “summoning” for finding a specific thing one has in mind beforehand so i’ll try to use those; terminology borrowed from the creator of quicksilver)

  • i use search to summon applications a lot and am often annoyed that it isn’t fuzzy (like “ffx” for firefox), among about 200 applications
  • then again i got used to searching “ound” instead of “sound” to summon the sound settings, because “sound” finds all the applications related to sound first
  • i also summon specific settings panes of the settings application
  • i summon 2fa codes from authenticator a lot (feels like a dozen times a day when i’m working), i have like 20 of those
  • in contexts that don’t have password management (like the terminal) i summon those from gopass or seahorse (i built a search provider for gopass), about 100
  • i used to summon emoji (built another search provider for that) so i can do that consistently in gtk and non-gtk applications (i’m currently trying a shell extension for that instead)
  • occasionally i’ll summon source code projects, among about 100 of those too, but while working i mostly have the IDEs open already and use their functionality instead
  • i never use search for music (~500 albums, almost all in mp3) and use amberol or lollypop for that, mostly because i have no way to indicate whether i want to play or enqueue the music i found (and also because when i tried the music search providers focused on songs and not albums)
  • i often summon folders to browse in nautilus (among about 800 right now, including my music), but only if i know that the application search won’t interfere. it constantly annoys me that folder search only considers the basename and not the path of these folders, but then i’d also want that to be fuzzy, and would like some way to quickly navigate the filesystem (the one thing i like in ulauncher)
  • almost all of my documents are plain text, with some pdfs mixed in (about 30 out of ~450); i summon them by name or browse to them, and never use full text search (but can very much see that it’d be useful for others!)
  • after documents and music i’m left with pictures and videos, and those i usually browse with nautilus since the folder structure and visual feedback work better for me than any of their names
  • oh! not really gnome search but i use evolution search a lot. filing all those emails in some neat hierarchy just wouldn’t work so i dump basically all emails in an “archive” folder and later search for stuff there

i would very much like to be able to search for search providers and then have a way to indicate that the rest of the search/the next search is only for them. this makes summoning things a lot more consistent because the order of search providers and their data then ceases to interfere

i’m also noticing that i basically always summon things and never search them. maybe with lots more files or a messier environment and more context switches i’d rely more heavily on search but that’s currently not the case

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The only searches I use I can think of, are:

  • Search via shell for an installed app

  • Search via shell for an app to install (via software)

  • Search in nautilus folders for filenames

  • Search in nautilus on remote systems like my NAS, previously via smb, now via nfs

  • Search in nautilus on remote system via sftp, mostly to narrow down foldernames maybe even filenames

I have been seeing crashes from time to time in the remote settings, so I’m always kinda expecting it to close up on me when I do that.

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I use

  • the overview to search for installed apps, apps to be installed, characters, settings, etc.
  • Nautilus to search for files using filenames. I don’t know how much I would use content search because I cannot use it currently, due to most of the important data being in a separate partition (AFAIK, content search doesn’t work for files outside $HOME even if they are symlinked inside $HOME).

Edit: Seemingly, content search works for symlinks now. I still don’t know how much I’ll use it since it’s the first time I’m discovering this.

I use shell search mostly for finding installed apps. But the annoying part is when my keyboard layout is set on another layout and it gives me no result.

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Shell search to open apps.

In Files I use the search with “Move to”.

So I select files that need moving, select move to, then type the directory I want.

Same as in Obsidian.

My files are pdf, markdown, blender, large folders of images, video, mp3.

The controls over which folders are searched in Search Settings seem to do nothing.

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I use the search
very often for

  • simple calculations
  • look for appnames to start or install from flatpak

sometimes for

  • search for people
  • search for phone-numbers
  • search for browser history
    • This actually works with firefox, why isnt this enabled by default?

I’d also like to search for

  • content of text files and pdf
  • local music titles
  • local movie titles
  • Music on Spotify
  • Online Search Results

And I honestly wish, that the search would support something like bangs. If I know that I search for software, I would like to do #app newsflash or newsflash #app and it will only look for apps installed to to install. But not search my files or history or anything else.
^ This is because currently, if I look for spotify, it will also bring up LOTS of other stuff from my browser history, my files, …
On top of this it would be nice to have a fuzzy search. If I miss-type “forefox” I still want to be able to find firefox :smiley:

Thats a lot of wishes, hehe.

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I use search for installed apps, GNOME software searches, settings, people and contacts, characters, fonts and very rarely file searches.

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I use shell’s search mainly for app launching;
sometimes for opening files:

  • thousands of MP3s and videos
  • hundreds of photos plus a couple of screenshots
  • much more text files (source code, PDF, plain txt, sh, spreadsheets, word docs)

Indeed, nautilus’s search used for fulltext searches

I indexed all $HOME folders, that’s big… all things in years and years of life… Dropbox folder included

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