One of the most compelling new features of Mac OS X 10.4 was
the Spotlight technology—or the ability to search the contents of any file,
anywhere on your hard drive and have the results come up instantaneously in a
search. Spotlight is still an indispensable tool to many, and it’s no wonder
that a similar feature is now available for Linux in the form of the Kat
Desktop Search Environment (

Kat, like Spotlight, is a system of indexing a directory or
drive and putting all the metadata, fulltext, mime-types, and thumbnails from a
variety of file types (including HTML, PDF, documents, Microsoft
Office documents, MP3 files, and more) into a database. This information is
stored in an embedded SQLite3 database from which the data is then retrieved,
and it also re-indexes files as required (on change, move, deletion, etc.).

Kat is quite simple to use. Some Linux distributions are already
beginning to bundle Kat, so your chosen distribution may already offer it. If
not, you can download binary packages from the Kat Web site for many popular
distributions, or download and compile the source yourself.

Getting started with Kat is also very easy. Open a terminal
and type kat on the command line. First,
you need to create a new catalog, which is done by clicking on the File menu
item, and then selecting New. When the next window opens, click on the Catalog
tab and choose the starting directory to index. You may choose to index
“/” and all its sub-directories, but that could get quite hefty. A
better bet would be to index just your home directory (“/home/user”).
The other tabs allow you to select from what metadata, fulltext, and mime-types
you want it to index, as well as the size of thumbnails.

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Once you’ve made your selection, Kat will then go to work
indexing your chosen directory and all of its subdirectories
and provide you with a status view of how many files it’s indexing and what the
estimated progress is. Be aware that the more files you feed Kat, the longer it
will take to index everything, so be patient.

Once the catalog is created, use Kat to search your files, and
you’ll be amazed at how quickly it finds them. Search for text you know to be
embedded within a PDF or document, and you’ll see Kat tell you
which files contain that text.