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Charlotte: Freeware Puts Spotlight on the Web

Published April 14th, 2007

Charlotte: Spotlight for the Web

Pod Util SoftwareDownloaded May 17, 2006. (Note: See update from 4/14/07 at the end.) Here’s another stab at getting at web content through Spotlight… only unlike the Google Importer tool, which adds Google results to Spotlight’s results list, Charlotte runs as a separate, Spotlight-lookalike process. And it’s not just a cute menubar item that produces a list of results like Spotlight, either. Charlotte actually has an embedded web browser sporting some of the coolest, core-image-based animation effects you’ve ever seen. They make Shiira’s page-flip animation look positively lame! I want to play with Charlotte a bit more before deciding to keep it around, but it sure has made a big first impression!
Charlotte Search Freeware

Update 6/18/06: Charlotte still has a few bugs… it seems to conflict with the AcidSearch plugin, but then so does the nightly WebKit browser I like to use. But all in all, I like the concept they’re going for, which is to provide a consolidated search across several distinct content “buckets” on the web. You can get this effect at Google already, which presents buckets for “Web,” “Images,” “Groups,” “News,” “Froogle,” and “Maps,” thereby letting you reuse your search term in several different contexts. This isn’t always that useful, but in Charlotte it’s got the potential to be more useful than at Google. Charlotte’s “buckets” are “Web,” “News,” “Images,” “Books,” “Blogs,” and “Developer.” At this point, Charlotte’s buckets aren’t as full as they presumably will be as more plugins are created for it, but it’s still quite interesting to switch from, for example, “News,” to “Blogs” with the same search term.

Charlotte is indeed a full-fledged web browser, with the basic functionality plus some serious eye candy. If you’re a fan of Dashboard’s “ripple” effect, rejoice! With Charlotte, you have two different kinds of page loads you can animate, choosing from about 8 different transition effects… some of which I haven’t seen before (disintegrate, mod, and copy machine). I miss having a back button between the results list and my navigation from there, although I’ve found that Charlotte’s “Switch View” button serves the same purpose (a sort of “snapback”). Unlike a normal browser, Charlotte has no menubar. Instead, you access “her” through the menu extra or via a keyboard shortcut (Command-Return or Command-Option-Return), which you can customize in the preferences.

Click on image above to see Charlotte in action!

Charlotte also supports auto-suggest, with a customizable timer, but I didn’t have any luck getting it to work. You don’t have access to your normal bookmarks. Instead, Charlotte assumes your site is your bookmark repository, and adding a bookmark in Charlotte means adding it to That’s fine with me, but if you haven’t yet discovered the joys of social bookmarking, you might be taken aback by this. One little quirk is that if you have more tabs than will fit in the browser window, there’s no way (that I could see) to get to the far-right ones. They’re still there, but you have to clean out other tabs to reach them. Still, I’m reviewing this at version 1.01, and it’s pretty damn good for a free, newborn software package of this complexity.

All in all, I’ll be glad to keep Charlotte in my menubar!

Charlotte Browser window

Update 4/14/07. Finally! A new version of Charlotte was released today, and it’s even greater than I remembered. I haven’t been using it regularly because I was worried the project was abandoned, but this new release gives me hope it’s not. Everything I said before is still true about Charlotte, and I thoroughly enjoy using it, even as a full-fledged browser alternative. Now, if more plugins get written for it, Charlotte could be a truly awesome web search platform for Mac users. (Not that they don’t already have any… but Charlotte’s just so cool!)

Version as tested: 1.1.

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