Applications and Spotlight Issue


macOS is seriously getting on my nerves now. But what else is new, right? Seemingly everything does these days.

But a serious question for once.

I’ve noticed an unusual problem. I use Spotlight as a quick application launcher. Hit Command + Space, type the application name, and hit Enter / Return.

But Spotlight, for whatever reason, can’t find any applications in the Applications folder.

Say I want to open Pixelmator, or Hex Fiend, or cotEditor, or whatever else. Pixelmator is a decent example. I type the application name, and it finds web search results for Pixelmator, any files containing the word “Pixelmator”, and even Pixelmator on the Mac App Store, but never in the Applications folder.

The strangest part is that this issue has persisted across a complete format, clean install, a fresh account and an individual reinstall of the applications on the machine. No migration, no restore from a Time Machine backup, a complete clean slate.

It feels like a macOS bug. Which is irritating, considering the last reinstall was because the Finder would crash and restart whenever a .webloc was highlighted, even after applying software updates. The reinstall fixed that issue, but this one stuck.

I’m considering attempting to regenerate the Spotlight index once more, checking file and folder permissions and ownership, and if that fails, then who knows what else. Get used to Launchpad, I suppose.

It’s an outside chance, but has anyone come across this problem before and managed to find a solution or a workaround for it?

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I have no solution for you beyond it appearing to be more common than I first thought based on a quick search. This is bizarre.



Has the Applications folder somehow found its way into the Spotlight ‘do not search’ list…?

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It doesn’t appear so. As a matter of fact, it looks like Spotlight is indexing the Applications folder, but doesn’t recognise its contents as valid applications:

Attempting to launch that “Unknown version” of an application does nothing.

I’m running into several macOS bugs as of late. Random network dropouts that are resolved by switching off WiFi and re-enabling it, but then drop out again after 30 seconds (it happened while typing this post), Safari not navigating to clicked links (tab isn’t frozen, it just doesn’t update the viewport), Finder crashes when selecting .webloc files (now resolved, thankfully), the crashpad_handler background process itself crashes and maxes out two processor cores, among others. No third party startup items, kernel extensions, launch agents or daemons.

Starting to think the machine itself may be junk, but it isn’t exactly consistent with a major hardware failure either. A memory error for example wouldn’t cause one specific folder (Applications) to not index properly, while leaving all others to index fine. Solid State Drive is fine. Filesystem was recently recreated from scratch. I can’t seem to find a consistent pattern to any of it.



That…doesn’t seem like an indexing problem, per se. Possibly a corrupted database?

The last time I had a Spotlight issue, I nuked the entire thing from orbit using Terminal which fixed it (turn Spotlight off, delete the indexes, turn Spotlight back on, re-index everything). Seems strange that such an issue would persist across formats, though.



I’m suspecting an indexing process issue. Applications installed from the App Store, or copied into the applications folder after the initial indexing has completed, seem to be accessible and work fine when launched from Spotlight. Seems that I’ve run up against a macOS bug.

At the end of the day, I can’t be bothered fixing it. The machine is already falling apart enough as it is, so yet another software issue to be aware of isn’t the end of the world. The occasional three-finger salute (and many one-finger ones) should take care of it.

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