If I use LaunchBar can I disable Spotlight? Does LaunchBar do all of its own indexing and never use the Spotlight database? Or does it rely on the Spotlight database for some of its search awesome-sauce?

Edit: I'm considering disabling Spotlight because mds is currently in the process of re-indexing my just-moved home directory. I'd rather not have that happen during working hours. That got me wondering if I even need Spotlight at all with LaunchBar present.

4 Answers 4


I've contacted their support and here's their reply:

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  • 1
    Very nice - I learned something about this. Let us know if you decide to use it in stand alone mode. :-)
    – bmike
    Jul 6, 2012 at 12:51
  • 1
    I think we all bombarded their support with this question. Opps. :)
    – Ian C.
    Jul 6, 2012 at 14:29

It does indexing separately, but has a feature that lets you pass a search directly to Spotlight. I assume if you disable Spotlight, you'd just lose that feature and the rest of the app would function normally.

This won't be the case for all apps like this though. Alfred, which I use, relies wholly on Spotlight for indexing. If Spotlight stops working, so does Alfred.

EDIT: Just tested this. It seems like LaunchBar initializes itself with the Spotlight index. After that, I can't see where it's storing what it indexes, so I guess it's still depending on Spotlight, i.e adding to the Spotlight index, but doing so through it's own process.

If this is the case, even though it does its own indexing, it WILL be continuously dependent on the Spotlight index existing. You may not have to let Spotlight add to the index (via the mds process), but you probably shouldn't delete the index.

They really don't make this clear on the product site or in the docs.

  • You are correct that this isn't called out in the docs, but the tool depends closely on the metadata that spotlight generates all the time. For short periods of time, the LB index save you from corrupt or out of date / missing spotlight data, but as soon as the LB indices rebuild, you will start missing search results.
    – bmike
    Jul 5, 2012 at 17:33
  • You're right. I used mdutil to disable indexing for a drive, but let LB continue to index it while moving some files around. It picked up the changes, but was missing most of the metadata. So I guess you shouldn't disable mds at all.
    – Vickash
    Jul 5, 2012 at 17:39
  • It would be interesting to have a totally separate index, but I wouldn't want to re-write spotlight from the get go as a small developer. :-)
    – bmike
    Jul 5, 2012 at 17:46

There's a checkbox for the Applications index in LaunchBar that says "Use Spotlight index". Uncheck that and you're good to go. I've used LaunchBar for years to find and launch applications on drives that Spotlight isn't indexing, and it works fine as long as you tell it not to use Spotlight. Even if Spotlight is active, LaunchBar works much better with this checkbox unchecked, in my experience.

  • Nice find. Do you use any of the remaining 25 search items that get added to the LaunchBar index or is it basically an app launcher for you? How do they fare when spotlight is disabled on the Mac?
    – bmike
    Jul 6, 2012 at 12:53
  • None of the other search items uses Spotlight for anything, I believe.
    – matt
    Jul 7, 2012 at 17:36

No - In the general case of all of the items in the index, spotlight is used if it exists. There is a special case for Applications where you can tell LaunchBar to not use Spotlight results and just specify folders to crawl on the filesystem, so you could certainly use the program with Spotlight temporarily or permanently disabled once you understand that the app launcher function can exist apart from Spotlight.

LaunchBar depends on the spotlight indexing to make it's own indexes. For a short time, you can disable spotlight and just use the current LaunchBar indexes, but should it decide to reindex things, you will find that search results suffer when spotlight doesn't have a correct picture / index for the drive in question.

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