OSX has this great tool called Spotlight, which allows you to search and open files from a simple text box, launched by a simple keystroke. Achieving this functionality in Linux is easy with fzf, a fuzzy finder that can search for files in any directory. fzf is written in go, lightning fast, and apparently popular among vim users, since it can easily be integrated to plugins for various purposes.

If Spotlight behavior is to be replicated exactly, one would need to create a GUI textbox that can pop-up on top of other windows. However, since I am comfortable with the terminal in my setup which I can just summon with F1, I would be just as happy with short terminal command.

fzf’s default behavior is similar to that of Spotlight, which starts listing matched files. In Spotlight, the best match appears at the top of the list, and pressing enter automatically opens the file with the corresponding default app. When run in the terminal, fzf directs the path string to stdout when enter is pressed. We can replicate fzf behavior with the following one-liner

fzf | xargs xdg-open &


fzf comes up; after the selection is made, it terminates and the output is piped as an argument to xdg-open which opens files with the default app. The & just sends the job to the background, leaving your terminal free to operate. However, running fzf plainly does the search in the current working directory. If you want to search in your home folder, for instance, you can type

echo ~/cd ~; fzf | xargs xdg-open &


The whole echo thing is necessary, because I could not find a flag for fzf that let me input the search directory.

In your shell, you can assign this to a function with a short name, say ff. Then you just type ff to open files easily.

Note: This might be even better than Spotlight, because I think Spotlight doesn’t have the fuzzy functionality. Not exactly sure since I don’t own a mac.