Apple iOS Spotlight Search Not Working Properly

Spotlight Search

There are so many apps and folders of apps on my iPhone, I’ve given up on organizing them. 

True, I could use touch screen and move the apps around and create folders, but it’s a lot of apps and that is a slow process.

Or you would think that problem could be solved by digging out a cord and hooking up Apple iPhone to an Apple computer and using Apple iTunes to drag and drop my folders easily? You know: using the computer processing power of a desktop computer that a tablet or phone does not have (yet) would be easier, right? 

Sadly, iTunes has been a design joke for years: Apple is known for making great products and experiences by focusing on the design and the user’s experience with them, yet iTunes remains this devil’s compromise of under delivering and over promising what any logical person knows one piece of software should not do:

iTunes needs to be selling digital goods, managing said digital goods, storing your credit card information and profile, managing your entertainment network of devices, and now being a streaming music competitor–that making an above average app organizer for your a phone and tablet is the least of their worries.1

My problem with managing all these apps and folders of apps has not been a problem since I could use global search on my iPhone: “Spotlight Search” acts as my only path to my apps. By pressing an unlocked screen and swiping down on an app screen, the search box appears. I then enter in my search terms and the iPhone starts looking for apps named similarlity to that keyword. 

Maybe then the iOS looks inside your contacts database for similarly named people, and, if that fails, offers options to search the Web, App Store, or Maps in the latest version of iOS. It’s fairly basic experience. You’ve done it a thousand or million times without thinking.

This has been my backup and backbone for dealing with the iPhone OS. 

Until it stopped working on my phone.

Spotlight Search Stopped Working

I’m not sure how or when it stopped working. It just flaked out and I’ve been left to hunt and peck for apps like someone typing at a computer for the first time. Might as well be left to paining on cave walls with this smart phone.

So, what did I do? I do whatever everyone does when confronting the problem with Apple products: I Googled for a solution. 

Here’s the solution that somewhat worked for me:

Step 1. Reduce options

Head to Preferences > General > Spotlight Search. Turn off Siri 

I have a lot of out of date iOS apps I keep on my phone out of habit–and would be said to see them go like the Battle for Hoth game? Which is an amazing game since it had great replay value and, get this, it didn’t try to scam your real money for virtual coins or tokens to upgrade virtual stuff. But I digress… Go through the whole list of applications and make sure all the options are turned off.

Step 2. Hide and Show All Contacts

Contacts search results are as important as what apps are on your device. Having the iOS scan emails, phone numbers, etc. is very important. Click on Groups and choose to ‘hide all contacts’ then switch back to ‘show all contacts’.

Step 3. Do a Full Power Down Restart

If you are like me, you don’t restart your phone. It’s a smart phone and needs to be constantly working. Why would you restart it? But every once in a while, it’s good to start fresh. Jiggle the wires. 

Step 4. Go back to Spotlight Search

Head back to Preferences > General > Spotlight Search. Turn on Siri Suggestions. Then only check on Contacts and a few other apps you would like to have Spotlight Search use. 

These steps brought back Spotlight Search to life for me. It still has not been a 100% reliable, but it has been better than the 100% useless it was before. 

I’m hoping Apple goes through and thoroughly fix the Spotlight Search “feature” as that is going to be an easier sell to their engineers than giving them the task pf breaking up iTunes and making it easier to organize apps and folders. But, who knows? Maybe they will surprise us again. Till then, Spotlight Search is working again!

  1. I’m not saying Apple should avoid fixing iTunes. It’s that I don’t see them solving a problem that’s been a decade in the making where they can still make a mountain of easy cash by making a Rose Gold robot car. 

CSS Attribute Selector Bug in Safari

During last weekend’s Train the Trainer workshop, Jinny from University of Georgia asked a question that gave Molly and I pause: 

Are attribute selectors case sensitive? 

As someone who strives to write correct markup and CSS rules, I always try to make my CSS class and ID attributes match case. At most, I worry about my ID or class selectors have a typo, but worry about attribute selectors? To be honest, it wasn’t till Internet Explorer 7 for Windows (IE7) came out that I’m giving attribute selectors a closer look. 

So, on the spot, I dove into writing up a quick test case and run it through the major browsers: IE7, Firefox 2, Safari, and Opera. The results were that all the major browsers are case senstivie except Safari. 

However, I wasn’t satsisified with that test case. To be honest, Molly wasn’t either. The first pass earned Molly’s dissastifcation as I didn’t test against XHTML first, but settled for HTML 4. (I quickly tested against XHTML, but the results were still the same: Safari allowed for case insensitivity.)

Now that I’m back home, I decided to write a tighter test case in XHTML and HTML and run it through a few more browsers than I tested at the workshop. These results can be viewed in Table 1.

Table 1. Case Sensitivity Review of CSS Attribute Selectors
Web Browsers DOCTYPE
IE 7 Yes Yes
Safari 1.2 No No
Safari 1.3 No No
Safari 2.0 No No
Safari 3.0 (iPhone) No No
Firefox 1.5 Yes Yes
Firefox 2.0 Yes Yes
Opera 8.5 Yes Yes
Opera 9.21 Yes Yes
Camino 1.0 Yes Yes

Note that links within the table include screenshots of browsers and links to test cases.

Discussing Case Senstivity of Attribute Selectors

Once we find something odd, the first thing to do is to read the specifications to see what is the “right” behavior for the browser to follow.

First up, this is what the CSS 2.1 sepcification says about case sensitivity: 

All CSS style sheets are case-insensitive, except for parts that are not under the control of CSS. For example, the case-sensitivity of values of the HTML attributes “id” and “class”, of font names, and of URIs lies outside the scope of this specification. — CSS2.1, 4.1.3

And while we are at it, let’s take a look at the HTML specification as well, which states that the title attribute is also case sensitive. 

What Does This Mean? 

The short version of the results is that Safari is wrong and the other major browsers that support attribute selectors appear to be getting it right. (Yes, that includes IE7.)

Safari CSS Filter

How can you, the Web developer always looking for that edge in coding, use this bit of information? The obvious thing to do is to send CSS rules to only Safari browsers. 

For example, write a CSS rule like so:

p[title="foobar"] {
 border: 1px solid red;

And then set up the HTML like so, making sure to change the case of the title attribute’s value:

<p title="FoObAr">The content is styled with a 1-pixel,
 red border in Safari.</p>


Thanks to Jinny for asking an intriguing question and to Porter for providing his usual excellent W3C specification translation services.

iPhone-specific Web Development Misguided

Today, I noticed that A List Apart ran another article on how to get Web sites up to speed on the Apple’s iPhone.

First, a few points. As a Web developer, I’ve relied and will continue to rely on the strength of ALA’s articles time and time again. Also, I’ve written for ALA twice before and, as always, would love to write from them again. And I’m a fan of Apple products as much as the next Web designer out there, but the exposure of the iPhone is a little too much.

Yes, surfing on an iPhone is a rewarding surfing experience than say, I don’t know, every other cell phone on the planet. I’ve even mentioned before that iPhone’s browsing capabilities will completely eliminate the need to provide a separate “mobile” Web site.

Rather than promoting the new hotness, though, we need to have more information about creating rich, yet salient surfing experiences for other devices besides the iPhone.

One of the main arguments I picked up from Joe Clark’s book, Building Accessible Websites, for the development of accessible Web sites is the desire to grab the largest audience possible.

Apple recently sold its first million iPhones. Yet, there are an estimated 37 million Americans with sensory and physical disability between the ages of 16 to 64.

If only ten percent of these 37 million people with disabilities surf the Web on an assistive technology, their numbers are 300% greater than every iPhone sold.

Looking at those numbers, focusing on iPhone Web site optimization seems like an imbalance in priorities. This is perceived overkill especially when you know the dirty little secret about optimizing a Web site for an iPhone: If a Web site is built on Web standards like XHTML+CSS, your Web site will be viewed on the iPhone without too much worry.

The point is that I believe that there are more important issues at hand for making sure our Web sites can be seen by an Internet-enabled device other than a Web browser rather than forcing every other electronic doodad to have a Web browser on it.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t think you can over-sell the importance of Web standards, but reselling them is another thing altogether. If your Web site is geared to run on assistive technologies like screen readers, hand wands, eye tracking, voice recognition, or braille displays, the odds are that you’ve opened your site up to more of an audience than the iPhone crowd.

There’s no reason we can’t have both a great surfing experience on an iPhone as well as one on assistive technologies. I’m just asking for more balance.

The Safari Browser Offensive

Safari PC

The New Browser War got a little interesting. It’s no longer defined between Firefox or Internet Explorer.

During Steve Jobs’ speech at the Worldwide Developers Conference in San Francisco this month, he announced that the new version of Safari, Apple’s Web browser, will run on Microsoft’s Windows opersating system. In fact, public betas are available now.

This reminded me of the time when Microsoft stopped its support of Internet Explorer for Macintosh. At the time, I could understand Microsoft’s pull out.

Microsoft spent a lot of time and money in making a totally different, better browser from Internet Explorer for Windows for their competition. If a Windows user ever sat down and surfed with mac IE, I’m sure they wondered why Win IE wasn’t as slick and possibly think about buying a Macintosh. (Perhaps.)

Now Apple has decided to take its browser to Microsoft’s turf. In the time it took Microsoft to go from Internet Explorer 6 to 7, Apple is pushing their browsr onto another platform. However, I’m not completely sold on the idea for the long-term.

While having Safari on a PC is a great idea as a low-cost way to lower the barrier to getting people to switch from PCs to Macintosh, I’m not too sure about it’s long time presence. Nonethless, I welcome the competition for my desktop and my clients’. 

Having a PC version of Safari around should make convincing clients to stick to Web standards easier.