TweetFollow Us on Twitter

Entourage 2004 Spotlight Support

Volume Number: 22 (2006)
Issue Number: 5
Column Tag: Programming

MICROSOFT | MAC IN THE ENTERPRISE

Entourage 2004 Spotlight Support

by Brian Johnson and Andy Ruff

An IT Perspective: How Microsoft Entourage 2004 now takes advantage of Spotlight

Introduction

In update 11.2.3, Microsoft added support for Spotlight and Sync Services to Microsoft Entourage 2004 running on Mac OS X 10.4. These two features allow users to search Entourage e-mail stores and to synchronize Entourage data with any software or hardware that takes advantage of sync services in the OS.

It's important for system administrators who need to plan deployment of this technology on Macs, and may need to consider configurations with many users, and with limited disk space, to understand how this all works. In this article, we'll focus on the Spotlight support added to Entourage. We'll tell you about how Spotlight support works in this update. Specifically, we'll also address Spotlight support considerations for multi-identity installations of Entourage.

An Overview of Spotlight in Entourage

From the user perspective, Spotlight search in Entourage provides a mechanism that allows for the full text search of items in the Entourage database. Spotlight uses file based metadata and a constantly updating index to return results to queries passed through the Spotlight search interface in the operating system. Results return quickly because the index is updated based on messages coming from the file system. Once the initial indexing is complete on a set of data, additional data is indexed automatically as files update on the system.

One of the difficulties in making Spotlight work with Entourage had to do with how Entourage stores its data. All Entourage data is stored within a single database file per user identity. Entourage was designed to be multi-user at the application level. This was to allow multiple family members to have their own identities in the application in the home environment. Entourage stores its data in a single database for each user identity created in Entourage. When a user first sets up Entourage the Identity they get is named "Main Identity".

In order to support Spotlight searching, we had to develop a mechanism for providing Entourage's database content to Spotlight's file-oriented indexing process. We settled upon a solution that "mirrors" the essential item content and metadata to a series of cache files. As a new message arrives, we store the message within our database and spawn a cache file representing the message. When a user modifies a contact's phone number or changes the dates on an event, we update our database and the contents of each item's cache file. When Spotlight indexes Entourage, it is actually indexing the contents of each cache file rather than the Entourage database. This approach allows Spotlight's indexing process to work it's magic on file change notifications, while not requiring a large overhaul of Entourage's data access architecture.

As an Entourage user's database potentially holds years of e-mail messages, the creation of cache files chances consuming large amounts of disk space for essentially redundant data. When we were considering this design, we found that through optimizations such as writing only plain text content rather than HTML and ignoring e-mail attachments, we were able to generate a cache roughly 20% of the original Entourage database's size. We also decided that the feature would be optional, allowing any user to simply disable the creation of the cache within their Entourage preferences.



Figure 1: Spotlight is enabled by default for the first identity opened after update 11.2.3 is installed.

The Spotlight preference pane in Entourage allows the user to both toggle the feature and rebuild the contents of the cache. On a moderately sized database of 200 MB, the creation of the cache file takes only a few minutes and happens in the background. The Rebuild button simply deletes all existing cache files, crawls the Entourage database, and generates a set of new cache files. A user would only need to rebuild if problems arise, as Entourage will continue to create, update, and delete cache files with each action performed on the Entourage database.

Once the cache files are created, Entourage's role in the indexing process is complete. Spotlight chooses when to index the cache files and how the results are displayed in the Spotlight Search Window, Smart Folders, and the Finder's Find functionality. As indexing progresses, the index in Spotlight is updated and queries containing the information the user is searching for begins to show up in the Search window. If you search for a set of words and Spotlight indexes an Entourage mail message with a matching phrase, the message will suddenly appear within the Spotlight Search Results Window. Figure 2 shows the results of a typical Spotlight search with Spotlight enabled in Entourage. The returned Entourage items can include mail, appointment, contact, task, and notes data.



Figure 2: Spotlight search results with Entourage items returned.

Double clicking on a returned item in Spotlight works as expected. You see the Entourage item open, just as if you had clicked on it in Entourage. So what's going on under the covers? Let's use some command line tools and take a look.

Query with Command Line Tools

There are a number of command line utilities that we can use to query the Spotlight database. We can use these tools to see where Entourage is storing the Spotlight metadata that it's creating and we can also see what the metadata files themselves look like.

The first tool to look at is mdfind. mdfind queries the metadata store and returns the results of our query. This tool takes three parameters. The -live parameter will continuously scan the database for results and you'll see items added as they come into Entourage. The -onlyin parameter allows us to specify a particular folder for the search. Finally, the query parameter, a string representing the information that we're searching for. Apple's developer documentation provides more details on the syntax of Spotlight queries. Let's see if we can use this tool to find an Entourage item and see where the metadata is being stored:

Running the command "mdfind welcomee@microsoft.com" on my machine returns a result with the path:

/Users/Brianjo/Library/Caches/Metadata/Microsoft/Entourage/2004/Main 
Identity/Messages/0T/0B/0M/0K/1.vRgeMessage

The .vRgeMessage file is an Entourage mail message's cache file. When you perform a Spotlight search, the results always return cache files. As mentioned previously, cache files are merely file-based mirrors of Entourage database records with the metadata and content necessary for Spotlight indexing. The name of the cache file is the record ID for the corresponding database record. When a user opens the cache file from a Spotlight result, Entourage reads the filename, looks up the record ID within the database, and shows the item directly from the database.

The mdls command line utility allows you to see the metadata Spotlight has indexed for any given file. By passing the path to the 1.vRgeMessage cache file from our mdfind result to mdls, we can see Spotlight knows the following about the e-mail message:

/Users/Brianjo/Library/Caches/Metadata/Microsoft/Entourage/2004/Main Identity/Messages/0T/0B/0M/0K/1.vRgeMessage -------------

com_microsoft_entourage_folderID         = 1
com_microsoft_entourage_messageSent      = 2006-03-21 00:23:21 -0800
com_microsoft_entourage_recordID         = 1
com_microsoft_entourage_size             = 37783
kMDItemAttributeChangeDate               = 2006-03-21 21:55:25 -0800
kMDItemAuthors                           = ("The Microsoft Mac Team <WelcomeE@microsoft.com>")
kMDItemContentCreationDate               = 2006-03-21 00:23:21 -0800
kMDItemContentModificationDate           = 2006-03-21 21:55:24 -0800
kMDItemContentType                       = "com.microsoft.entourage.virtual.message"
kMDItemContentTypeTree                   = (
    "com.microsoft.entourage.virtual.message", 
    "public.message", 
    "public.data", 
    "public.item"
)
kMDItemCoverage                          = "Inbox"
kMDItemDisplayName                       = "Welcome to Microsoft Entourage 2004 for Macintosh"
kMDItemFSContentChangeDate               = 2006-03-21 21:55:24 -0800
kMDItemFSCreationDate                    = 2006-03-21 21:55:24 -0800
kMDItemFSCreatorCode                     = 0
kMDItemFSFinderFlags                     = 0
kMDItemFSInvisible                       = 0
kMDItemFSIsExtensionHidden               = 0
kMDItemFSLabel                           = 0
kMDItemFSName                            = "1.vRgeMessage"
kMDItemFSNodeCount                       = 0
kMDItemFSOwnerGroupID                    = 501
kMDItemFSOwnerUserID                     = 501
kMDItemFSSize                            = 6584
kMDItemFSTypeCode                        = 0
kMDItemID                                = 4306567
kMDItemKind                              = "Microsoft Entourage message pointer"
kMDItemLastUsedDate                      = 2006-03-21 00:23:21 -0800
kMDItemRecipients                        = ("New Microsoft Entourage User ")
kMDItemTitle                             = "Welcome to Microsoft Entourage 2004 for Macintosh"

Whenever possible, metadata provided by Entourage is designed so that attribute names and values match those used by an analogous Apple application (e.g. message title). We hope that this will allow anyone who builds a solution on top of Spotlight may easily support Entourage alongside Apple's applications. We only deviated by adding additional attributes - nearly all properties available in our AppleScript dictionary are available as metadata. The design is intended so that scripters can use Spotlight as a quick way to query information and round-trip interactions with results through AppleScript. It also makes it possible to create useful queries such as "all unread messages today"( com_microsoft_entourage_unread == 1 && kMDItemContentCreationDate >= $time.today ).

Importing Metadata

Spotlight is designed such that it does not need to know about the file format of each file in order to index the file's contents. Instead, a developer provides a plug-in for Spotlight that handles both reading a file and returning metadata to the Spotlight indexing engine. These plugins are known as Metadata Importers and may be found \Library\Spotlight or are sometimes located within an application's bundle.



Figure 3: The Microsoft Entourage.mdimporter plug-in

The metadata importer plug-in that's used with Entourage is called Microsoft Entourage.mdimporter. When Spotlight comes across an Entourage-generated cache file, Spotlight passes the path of the file to the Entourage metadata importer, the importer reads the file, and then passes the metadata back to Spotlight. You can see the info for this plug-in in Figure 3. Notice that this plug-in is a universal binary and that it runs natively on an Intel-based Mac.

Multiple Identities?

There are a few things that system administrators should understand if they are going to use Spotlight search in multi-user scenarios. Given that Entourage can work as a multi-identity application, one thing you'll probably wonder about is, how does Spotlight know about the currently active identity in Entourage? The answer is that it doesn't. While we only automatically enable Spotlight indexing for the first identity launched after the update is applied, a user may turn on indexing of additional identities by enabling the Spotlight preference in Entourage. If the user then double clicks on an item, that item is only opened if its associated identity is currently active. Entourage actually uses the folder path to determine the identity of a result. If the identity is not currently active then the user will get the message shown in Figure 4.



Figure 4: Trying to open an item associated with an inactive identity

As you can imagine, in scenarios where many people use the same account on a Mac and then differentiate identities in Entourage, Spotlight could become pretty useless when trying to find specific e-mail items as search results intermix results across multiple identities. For that reason, Microsoft recommends that in situations where multiple users will want to use Spotlight search with Entourage, users should have their own user accounts set up on the Macs.

Removing Spotlight from Entourage

There are a number of reasons a system administrator might want to completely disable Spotlight searching in Entourage. First, multiple user accounts on a machine are not always practical. In some cases, schoolrooms use a single account per classroom and kids are able to check their e-mail by simply switching identities in Entourage. On a machine with many dozens of identities, using Spotlight to find anything could be pretty difficult. Second, the cache used for Entourage content does take disk space. In a scenario where a user has a large entourage database, or there are multiple accounts on the machine with large databases, disk space can potentially become an issue. Finally there are privacy considerations around using Spotlight searches on Entourage content, especially if multiple identities are used on the same user account. Even if the searcher can't see the e-mail that's returned, they might be able to get more information than the user wants them to have about items returned in a search.

To completely disable Spotlight in Entourage, simply remove the Microsoft Entourage.mdimporter plug-in from the /Library/Spotlight folder and restart Entourage. When you look at the Entourage preferences you'll see as in Figure 5, that the Spotlight preference is no longer available.



Figure 5: Spotlight removed from Entourage preferences

Finally, if you completely disable Spotlight in entourage, remember to go to the /Users/<username>/Library/Caches/Metadata/Microsoft/Entourage/2004/ folder and delete any folders there that you no longer want to be available in Spotlight searches.

Conclusion

In this article, we've described how Spotlight works with Entourage 2004. The Spotlight search functionality added in update 11.2.3 fundamentally changes the way that you can work with e-mail, contacts, calendar items, and notes in Entourage, allowing you to instantly find data you need using the tools built right into Tiger. This update makes Entourage a true, first class citizen in the OS and it makes working with Entourage data on the Mac easier than ever.

Bibliography and References

Apple Computer. "Working with Spotlight". http://developer.apple.com/macosx/spotlight.html.

M. Amir Haque. "Spotlight Support in Entourage 2004". The Entourage Blog, http://blogs.msdn.com/entourage/archive/2006/03/17/553801.aspx


Brian Johnson is the Microsoft Entourage Product Manager. You can contact Brian by e-mail at brianjo@microsoft.com, or you can read his blog at http://bufferoverrun.net.

Andy Ruff is an Entourage Program Manager, and is the author of The Entourage Blog (http://blogs.msdn.com/Entourage).

 
AAPL
$97.19
Apple Inc.
+2.47
MSFT
$44.87
Microsoft Corpora
+0.04
GOOG
$595.98
Google Inc.
+1.24

MacTech Search:
Community Search:

Software Updates via MacUpdate

Firefox 31.0 - Fast, safe Web browser. (...
Firefox for Mac offers a fast, safe Web browsing experience. Browse quickly, securely, and effortlessly. With its industry-leading features, Firefox is the choice of Web development professionals... Read more
Little Snitch 3.3.3 - Alerts you to outg...
Little Snitch gives you control over your private outgoing data. Track background activityAs soon as your computer connects to the Internet, applications often have permission to send any... Read more
Thunderbird 31.0 - Email client from Moz...
As of July 2012, Thunderbird has transitioned to a new governance model, with new features being developed by the broader free software and open source community, and security fixes and improvements... Read more
Together 3.2 - Store and organize all of...
Together helps you organize your Mac, giving you the ability to store, edit and preview your files in a single clean, uncluttered interface. Smart storage. With simple drag-and-drop functionality,... Read more
Cyberduck 4.5 - FTP and SFTP browser. (F...
Cyberduck is a robust FTP/FTP-TLS/SFTP browser for the Mac whose lack of visual clutter and cleverly intuitive features make it easy to use. Support for external editors and system technologies such... Read more
iExplorer 3.4 - View and transfer all th...
iExplorer is an iPhone browser for Mac lets you view the files on your iOS device. By using a drag and drop interface, you can quickly copy files and folders between your Mac and your iPhone or... Read more
Airmail 1.4 - Powerful, minimal email cl...
Airmail is a powerful, minimal mail client.It was designed to retain the same experience with a single or multiple accounts and provide a quick, modern and easy-to-use user experience. Airmail... Read more
Macs Fan Control 1.1.12 - Monitor and co...
Macs Fan Control allows you to monitor and control almost any aspect of your computer's fans, with support for controlling fan speed, temperature sensors pane, menu-bar icon, and autostart with... Read more
A Better Finder Rename 9.37 - File, phot...
A Better Finder Rename is the most complete renaming solution available on the market today. That's why, since 1996, tens of thousands of hobbyists, professionals and businesses depend on A Better... Read more
MacBook Air EFI Firmware Update 2.9 - Fo...
MacBook Air EFI Firmware Update is recommended for MacBook Air (Mid 2011) models. This update addresses an issue where systems may take longer to wake from sleep than expected and fixes a rare issue... Read more

Latest Forum Discussions

See All

Traps n' Gemstones (Games)
Traps n' Gemstones 1.00 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $2.99, Version: 1.00 (iTunes) Description: LAUNCH SALE! 40% off, JULY ONLY! TRAPS N' GEMSTONES is an adventurous platform game, among gamers typically known as the... | Read more »
Soccer Physics (Games)
Soccer Physics 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $1.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: One-button soccer game! So dumb it's fun. "Soccer Physics is probably the funniest football game you'll play on iOS" —... | Read more »
Ex-Angry Birds Developers Release Monsu...
Ex-Angry Birds Developers Release Monsu Teaser Trailer Posted by Jennifer Allen on July 23rd, 2014 [ permalink ] Finnish developer Boomlagoon has released a teaser trailer of their forthcoming side-scrolling action platformer, | Read more »
Lots of New Modes Have Been Added to Can...
Lots of New Modes Have Been Added to Canabalt Posted by Jennifer Allen on July 23rd, 2014 [ permalink ] Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad | Read more »
Stronghold 3: The Campaigns Review
Stronghold 3: The Campaigns Review By Jennifer Allen on July 23rd, 2014 Our Rating: :: DULL STRATEGIZINGiPad Only App - Designed for the iPad A cumbersome strategy game, Stronghold 3: The Campaigns has a few too many issues to... | Read more »
Table Tennis Touch on Sale for a Limited...
Table Tennis Touch on Sale for a Limited Time Posted by Jessica Fisher on July 23rd, 2014 [ permalink ] Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad | Read more »
Secret Files Tunguska Review
Secret Files Tunguska Review By Jennifer Allen on July 23rd, 2014 Our Rating: :: CONSPIRACY-LITTERED ADVENTURINGUniversal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad Offering traditional adventuring with no fear of in-app purchases, Secret... | Read more »
Celebrate Summer With a Cat in the Hat L...
Celebrate Summer With a Cat in the Hat Learning Library Sale Posted by Ellis Spice on July 22nd, 2014 [ permalink ] Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad | Read more »
Dragon Raiders Review
Dragon Raiders Review By Nadia Oxford on July 22nd, 2014 Our Rating: :: RUN, DRAGON, RUNUniversal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad Dragon Raiders is rough and scaly in some parts, but overall it’s an enjoyable level-based running... | Read more »
MyTaskList Review
MyTaskList Review By Jennifer Allen on July 22nd, 2014 Our Rating: :: EFFECTIVE IF PLAINUniversal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad It’s not the most stylish of task management apps, but MyTaskList has all the features you could... | Read more »

Price Scanner via MacPrices.net

With The Apple/IBM Alliance, Is The iPad Now...
Almost since the iPad was rolled out in 2010, and especially after Apple made a 128 GB storage configuration available in 2012, there’s been debate over whether the iPad is a serious tool for... Read more
MacBook Airs on sale starting at $799, free s...
B&H Photo has the new 2014 MacBook Airs on sale for up to $100 off MSRP for a limited time. Shipping is free, and B&H charges NY sales tax only. They also include free copies of Parallels... Read more
Apple 27″ Thunderbolt Display (refurbished) a...
The Apple Store has Apple Certified Refurbished 27″ Thunderbolt Displays available for $799 including free shipping. That’s $200 off the cost of new models. Read more
WaterField Designs Unveils Cycling Ride Pouch...
High end computer case and bag maker WaterField Designs of San Francisco now enters the cycling market with the introduction of the Cycling Ride Pouch – an upscale toolkit with a scratch-free iPhone... Read more
Kingston Digital Ships Large Capacity Near 1T...
Kingston Digital, Inc., the Flash memory affiliate of Kingston Technology Company, Inc.,has announced its latest addition to the SSDNow V300 series, the V310. The Kingston SSDNow V310 solid-state... Read more
Apple’s Fiscal Third Quarter Results; Record...
Apple has announced financial results for its fiscal 2014 third quarter ended June 28, 2014, racking up quarterly revenue of $37.4 billion and quarterly net profit of $7.7 billion, or $1.28 per... Read more
15-inch 2.0GHz MacBook Pro Retina on sale for...
B&H Photo has the 15″ 2.0GHz Retina MacBook Pro on sale for $1829 including free shipping plus NY sales tax only. Their price is $170 off MSRP. B&H will also include free copies of Parallels... Read more
Apple restocks refurbished Mac minis for up t...
The Apple Store has restocked Apple Certified Refurbished Mac minis for up to $150 off the cost of new models. Apple’s one-year warranty is included with each mini, and shipping is free: - 2.5GHz Mac... Read more
Twelve South HiRise For MacBook – Height-Adju...
If you use your MacBook as a workhorse desktop substitute, as many of us do, a laptop stand combined with an external keyboard and pointing device are pretty much obligatory if you want to avoid... Read more
Why The Mac Was Not Included In The Apple/IBM...
TUAW’s Yoni Heisler cites Fredrick Paul of Network World whoi blogged last week that the Mac’s conspicuous absence from Apple and IBM’s landmark partnership agreement represents a huge squandered... Read more

Jobs Board

Senior Interaction Designer, *Apple* Online...
**Job Summary** Apple is looking for a hands on Senior…will be a key player in designing for the Apple Online Store. The ideal designer will have a Read more
*Apple* Sales Chat Rep - Apple (United State...
…is looking for motivated, outgoing, and tech savvy individuals who want to offer Apple Customers an unparalleled customer experience over chat. At Apple , we believe Read more
Mac Expert - *Apple* Online Store Mexico -...
…MUST be fluent in English and Spanish to be considered for this position At Apple , we believe that hard work, a fun environment, creativity and innovation fuel the Read more
*Apple* Industrial Design CAD Sculptor - App...
**Job Summary** The Apple Industrial Design team is looking for a CAD sculptor/Digital 3D modeler to create high quality CAD models used in the industrial design process Read more
*Apple* Developer Support Advisor - Portugue...
**Job Summary** Imagine what you could do here. At Apple , great ideas have a way of becoming great products, services, and customer experiences very quickly. Bring Read more
All contents are Copyright 1984-2011 by Xplain Corporation. All rights reserved. Theme designed by Icreon.