I've been having a lot of problems with Spotlight and MacFUSE lately, so I've completely disabled Spotlight - I never use it anyway. It would be nice to have an index of all my documents and emails, but Spotlight just really isn't configurable enough to work properly. So how to do this on your own? There is the Apache indexing system, that might work well. To use that, I would setup a private network web space, and index all the documents in there. Again you run into the same problem as you do with "locate", where if you update the database as a superuser, all users can search through all the files. I had originally decided to use Mac Mail.app instead of Thunderbird because it integrates Spotlight, but I've found it to work quite poorly, and not at all when trying to search the entire message.