Find things faster with these Spotlight search tips for Mac

Spotlight Search Mac

When you need to find something on your Mac, you have the handy Spotlight search feature built right in. This convenient tool helps you locate documents, apps, and files as well as gives you suggestions if you so choose.

While Spotlight is super easy to use, you can do a lot more with it than you probably realize. You can narrow down your results quicker, get local information without much effort, and even do calculations.

For making the most of this cool tool, here are some Spotlight search tips for Mac.

Accessing Spotlight

You have two very quick ways to access the Spotlight search on your Mac. First and most obvious is the Spotlight search button in your menu bar. Click it, type, and search.

Alternatively, you can keep your fingers on the keyboard and access it with the shortcut Command + Space bar.

Customizing Spotlight

You don’t have to have Spotlight search every nook and cranny of your Mac when you use it. You can decide for yourself what and where to search and enable or disable search suggestions.

Open your System Preferences with the button in your Dock or click Apple icon > System Preferences from the menu bar.

Select Spotlight. In the pop-up window, make sure Search Results tab is selected. You can then select or deselect any item in the list from Applications to Mail & Messages to System Preferences. This is also good to keep in mind if you’re not finding what you’re looking for with Spotlight.

Spotlight in System Preferences Mac

At the bottom of the window, you can mark the checkbox for Allow Spotlight Suggestions in Look Up for additional help in your searches.

Using Spotlight

As mentioned, you can get local information, add words to limit your results, do conversions, and more. Here are those Spotlight search tips to keep in mind the next time you use it.

Spotlight Showtimes Mac

Try some of these searches:

Weather: Type in “weather” and without even clicking, you’ll get your local conditions and forecast.

Restaurants: Type in “pizza,” “burgers,” “tacos,” or another kind of food you’re in the mood to eat and see local eateries.

Showtimes: Type in the name of the movie followed by “showtimes” and you’ll see times for that film at your local theater.

Calculations: Type in the calculation and immediately see the result such as “3560*450” or “3560-450”.

Conversions: Type in what you would like to convert like “3 cups to tablespoons” or “450 feet to inches”.

Definitions: Type in any word and see the definition or click Definition on the left.

File type and metadata: Type “kind:” before the kind of file you’re searching for like “kind:video” or “kind:pdf”. And, you can include metadata to narrow down your results. Here are some examples.

  • kind:images created:1/1/19 – for images created on that data.
  • resume kind:document – for documents with the word “resume”.
  • kind:music by:”madonna” – for music by Madonna.
  • modified:<=1/1/19 – for items modified on or before a certain date.
Spotlight Modified Date Mac

Boolean operators: Use operators like “AND,” “OR,” “NOT,” and a minus sign for “AND NOT”, to limit the search results. Here are some examples.

  • idb AND feedback – would search for items containing both words.
  • author:sandy OR author:sandi – would search for items containing either word.
  • kind:message date:1/1/19-2/1/19 NOT 2/14/19 – would search for messages between particular dates but eliminate those on a specific date.
  • vacation -chicago – would search for items with the word “vacation” but not “Chicago”.
Spotlight Boolean Operator Mac

For whatever you’re searching, you’ll see a list of apps, documents, and more on the left side as they apply. So, you could search for “emails from Sebastien last year” and see results in the Mail app on the left that you can pick from.

And to see all results for your search in Finder, double-click the Show all in Finder link at the bottom on the left. Your Finder window will pop open with your results.

Spotlight Show all in Finder Mac

Wrapping it up

Using Spotlight to find things on your Mac or on the web is simply convenient. And with some tricks like these, you can make your search more accurate.

Do you have any Spotlight search tips you’d like to add? If so, feel free to comment below!

And if you’re having trouble finding what you’re looking for, here’s how to rebuild the Spotlight index on your Mac.