Time-saving tips for using the Finder Search feature on Mac

Having trouble finding what you’re looking for on your Mac? Here are some helpful tips for using Finder Search so you can save time and prevent frustration.

Mac Finder icon with a search bar below it

When you’re looking for something on your Mac, whether a document, file, or application, you have two powerful search tools; Finder and Spotlight. We’ve covered some tips for helping you use Spotlight on your Mac, so now it’s time to offer our help with Finder.

The Finder Search feature does more than provide you with a simple search box. You can select how to look, add criteria to narrow down your results, and save your searches to use them again later.

Basic Finder searches

If you’re looking for something on your Mac using Finder, you simply pop a keyword or phrase into the Search box on the top right of the Finder window.

When you do this, you can select to find the term in the filename, kind of file, from someone, or just use Everything. Click the drop-down box on the left side of the search box after you enter your keyword or phrase. This is a quick way to narrow down certain results.

Finder Search Dropdown Mac

On newer versions of macOS, you can select Filenames, Content, or another suggestion when you’re typing the search query.

Typing in Finder search on Mac

Depending on the folder you’re searching within, you can also use the options at the top of the Finder window to search the current folder or pick This Mac or Shared.

Finder Search Options Mac

Add criteria to searches

If you don’t find what you’re looking for, you can narrow down your search results even further.

After you enter your keyword or phrase, click the plus sign in the bar that appears below the Search box.

1) You can then use criteria like name, last opened date, contents, or other.

2) Once you make a selection, move to the next drop-down box for options like matches, contains, begins or ends with.

3) Then, enter your text in the last box if needed.

Finder Search Criteria Mac

Your search results will refresh automatically to match the criteria that you entered. And if you want to go a step further, you can click the plus sign to the right and add another set of criteria.

The Apple Support site offers up a ton of metadata attributes that you can use for searching your Mac. So if you’re comfortable popping in things like “author:[name]” or “[keyword] kind:document,” then you can use those types of searches too.

Finder Search Operators Mac

But adding the criteria as explained above accomplishes this same goal, and you don’t have to worry about entering the correct metadata or using the right syntax for the search.

Save your searches as Smart Folders

Smart Folders on Mac give you a convenient way to put items into folders automatically. Be sure to check out our full tutorial for working with Smart Folders if you’re interested.

It’s really simple to save a search as a Smart Folder:

1) Click the Save button below the Search box.

2) Give your Smart Folder a name and pick its location. You’ll notice a folder called “Smart Searches” is there by default, but you can change it.

If you decide to use that folder, you can access it with Finder by clicking Go > Go to Folder, entering ~/library/saved searches, and clicking Go.

You also have an option at the bottom to Add to Sidebar so you can access it easily from the Finder Sidebar when needed.

3) When you finish, click Save.

Finder Search Save Mac

Now you can access that Smart Folder when you want items you searched for, and anything new will be automatically added to it.

Finder Search Saved Search Sidebar Mac

When you’re in search of something on your Mac, it can get aggravating if you aren’t finding what you want. This is especially true if you’re in a hurry and need a file quickly. These quick tips for the Finder Search feature should help!

Do more in Finder: