Apple has all kinds of little tricks built into their operating system that can make users’ computer experience much more efficient and smooth. However, many of these features are often unknown to new as well as old Mac users, or are understood only in their fundamental parts. Spotlight is one of those things. It can be used intuitively to make simple searches even by someone totally new to OS X, although there are also slightly more in depth methods of using it, by utilizing specific file attributes, that turn it into a powerful and awesome search tool.
When you simply type in the name of something you are looking for, Spotlight will not only list all the files that contain that word in their name, but also any file that contains that word within the actual document. For example, if you were to type in “vacation,” any file with that word in the name or within the contents anywhere will show up, rendering a rather cluttered list of results. To avoid this, you can type in “name:vacation” and the list will instead only include files with vacation in the actual name.
You can also search for a file by the kind of file it is, such as a document, PDF, application, image, or audio file. If you type in, for example, “kind:document,” the search will only return results that are documents. This can allow you to narrow the search list further. Following the vacation example, typing in “vacation kind:pdf” will show all PDFs that contain the word “vacation” in the name or contents.
Another couple attributes that you can use to narrow searches are the date of creation and last date of modification. If you happen to know that the last time you altered the file you are looking for was the third of June 2013, you can find it by typing in “modified: 6/3/2013”. Spotlight will also work with a range of dates (5/3/2013-6/3/2013) and a date before or after which the file was modified, using greater and less than signs. Similarly, if you can remember when the file you are searching for was originally created, you can search by that attribute by simply using “created” instead of “modified” and the same format for the date.
To really narrow down the search results and find what you are looking for, you can combine several of these attribute markers together to form a highly specific search. For example, if you know the file you are looking for has vacation in the name, is a document, and was created on July 26 th , 2010, you can type in “name: vacation kind: document created: 7/26/2010”. Doing this will likely return only a few results, including the one you are looking for.
There are also some tricks to navigating Spotlight’s list of results. If using the arrow keys to move up and down the list, you can speed things up by holding down command at the same time to move up and down between categories. Also, if you want to find the actual location of a file rather than open it, hold down command and click or hit enter over the file to go to its place in Finder.
These tips can be very useful as your work and play cause the number of files, and therefore the possible number of search results, to grow. Knowing the tricks of Spotlight will make it easy to navigate and streamline your computing.