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Spotlight indexes all the information on your Mac and is the primary search tool in OSX.

You get more accurate, faster results when you limit Spotlight’s search area.

How Do I Use Spotlight?

You can start a Spotlight search in one of two ways:

  • Click the small magnifying glass on the toolbar at the top right hand corner your screen.

Spotlight on Safari Toolbar

  • Use the keystroke shortcut Command + Spacebar.

Command + Spacebar for Spotlight on Mac

When the Spotlight search box appears, start typing.

Spotlight Search Bar

As you type, a drop down box shows results. A preview pane on the right provides a quick display of selected results.

Apple Mac Spotlight Preview Pane

Spotlight uses predictive text to guess what you’re searching for:

  • If the predictive text is right, stop tying and choose from the 2 options below.
  • If the predictive text is wrong, type your entire search query, then choose from the 2 options below.

1. Examine

  • Click to select a result. A preview appears in the pane on the right.
  • Hold down the Command key to reveal the file path (location on your Mac.)

Apple Mac Spotlight File Location Command

2. Open

  • Click to select a result. You do not need to do this if Spotlight has selected the correct result.
  • Hit Enter or Return. This opens Applications and files or takes you to the location of an online result.

How To Control Your Search

  • Click the black Apple in the top left-hand corner of the screen.
  • Choose System Preferences.
  • Click the Spotlight Icon.
  • Select the Search Results tab.

Here, you’ll find a list of 21 search categories.

Spotlight - System Preferences - Search Results Management

Checking or unchecking a category, includes or excludes it from Spotlight searches.

  • Applications – Hit enter or return to immediately launch an App.
  • Spotlight Suggestions – General Internet, Wikipedia, iTunes, App Store, Locations and more.
  • Conversion – Get foreign exchange, size, distance, temperature conversions and more.
  • Calculator – Type in data to get instant calculations. Hit enter to launch Calculator.
  • Definition – Type in words to get Dictionary definitions. Hit enter to launch Dictionary.
  • System Preferences – Go directly to individual System Preferences.
  • Documents – Word or text string searches within Pages, Microsoft Word, etc.
  • Folders – Search for Folders by name. Hit enter to open a folder.
  • Presentations – Word or text string searches within Keynote, Microsoft Powerpoint, etc.
  • Spreadsheets – Word or text string searches within Numbers, Microsoft Excel, etc.
  • PDF Documents – Locate PDF documents by name.
  • Mail & Messages – Word or text string searches within any email or message.
  • Contacts – Search names, groups or text within contacts.
  • Events & Reminders – Search names, groups or text within Calendar Events or Reminders.
  • Images – Search images by name.
  • Bookmarks & History – Search bookmarks and history within Safari.
  • Music – Search your iTunes library for artists, albums and songs.
  • Movies – Search for current Movie showtimes at local theaters, online information and movies on your own hard drive.
  • Fonts – Locate fonts by name.
  • Other – Misc. search results not covered in other areas.
  • Bing Web Searches – Suggestions from Microsofts Bing Search engine.

That’s it.

Over the past few years, I’ve written about Spotlight several times. Check out these links and you’ll find some great features that are often overlooked.

Looking For Something? Try Spotlight – Beginner’s Guide to Spotlight.

Spotlight… The Fastest Way To Launch Apps On The Mac – Quick guide to using Spotlight as an App launcher.

Planning On Filing Taxes… Your Mac Can Provide A Little Help – How to use Spotlight’s fast and convenient calculation feature. Well worth your time.

My Mac Says It’s Not There… But I’m Looking Right At It – How to re-index Spotlight to capture all data on your Mac.

Have a fun weekend.

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