How to use the Spotlight Window for simple searches
Mac Tip #479, 23 March 2011
If you want to search just one folder, or by the date a file was modified, or by file extension or some other criteria then a Menu Bar Spotlight search may be too simplistic. The Spotlight Window lets you really take charge of your searches, even saving them to use again later. Here’s what you need to know to start with.
See Tune up Spotlight on your Mac for some important basic information about using and adjusting Spotlight.
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Overview and quick instructions for the Spotlight Window
- Call up the Spotlight Window quickly with the keyboard shortcut as set in the
- Select criteria in the
- Sort results by clicking on column headers.
- Save searched for later use — they automatically update with any new files.
- Provided you check the
Add to Sidebarcheckbox saved searches are available in the bottom section of the Sidebar.
Call up the Spotlight Window quickly
If you click on the magnifying glass icon at the right-hand end of the Menu Bar on your Mac a blue search box appears. Type in something you want to find and as you type Spotlight displays possible results. That’s great for a quick search, but Spotlight also has a whole Window that gives you much more control over searching.
Set a keyboard shortcut to quickly call up the Spotlight Window:
- Click on the
Spotlightpane in the top row. The Spotlight Preferences open up with 2 tabs:
- At the bottom of that window check the box
Spotlight window keyboard shortcutand select the shortcut you want to use.
- Close the
My screenshot shows a yellow Alert triangle that suggests my chosen shortcut conflicts with something else on my system. If you see such a triangle then choose a different keyboard shortcut.
Call up a Spotlight Window
Use your selected keyboard shortcut to call up a Spotlight Window.
Another way to do it is to open any Finder window and start to type a search in the Search Box at the top of the window. Both options have similar results. A Search Toolbar appears below the main Finder window Toolbar. The window’s main Toolbar and Sidebar may or may not be hidden, depending on how you called up the search.
Select where and what to search
The Spotlight Window has a search bar at the top where you enter the text to search for. Below that are some controls to restrict or refine the search.
To search on the whole of your Mac’s hard drive click the
This Mac button. It turns dark to show you’ve selected it.
Alternatively click on the name for your Home Folder (mine is “miraz”) or the Shared folder to restrict the search to those areas.
To search inside files click the
Contents button, but to restrict the search to file names click the
File Name button instead.
For example: My screenshot shows me searching on the word
logo. If I wanted only those files in my Home Folder whose name contained the word
logo I would select the
File Name buttons, as in my screenshot.
Sort the results
Once you have a window full of search results click on the header of any column to sort the results by that criterion.
For example, I could group all the images I found by kind by clicking the
Kind heading. In the screenshot my results are sorted by
Search an external drive
If you have an external drive and want to include it in your search, make sure it’s plugged in and turned on. Results from the drive will be included if you choose to search
Save a search to use it again
If you often need to search for the same things, for example, all files in the
Shared folder with
budget in the
File Name save the search.
To save a search press the
Save button in the Search Toolbar. A standard Save dialog box appears.
Give your saved search a useful name then click the
Save button. Make sure you check the box
Add to Sidebar near the bottom of the Save dialog box.
Use a saved search
To use a saved search again call up a Finder window and make sure the Sidebar is visible. See Show the Finder Toolbar, Sidebar and Status Bar if you need help with that.
SEARCH FOR section in the Sidebar and click on your saved search. Relevant files are displayed, including any you’ve added since you saved the search.
More complex searches
In a future Tip I’ll explain how to create a complex and sophisticated search with more options. Another Tip will also explain how to edit, rename and remove a search that’s saved in the Sidebar.
Share your favourite Spotlight tips in the Comments at the website.