14 Spotlight Search Tricks for Mac Users

You can search files and folders on your Mac using the Spotlight search. Spotlight is good enough to find exact files based on your search query. However, you can also customize Spotlight search to show specific files you want in the results. In this article, let us explore how to customize Spotlight search on Mac to get more out of your searches.  

Related: How to cleanup your Mac to increase storage space?

14 Spotlight Search Tricks for Mac

Here are the tricks to get fast and precise results from Spotlight search on your Mac.

  1. Keyboard shortcut
  2. View file path
  3. Open containing folder
  4. Choose search categories
  5. Change keyboard shortcuts
  6. Hide specific folder
  7. Filter specific file types
  8. Searching in Spotlight Finder
  9. Filter results by tags
  10. Search by author
  11. Filter with dates
  12. Use Boolean operator
  13. Exclude keywords
  14. Get math results

1. Opening Spotlight Search with Keyboard

Mac by default has Spotlight search option on top right corner nearer to the Siri and Notifications icon. It will show as a lens icon which you can click to open the search box.

Open Spotlight Search in Mac
Open Spotlight Search in Mac

The first tip is to quickly open Spotlight search using keyboard shortcuts. Simply press “Command + Spacebar” to open Spotlight search using your keyboard.

2. View File Path

The problem with Spotlight search results is that by default you can only view and open the file or folder. It will not show the file path which you may need in many situations. For example, you may want to go to the destination folder especially when there are multiple files with the same file name you are searching for. In this case, after searching press “Command” key to show the file path on the status bar as shown below:

View File Path in Spotlight
View File Path in Spotlight

3. Open Destination Folder

From Spotlight search results, press “Command” key and double click on the file to open the containing folder in a Finder window.

4. Choosing Categories for Search

You can choose what folders are to be considered for showing in the search results. By ignoring the folders, you can decide not to show any files inside the folders in Spotlight search results.

  • Click on the Apple Menu and go to “System Preferences…”.
  • Select the Spotlight option.
Open Spotlight Preferences
Open Spotlight Preferences
  • Go to “Search Results” tab and choose the categories to show in the results.
Choose Category for Spotlight Search
Choose Category for Spotlight Search

You can uncheck the category to hide the content from the search results. For example, unchecking “Applications” will not show any apps in the search results.

5. Changing Keyboard Shortcuts

As mentioned in the previous tip, you can quickly open Spotlight search by using “Command + Spacebar” shortcut. You can change this shortcut easily when you are on the preferences pop-up.

  • Click on the “Keyboard Shortcuts…” button to view the default shortcuts to open Spotlight search and Finder search.
  • Double click on the entry and assign new shortcut like “Shift + Command + Space” for opening Spotlight search.
Change Keyboard Shortcuts to Open Spotlight
Change Keyboard Shortcuts to Open Spotlight

6. Hiding Specific Folders from Search

Similar to filtering categories, you can also hide content inside specific folders from showing in the search results.

  • First, open Finder and locate the folder you want to hide from the search results.
  • Now go to Spotlight preferences section and navigate to “Privacy” tab.
  • Drag the folder from Finder window and drop inside the Spotlight preferences box.
  • Alternatively, you can also press the + button and add folders.
  • In both methods, you can add multiple folders at once to hide from search. Similarly, you can select all and delete from the list.

This is a useful tip to hide unnecessary files showing in the Spotlight results by stacking all files into one folder and hide that folder.

7. Searching for Types of Files

Mac will categorize the Spotlight results automatically under images, documents, developer, etc. However, you can also filter the search result to show specific file types by using “kind” keyword in the search. The syntax is as below:

kind:modifier keyword

For example, to search only PDF files matching the keyword “WordPress”, you can use the following:

kind:pdf wordpress

Filter PDF File Types in Spotlight Results
Filter PDF File Types in Spotlight Results

Below is the complete list of filters you can use to find specific file types using Spotlight search.

kind:modifierDescription
kind:aliasShow aliases of files
kind:appShow only applications
kind:audioFilter MP3 and other audio files
kind: bookmarkReturn bookmarked webpages from Safari browser
kind:contactShow results from Contacts app
kind:documentsShow documents with the keyword
kind:documentSame as kind:documents
kind:emailShow results only from email messages
kind:eventShow events from Calendar app
kind:excelFilter Microsoft Excel files
kind:exeShow developer files
kind:folderShow only folder
kind:fontShow installed fonts from your Mac
kind:gifFilter GIF image files
kind:imageFilter all image files like PNG and JPEG.
kind:jpegShow only JPEG image files
kind:keynoteFilter Keynote files
kind:mailSame as kind:email
kind:moviesResults show .mov, .avi or iTunes video files
kind:musicSame as kind:audio
kind:numbersFilter Numbers files
kind:pagesFilter Pages documents
kind:pdfFilter PDF files
kind:picSame as kind:image
kind:pngShow only PNG image files
kind:powerpointFilter Microsoft PowerPoint presentations
kind:preferencesShow tools from system preferences
kind:presentationReturns presentation files like Keynote and PowerPoint
kind:quicktimeFilter only QuickTime videos
kind:spreadsheetReturns spreadsheets like Excel and Number files
kind:tifFilter only TIFF images in result
kind:wordFilter Microsoft Word document files

8. Searching in Spotlight Finder

Besides independent Spotlight search, you can also use the Spotlight search inside the Finder window. Press, “Option + Command + Space” to open the Spotlight search inside Finder window. From here you can use all the above “kind:modifier” to filter the file type for any keyword.

Using Kind Modifier in Finder Spotlight Search
Using Kind Modifier in Finder Spotlight Search

9. Searching with Tag Color

Tags are an easy way to organize similar types of files. Mac uses colors as tags to group files into the same color. You can right click on any file to assign the tag color to it. You can simply use “tag:red” in Spotlight search to filter the files with red tag color. The available tag colors are red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple, and gray.

10. Searching by Author

You can use the author keyword to filter results only from the particular author. This is useful especially when you have documents and emails from multiple authors on your Mac. For example, using “author:webnots” will show you all emails, messages and documents with the author name as webnots.

11. Restricting Dates in Spotlight Results

When you are using Mac for many years, it make sense to search files in certain date range. This will easily help to filter the file you want within the specified dates. You can use the “date:” keyword in the following manners to filter based on date:

  • date: today
  • date: yesterday
  • date:2020/1/8
  • date:2020/1/4-2020/1/13

Spotlight will only return the files created or modified on the given date or range. You can also use the date: modifier with any keyword to filter files created or modified on the given date having specified keyword.

Filter Files Based on Date in Spotlight Search
Filter Files Based on Date in Spotlight Search

Ensure to use the correct date format as per your Mac. If you are in doubt, check the correct date format in “Date & Time” preferences section.

12. Using Search Operators in Spotlight

You can use Boolean operators like AND, OR and NOT in the Spotlight search. This is useful when you want to get the results for multiple keywords. Below are some of the useful ways of using these Boolean operators:

  • ipad AND iphone AND mac
  • android OR ios
  • ipod OR ipad AND iphone
  • ipad AND NOT iphone

Remember to use the operators in capital letter to avoid it is being treated as a keyword.

13. Excluding in Spotlight

You can use the minus sign to exclude certain items from the results. For example, searching kind:pdf -wordpress will show all PDF documents on your Mac that does not contain the keyword wordpress.

14. Using Mathematical Operations

Every one of us use Calculator for mathematical operations. However, you can also use Spotlight search to get quick math results. For example, you can type 2999+10399+200/34 to see the results like below.

Calculator in Spotlight Search
Calculator in Spotlight Search

You can click on the Calculator in the results to open the Calculator app to continue further calculations.

Final Words

You may be using Spotlight search regularly to find files and folders on your Mac. However, knowing simple tricks can help to get things done quickly. We hope this article helped you to learn some new Spotlight search tricks to get most out of Spotlight search on your Mac.

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