4 Common Mistakes Mac Users Make When Trying To Search For Files
It is common to hear a Mac user complain that the file search function in macOS Finder doesn't find files they know are present. The reason is often that the user has made one of these mistakes. When searching for a file, the search usually starts in the folder in which the user is currently looking. You need to change the scope of your search to look elsewhere as well. By default, searches look in the content of files as well as the file names, but you can narrow your search to only the file names. If you are looking for something other than a file's content or name, you need to start the search differently. Many users search for files using Spotlight, but if you know you want a file, then it is better to search with the Finder.
You can change the default behavior by going to Finder, Preferences and under Advanced you have When performing a search start in the current folder, the entire Mac, or the previous search scope. So instead of being in the current folder it's wherever you searched last. So you can set it to one of these. But no matter which one you have it set at you're best bet is to go to some sort of top level like your Documents folder or your Home folder and start a search from there just to make sure you cover all your bases.
Now you may also notice when you search for files that you do have the option to search for Name Matches. Because if you notice here in my results I have a file right there that doesn't actually even have the name in the name of the file. This may seem confusing but the term is actually in the content of that file. So when you're doing a regular search you're actually searching file names and the content. That may not be what you want. So when typing you can select Name Matches and now you get only that. A shortcut for that is to type name colon and it automatically does that. If you like typing shortcuts you can do it that way.
But that confuses a lot of people especially if you have files that have lots of words in them. As a game developer I have tons of files with dictionaries in them and things like that and if I search for anything I'm going to come up with all sorts of files that aren't what I'm looking for. So I almost always search by name.
Now another thing you may want to do is to search for something not by name or content at all. But say maybe by date or file size or something. We know that we can do a search and then we can after that search is there, whether you're doing it by name or content or whatever, you can hit the plus button and then do something like, you know, create a date or the kind or file size or whatever. But what if you want to start there. You just want to look for large files for instance. It doesn't seem to be a way to do it. You seem to have to enter something in here.
But all you need to do is use the shortcut. So you can go to File Find or Command F. As soon as you do that, even though you haven't typed anything in there to begin with, you now have the ability to narrow what you've got. So you can do file sizes greater than say a certain amount and narrow down what you've got.
So one last mistake that people make when searching is using Spotlight to search for files. It works. You can do Command space and you could do a Spotlight search and you'll come up with documents here. But you're going to come up with lots of other stuff. All the stuff that comes up is in System Preferences and if you go to Spotlight you can see all these different things that Spotlight looks for.
So when you know you want to find a file it's usually best just to go to the Finder, even if you don't have a Finder window open you can still do Command F and it will open up and new Finder window, and you can start the search, set the scope to whatever it is that you want, and search specifically for files instead of doing it in Spotlight and searching and getting all of this stuff that you don't want.