MacMost Now 147: Spotlight on Spotlight

Gary Rosenzweig takes a look at Spotlight, the search functionality built into Leopard. By using the quick keyboard shortcut and the Spotlight menu, you can quickly run applications, search for specific files and even look up dictionary definitions and do complex mathematical calculations.

As a companion to this video, here is a Spotlight quick reference list:
Default keyboard command to bring up Spotlight search field: Command+Space.
Using the “kind:” modifier, you can specify the kind of files to show. Some common ones are: app, contact, folder, email, event, todo, image, movie, audio, music, pdf, pref, bookmark, font.
You can also use the “date:”, “created:” and “modified:” modifiers with dates like 10/16/08. The “date:” modifier works with “date:today” as well.
You can use “name:” to specify that you only want items with those words in the name.
You can use quotes to exact phrasing, like “my file”.
You can use AND, OR or NOT in searches, but they must be captialized.
When you get a list of times, you can use the arrow keys to move down the list. Then use Return to open the file or application. Use Command+Return to open a Finder window with that file selected instead.
Here are some of the math functions you can use when using Spotlight as a calculator: sqrt, pow, ceil, floor, rint, exp, log, sin, cos, tan, asin, acos, atan.

Comments: 8 Responses to “MacMost Now 147: Spotlight on Spotlight”

    16 years ago

    Gary --

    GREAT episode on Spotlight. I had no idea it would do so many different operations -- I've always used it to find things, but now I have a whole new set of tools to help!

    I do have one pet peeve in Spotlight, however. It is the NEVER ENDING list of Safari web history items whenever I do a search. I had hoped I could turn that off inside the Spotlight preference pane, but have not found that particular switch thus far.

    Do you maybe know how to turn off things inside Spotlight which are not one of the broad categories listed in the preference pane?

    Thanks for your knowledge!

    Cheney, WA

    16 years ago

    Graham: Turning off the "Webpages" option in the Spotlight prefs should filter out all those Web pages. It is a good idea. I think I'll do that too.

    16 years ago


    Thank you. For months now I've been touting the new features of Leopards Spotlight but people can't seem to past earlier versions. A couple of months ago I saw on Tekzilla a way to use the window key on pc's to open applications fast. I wondered how I could do that on a Mac, and I found Spotlight. You don't have to always spell out the full name of the app. I use it for iTunes, ter for Terminal time for QuickTime, 2005 for Quicken 2005 and disk for Disk Utility.

    Napa, CA

    16 years ago

    Well Done Gary!
    Thank you for adding "show notes" to your webpage! a great complement to a great podcast.
    Watch what we can do with Spotlight is great but having notes to copy and go over to learn the commands was a nice move.

    16 years ago


    Actually, that "Webpages" checkbox is currently unchecked. And yet I still get the results. I don't get them in the Spotlight menu, but I do get TONS of them when I pick "Show All." I wish I could just turn that off completely.

    Do you get the same behavior on your machines? Maybe I have an uncooperative build.


    16 years ago

    hippybear: Yes, it appears that Safari results will still show up in Search windows even if you have it unchecked. But they do not show up in the Spotlight menu. You can always clear your Safari History, or set the "Kind" to search for in the search window to only Documents or something like that.

    16 years ago

    I use spotlight a lot but I learned about new kind: options.

    16 years ago

    Hi Gary! I really enjoy your podcasts! Although I knew most of the Spotlight tricks already I just wanted to suggest one more "efficient" step while Spotliting, e.g. using ESC key to guickly erase the whole search field at once as oppose to pressing DEL key.
    Thought, it might be helpful! :-)
    Regards, Lukas
    Berlin, Germany

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