Using Spotlight Search

Spotlight Search has been completely redesigned in Yosemite from the old Spotlight Menu function. You can still search for files, but in addition you'll get information from the Internet such as movie times, Wikipedia, maps and recommended web pages. You can also do unit and currency conversions and math. File searches can be filtered by kind and date. You can also use logical functions like OR and - (not) to get better results. Find out all you can do with Spotlight Search in Yosemite.

Video Transcript / Captions
Closed captioning for this video is available on YouTube: Using Spotlight Search.

Hi this is Gary with On today's episode let's look at using the new Spotlight Search in Yosemite.

Spotlight Search in Yosemite retains all the features of Spotlight Menu in Mavericks earlier. It works in a similar way. Click on the icon here except now it appears in the middle of the screen instead of the upper right. You can do all the same things as you did before.

When you do a search it will return all sorts of various results from your files and folders and other things on your computer's hard drive but also it will return some different types of results as well. We'll look at Files later on but for now let's concentrate on some of the new features.

If you search for something like say a movie you are going to get MovieTimes. This is just like in iOS 8. You are going to get the same kind of information there; theaters nearby, what time it is playing, that kind of thing.

Notice a few other things. You are also going to get music on iTunes. So here is an album on iTunes that matches. And you are going to get Wikipedia entries. You also get if this was for rent in iTunes or for purchase you would get that as well. So you can see here movies on iTunes.

You also get suggested web sites. You are going to get dictionary definitions for everything and you are going to get this other kind of web search results as well.

You can also search for books. Of course it will bring up the books that you have but it will also search the iBook store for books and audiobooks on iTunes as well.

Then you can also search for apps and it will come up with apps that match the name in the Mac App Store.

Spotlight Search is linked in with the Maps app and you can actually search for locations and it will give you map and information just as if you were looking for it in the Maps app. You can simply hit return or double click here and it will open up the Maps app or you can go right to directions. Scroll down this list and see pictures, reviews, all sorts of things. It works great for restaurants as well. You can see here, see the reviews. Even jump to the website for some of these and see hours, prices, and reviews.

As before you can also perform math in Spotlight Search. So you can just type in something like that and get a simple result there. But you can also use very complex things that make it even more powerful than using the basic calculator. So you can use parentheses to find things like that. You can add little functions like square root.

You can also do two different types of conversions with Spotlight. First is you can do measurements. So for instance if you type 200 miles you can get a list with how many meters, yards, feet, inches that is. You can do that with all sorts of different types of measurements. So like 60 degrees fahrenheit will convert to Celsius, even kelvins and this is a big one for me, reminds you how many cups in a gallon so I can see 16 cups in a gallon and 32 cups in 2 gallons. It gives you metric conversions and things like that. Also you can do acres which is also difficult for people to convert and you get square miles which most people understand better.

You can also do quick currency conversions. You can either type something like that, 20 dollars, and get Euros, pounds, yen and a few other things. You can also do the dollar symbol as well or you can do the other way around.

Now let's look at searching for Files. So to search for files you would start typing any text and it is going to look for that in the file name, it is going to look for it inside the contents of the file and you are going to see it here. When you look at these documents, and it will divide it up into different types of documents, folders, and things like that, you can do several different things.

One is that you can hold the Command key down and see the path information that appears here at the bottom right. So that gives you a little bit more information about the file that you selected. So, for instance, if I were to arrow down to here I can see where that one is and I can see where that one is.

You can also, if you want to view any of these files, go right to it. Select it, I'm using the arrow key right there but you can also click on it too, and you can do Command R and it will take you to the file rather than double clicking on it to open. Then you also get this preview here on the right that shows you what is in the file. So, there is a lot here you can see in the preview. It will show you pdf's, it will show you images, it will show you stuff inside of text files as well.

Now you can narrow down the search with all sorts of different tricks. So for instance if I search for another test I will get files that have that as a name but also get files that have that as contents. So let me try something different. Let me try searching for name:another. I'm only going to get files that have that in the name. I can also add more to it. So now only files that have another and test in the name. I can use OR, you have to use capitals, and it will give me basically any file that either have another OR have test in the name.

You can also use kind to identify a type of file. So for instance let's do test and then kind:image and it will only get images as results. I can also use other things. Like, for instance, I can use a minus here. So let's do test another and you can see that I'm going to get things that match both of them. Let me subtract test from that and it will only get things with another. I can combine that with name. So here I only get my one file that has the word another in the name but not the word test because I'm using the minus symbol there.

I can even use dates as part of the criteria. So let's search for an image and let's say we want it to be a date and I can use a specific date like today and I'll get images of that date. I can also use things like less than and equal to so I can do a date like that and I will get something else. I can do all sorts of different things. I can even use things like today to get results and yesterday, of course, as well. When searching for things like appointments in my calendar I can actually use date tomorrow.

Now let me show you the top reason to use Spotlight Search and that is as an Application launcher. You start typing the name of an application and it will usually find it within a few characters. It has it as the top hit there and you just need to hit Return. You never even have to use your track pad or mouse. It will launch the app. It is very easy to do. I usually launch all my applications, even ones in the Dock, even ones that are already running, I find it so easy to do Command space bring it up and start typing something and then hit return to bring up that app.

Finally we should take a look in System Preferences to see how we can modify Spotlight Search. I'm going to do that by using Spotlight Search itself, Command space, I'm going to start searching for Spotlight and it will bring up, you can see there the top hit is a System Preference pane. So I just hit Return and it goes right to System Preferences, right to Spotlight.

So now I've got search results here and I can check and uncheck anything I want. If I don't want all of those suggestions, like movies, times and things like that, I can turn that off very easily here. I can turn off any other kind of thing I wanted to search for if I don't want Reminders and Events, or something like that, or Bookmarks & History, Music, whatever I can turn it off.

I can also change the order of things. So I can have, for instance, Calculator and bring that up there. Move things around. This will affect what it the top hit and also what order I see things in. I can also change the keyboard shortcuts for things very easily and I can go to Privacy here. Privacy allows me to add file things like folders, hard drives, anything to this list here and it will no longer search for files in those things.

So I have an external hard drive here that has a lot of old material. I don't it to search that and I don't want it to give me those results. So I've added that. If you have a folder that has a whole bunch of stuff that is always showing up and you don't ever want it to show up in Spotlight Search you can add that here as well, hitting the Plus button and then navigating to that folder or that drive and adding it here. You can very easily select one and remove it later as well.

Want to know more about Spotlight Search? Apple has a useful overview and some more information about narrowing your file search.

Comments: 174 Responses to “Using Spotlight Search”

    Bill Sinclair
    4 years ago

    Hi Gary, interesting and useful tutorial – as ever. However, I have never yet had Spotlight return locations on Maps, restaurants, cinema listings, apps, music in iTunes, books in the iStore, etc, and the conversions seem limited. I very often get ‘No Results’. I’ve enabled everything in Spotlight preferences including Spotlight suggestions. All I get is files and docs on my mac. Is the new Spotlight only for the U.S.?

    4 years ago

    A/ why didn’t apple add the ability to spotlight search our bookmarks?????

    B/ Bing is terrible, gives very bad search results. I am no fan of google and only use it for the last resort, but why won’t apple give us the choice to pick other search engines to be used in spotlight, like Startpage (yes, which uses google but gives you proxie options) or Duck Duck Go?

      4 years ago

      Ok I had to go through 7 minutes to see the searchable items checklist to see bookmarks are included…

      Mea culpa

    4 years ago

    I never used spotlight until Yosemite. It truly is a time saver. Cmd Space is all you need to know. Thanks Gary!

    4 years ago

    I always found Spotlight to be one of the most useful tools on the Mac. Very handy to find files as I work in other programs. However, could the Spotlight box now be any bigger or more intrusive? It’s almost impossible to use now, since it covers a large area of the screen and doesn’t seem to be moveable away from the center.

    It would have been a great improvement if Apple had the foresight to allow us to move the box off to side as we work.

    How does one make a recommendation to Apple?

    Cirocco Home
    4 years ago


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