Spotlight Search on Mac is the built-in tool for finding and opening files, folders, apps, music, photos, movies, system selection, definitions, quick glance and much more. It is extraordinarily effortless to summon and quickly get the results. In this comprehensive guide, let me show you how to use Spotlight on your Mac like a pro.
What can Spotlight find on a Mac?
As shown in the section above, Spotlight Search can pretty much find everything on your Mac.
It can even display useful suggestions from the web, such as nearby locations, apps from the App Store, media from the iTunes Store, movie viewing time, and more.
Here is the list of things it can search / perform on your Mac.
- Bookmarks and history
- Calculator (you can use Spotlight for basic calculations)
- Calendar events
- Dictionary meanings and definitions
- Events and reminders
- Emails and messages
- Other (includes other file formats and everything else)
- PDF documents
- Siri suggestions (weather, sports scores, stocks and more)
- System selection
You have the control to exclude certain category results or folders from appearing in Spotlight Search.
How to access Spotlight Search on Mac
The easiest and fastest way to access Spotlight is by pressing Command (⌘) + space.
You can also click on search button at the top right of the Mac screen.
How to use Spotlight on Mac
After starting Spotlight Search, enter the name or command to see the suggestions. The results are displayed almost in real time as you type.
In most cases, you do not even have to type the whole word. You get the right suggestions; press the enter key to continue. For example, suppose you want to open Terminal. Just write Ten and press the enter key.
To find documents, enter their name. If you do not know the name but remember the file type, type it to see the current results. Write for example .zipper to view all ZIP files. Or write .mkv to watch large video files and so on.
You can also use the word “kind“Followed by the file extension. Suppose you want to find all audio files, type kind: sound in the spotlight. The same goes for other file types like children: brochures, snill: zip, etc.
Double-click to see all search results in the Finder Show everything in Finder.
Spotlight also allows you to search in natural language. Write for example email from iGeeksBlog, or apps from last week, etc.
Double-click it to open a search result. You can also select a specific result and press the Enter key. To navigate through the list, use Arrow up and Arrow down the keys.
To know the location of a file or folder, select and hold it Command key. You will see the trail. Press to open this place Command + R.
You can also drag the file or folder from Spotlight Search to the desktop or anywhere else. This will not move the file, but create a copy.
You can also see the files that were recently used in a particular app: Enter the app name for this. (But do not press the enter key. If you do, the said program will open.) You will see the last files listed on the left.
- You can drag the Spotlight window anywhere on the screen and also increase the height.
- Are you using screen time on your Mac? When you reach the deadline, the app icons in Spotlight Search will be dimmed and you will see an hourglass icon.
Use Spotlight to find showtimes, weather and places nearby
To find showtimes: Enter the movie name. To see what’s being played nearby, type ‘Showtime. ‘
For please: Open Spotlight and type ‘weather. ‘Or write’been to New Delhi. ‘
For places nearby as restaurants, enter a command as’places to eat chicken. ‘After this, select a result from the Map section.
Use Spotlight as a calculator
Calculation is fast and straightforward. To get started, type something like 450 + 768 and Spotlight. You will see the result immediately. For subtraction use (–), for multiplication use (*), and for divisional use (/).
Note: It is not necessary to press the equal sign (=) to see the answer.
To convert from one device to another, type it into Spotlight Search, and you will see the result immediately. Write one of the following words as an example.
Currency: $ 50 to Indian Rupee or $ 50 to ₹
Temperature: 98.3 F to C
Length: 400 meters on foot or 400 m to ft or 99 cm to Meter
Weight: 50 kg to pounds or 98 tons to kg and so on...
Note: You will see the suggestion of most conversions even without going into ‘to‘ share. This is based on the Mac language’s language + region / location settings. For example, if I (am in India) write $ 50 (or $ 50) in Spotlight, it automatically displays the converted currency in Indian Rupees.
How to change Spotlight search preferences
- click on Apple logo and select System selection. (Tips: You can also write ‘Spotlightin Spotlight Search and select the option under Top Hit or System Preferences.)
- click on Spotlight.
- Under Search results, uncheck the option you do not want to appear in Spotlight Search.
- Then press Privacy. Here you can add places you do not want Spotlight to access. (Tips: You can also add .noindex in any folder name to prevent it and its contents from appearing in Spotlight Search.)
- Not recommended, but if you want, click on Keyboard shortcuts bottom left to change keyboard shortcuts to call up Spotlight Search and open the Finder Search window. Then click on the current key combinations and then press the desired key.
To disable or enable Spotlight Indexing on Mac
Do you want to disable Spotlight indexing completely? After this, no file result from the Mac drive will be displayed.
Open Finder → applications → Tool → Terminal. Or write Terminal and Spotlight Search.
To disable indexing, type this command in the terminal and enter the Mac password when prompted:
sudo launchctl unload -w /System/Library/LaunchDaemons/com.apple.metadata.mds.plist
To re-enable indexing (that is, rebuild the Spotlight index), type this command in the Mac terminal:
sudo launchctl load -w /System/Library/LaunchDaemons/com.apple.metadata.mds.plist
Note: On newer Macs, you may need to disable system integrity protection.
Disable Spotlight Search on Mac
You can make Spotlight almost useless by removing the indexing forces (Pro Tip above). Other than that, you can turn off Spotlight Suggestions and disable Spotlight Suggestions location services. This is how.
To turn off spotlight suggestions
- Open System selection and click Spotlight.
- Uncheck Allow spotlight suggestions in Look Up.
- Then clear the check box Suggestions for spotlight box from the list above.
From now on, Spotlight will only search Mac local content and enabled dictionaries.
Do you want to prevent it from accessing the site (and as a result turn off location-based results)?
To turn off spotlight suggestion location services
- IN System selection, click on Security and privacy. Make sure you are in Privacy category.
- Select privacy and then at the bottom left, click padlock icon and enter your Mac password.
- Click from the left sidebar Location services.
- Click next to System Services Details.
- Finally, uncheck Location-based suggestions. Finally, click Finished!
This is almost all you need to know about Spotlight Search on Mac. The above guide applies to almost all macOS versions, including Mojave, Catalina and the latest Big Sur.
Finally, if you use Time Machine (as you should), Spotlight makes it easier to search for and recover lost or deleted items from the backup.