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How to Use Spotlight on Your Mac (A Complete Guide)

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.

  • applications
  • Bookmarks and history
  • Calculator (you can use Spotlight for basic calculations)
  • Contacts
  • Calendar events
  • Conversion
  • Dictionary meanings and definitions
  • Developer
  • Documents
  • Events and reminders
  • Folders
  • Fonts
  • Pictures
  • Emails and messages
  • Movies
  • Music
  • Other (includes other file formats and everything else)
  • PDF documents
  • Presentations
  • Siri suggestions (weather, sports scores, stocks and more)
  • Spreadsheet
  • 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.

Click Search Icon to access Spotlight on Mac

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.

Use Spotlight on Mac to search apps

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.

Search all files with the same extension in Spotlight on Mac

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.

Search for files by type on Mac using Spotlight

Spotlight also allows you to search in natural language. Write for example email from iGeeksBlog, or apps from last week, etc.

Enter text to search Spotlight on Mac

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.

Know the location of the file or folder in Spotlight Search on Mac

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.

Search and drag files or folders from Spotlight to copy it to Mac

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.

Enter app names to view recently used files in Spotlight Search on Mac


  • 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 to search and know the weather on your Mac

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.

Use Spotlight as a calculator on your Mac

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.

Use Spotlight as a conversion tool

How to change Spotlight search preferences

  1. 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 the apple logo and select system settings in macos big sur
  2. click on Spotlight.Click Spotlight in System Preferences on Mac
  3. Under Search results, uncheck the option you do not want to appear in Spotlight Search.Select the Search Results tab and uncheck the option to disable it from Spotlight Search on Mac
  4. 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.)Select the Privacy tab and click the Plus icon on your Mac
    Select location and click Select to change Spotlight settings on Mac
  5. 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 FinderapplicationsToolTerminal. 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

Disable Spotlight indexing on Mac using Terminal App

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

Enable Spotlight indexing on Mac using Terminal App

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

  1. Open System selection and click Spotlight.Click Spotlight in System Preferences on Mac
  2. Uncheck Allow spotlight suggestions in Look Up.
  3. Then clear the check box Suggestions for spotlight box from the list above.Turn off Spotlight suggestions in System Preferences on Mac

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

  1. IN System selection, click on Security and privacy. Make sure you are in Privacy category.In System Preferences on Mac, click Security and Privacy
  2. Select privacy and then at the bottom left, click padlock icon and enter your Mac password.Select the Privacy tab and click Lock Icon
    Enter your Mac password and click Unlock
  3. Click from the left sidebar Location services.
  4. Click next to System Services Details.Select Location Services, and then click Details next to System Services on Mac
  5. Finally, uncheck Location-based suggestions. Finally, click Finished!Uncheck the location-based suggestion check to disable spotlight suggestion location services on Mac

Logging off

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.


I have been an Apple user for over seven years now. At iGeeksBlog, I love creating tutorials and troubleshooting guides to help people do more with iPhone, iPad, Mac, AirPods and Apple Watch. In my free time I like to watch stand-up comedy videos, technical documentaries, news debates and political speeches.

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