How to bring up Spotlight on Mac and start using it

Everyone knows about the file search system Spotlight, but far from everyone knows how to use it 100%. Moreover, after the release of macOS Mojave, where it was transformed both outside and inside. Below I have compiled a dozen tricks that will help you become the guru of this simple search engine.

0. How to invoke Spotlight

By default, the Spotlight search bar appears when you press the keyboard shortcut CmdSpace… But, most likely, this combination changes the keyboard layout on the Mac. Then try AltSpace… If that didn’t work, then you need to set a shortcut for Spotlight yourself. To do this, go to  ▸ Системные настройки ▸ Spotlite

1. Search for exact phrases

You probably already know that if you enter a search query in quotation marks on Google, the search engine will only return results with a complete match. The same trick works in Spotlight – put a phrase in quotation marks and you only get documents that contain this particular phrase, and not its excerpts.

2. Logical expressions

Spotlight can recognize logical expressions like NOT, OR, or parentheses. You may not like algebra in logic, but look at how easy it is to weed out results: my girlfriend on a Mac has several chocolate baked recipes, including chocolate chip cookies, cakes, and soufflés. She already made a soufflé last week, so this time she wants to bake something different. It is enough for her to enter “chocolate NOT soufflé” and she will receive all recipes, except for those containing the word soufflé. Simple and convenient.

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3. Advanced search

Searching by name is quite simple and convenient, but it is absolutely ineffective if you have a couple of hundreds or thousands of files with the same name. In this case, only cunning can help. You can search by file type, modified or created date. To do this, just add the type: [тип файла], changed: [ДД/ММ/ГГГГ] and created: [ДД/ММ/ГГГГ] respectively.

4. Find out the location of the file

Suppose that you have already found the required file and you do not want to open it, although you need to find out in which folder it is located. To do this, you can use the key combination CmdEnter or CmdCry left-click (or touchpad), after which you will see the highlighted file in Finder.

5. Copy the file directly from Spotlight

Yes, you can copy a file from Spotlight without unnecessary movements – just drag the file from the search results to the place where you want to copy it and that’s it. The file will be copied, not moved.

6. Launching applications

Personally, I’m too lazy to launch rarely used programs through Launchpad, so I just enter the name of the program I want in Spotlight and open it with a double click.

7. Search for contacts

If you are still not used to using the standard application Contactsthen I have good news for you – you can search for your contacts using Spotlight. Just enter the name you want and you get complete information that can be immediately copied to the clipboard.

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8. Disabling unnecessary results

If you do not need either contact search or application search and you think that they only clog up your search results, then you can simply turn them off by going to Системные настройки ▸ Spotlight ▸ Результаты поиска… Leave the checkboxes in front of the categories that are important to you and remove all the rest.

Here you can also change the order of the categories by priority with a simple drag and drop. Below you can reassign the keyboard shortcut for invoking Spotlight.

By the way, in the next tab “Confidentiality” you can immediately add to the exclusions those folders and / or drives, information from which you would like to hide from the search engine. This is especially useful if you don’t want your last vacation photos to pop up while you try to show your boss some new tricks from this article.

9. Quick view of search results

You have come across a situation more than once when, instead of 2-3 files, you get a whole list of hundreds of files of different types, but with the same name? A simple keyboard shortcut will help you sort out this stuff. CmdUp / down arrow… It allows you to quickly browse the list by flipping through category by category.

10. Calculator and currency converter

Simple expressions can be counted without a calculator: just enter what you want to calculate into Spotlight and get the answer.

Alternatively, you can take advantage of the built-in currency converter, which will convert any currency to the one you chose as your primary when you set up your Mac. The main thing is to adhere to the format “XX currency name”, where XX is the amount of currency, and “currency name” is, in fact, the name of the currency itself, which needs to be converted.

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11. Dictionary

If you come across an unfamiliar word in the report sent to you, then it is not necessary to immediately go to Safari, since Spotlight can search using the built-in dictionary in macOS. To do this, just type it into the search bar and go to the “value” category. The vocabulary base here is so-so, but you can find some general concepts.

That’s all for now, but I’m not stopping my search and over time I will definitely add new tricks to the list that will make your work in Spotlight even more effective.

For a snack, check out Alfred, a powerful Spotlight alternative.

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