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Finding files with Spotlight

From: Mac OS X Mountain Lion Essential Training

Video: Finding files with Spotlight

If you've had your Mac for a while, you have a lot of files on it, and even if you have a new Mac, it won't be long before you've packed it with documents. As you put more files on your Mac, regardless of how organized you are, you'll find it increasingly more difficult to locate your files by opening folders and looking around. Fortunately, Mountain Lion has a couple of features that help you search for your files, and the first is called Spotlight. This is how it works. In the top right corner of the Menu bar, you will find the Spotlight menu. So you can click on that and then enter a search query.

Finding files with Spotlight

If you've had your Mac for a while, you have a lot of files on it, and even if you have a new Mac, it won't be long before you've packed it with documents. As you put more files on your Mac, regardless of how organized you are, you'll find it increasingly more difficult to locate your files by opening folders and looking around. Fortunately, Mountain Lion has a couple of features that help you search for your files, and the first is called Spotlight. This is how it works. In the top right corner of the Menu bar, you will find the Spotlight menu. So you can click on that and then enter a search query.

The other option, and this is one that you ought to keep in mind, is to press Command+spacebar, and that brings up the Spotlight search field. Quick searches are easy. Just enter what you're looking for. So we'll put my name in there. And here is a list of results. This will include not only files that have these words in the title, but also within the contents of the file. Speaking of contents, you can view a preview of many kinds of documents. So in this case, let me highlight this Gatekeeper PDF file, and here is a preview to the left showing me what's in the file.

So this is an easy way to find the file you're looking for, particularly if you have files that have similar names. You can preview not only text and PDF files, but also play audio and movies. Now, let's move down to the bottom of the list and choose Search for. This pops up a Google search which shows my name, and there I am. So we'll quit Safari. Now let's take a look at Wikipedia. This opens the Dictionary application and chooses the Wikipedia tab, and here is my Wikipedia entry.

No, I'm not the Canadian ice hockey player, but this is my entry on Wikipedia. We'll quit Dictionary. There are also ways to narrow your search, and one of them is to put the thing you're looking for in quotes. So I'll put quote and end quote. This will show you any files that have this exact phrase within them, and it turns out there's just one and that's my test file. There's a preview of it. Sure enough, this is my file, is part of that text file. You can also narrow searches by keyword.

So in this case I put name:chris. So this includes any files that include Chris in their title. I can also search by date. So, that would be date:today, and these are items that have been modified today. I can search by kind. We'll say kind:PDF, and here are my PDF files. The way you format this is very important. So it must be "keyword:" and then whatever you're looking for. So no spaces in between any of these items.

You can also combine searches using multiple terms. So we'll say name:breen, kind:PDF, and that will show you just PDF files that include Breen in their name. As I demonstrated in an earlier movie, you can launch applications using Spotlight, so just type in their name. I'll type in iTunes, press return, and iTunes launches.

Spotlight can also perform mathematical calculations. So, just type in a formula. So we'll type in (4*32)*(9+45) and there you see the calculator entry, and that gives me the result of my calculation. Suppose you need to know the definition of a word, you can do that as well. I'll type in "numbles" which is a great word for Scrabble, by the way, but a lot of people don't know what it is.

You see the Look Up entry, select that, click on it, and you find the definition. Or you can preview that as well just by selecting it, and there's your definition. Now let's enter my name again. Now suppose you have a lot of results, and they don't all appear in this list, because let's face it, if you have a thousand results, they're not going to fit in this one list. So instead, choose Show All in Finder. A Searching This Mac window appears, and here you find all the results that match your query.

As you can see, there are lots and lots and lots of them. We'll look at finding items in the Finder in another movie. We'll close this window. Now, you can limit what Spotlight searches for, and to do that, you want to go into Spotlight's system preferences, and you can choose the kinds of things that will be searched. So for example, if you don't want messages and chats to be searched, you uncheck that option. Not webpages, okay, no PDF files, fine, just uncheck those items that you don't want searched.

You can also prevent certain areas from being searched. To do that, click on Privacy. Let's grab something in my User Account. Let's say I'd prefer not to have my Pictures folders searched. All I have to do is drag it into the privacy area and Spotlight searches will avoid looking in pictures. So this a good thing to know if somebody shares your Mac and you don't want them easily finding stuff that you've put on your Mac. If you want to undo this sort of thing, just select the item and click on the minus button.

Finally, you can change the Spotlight Menu shortcuts. By default again, they're Command+space, and if you want to show a Spotlight window which is the Command+F window that appears, that would be Command+Option+space. Click on one of these pop-up menus and you can choose a different key. Of course there's no substitute for organizing your files and applications so you have a good idea of where they can be found. But for those times when you can't find them or would rather not bother digging through folders, there's Spotlight.

Show transcript

This video is part of

Image for Mac OS X Mountain Lion Essential Training
Mac OS X Mountain Lion Essential Training

76 video lessons · 20969 viewers

Christopher Breen
Author

 
Expand all | Collapse all
  1. 1m 4s
    1. Welcome
      1m 4s
  2. 6m 56s
    1. Installing Mountain Lion
      6m 56s
  3. 47m 16s
    1. Personalizing the interface
      4m 11s
    2. Touring the Finder
      3m 29s
    3. Staying current with Software Update
      2m 52s
    4. Configuring Gatekeeper settings
      3m 17s
    5. Getting on the Internet
      5m 36s
    6. Setting up iCloud
      4m 55s
    7. Understanding AutoSave and documents in the cloud
      4m 42s
    8. Configuring Mail, Contacts, and Calendar
      4m 33s
    9. Configuring your printer
      3m 39s
    10. Protecting your data with Time Machine
      4m 28s
    11. Learn your way around the Mac App Store
      5m 34s
  4. 11m 17s
    1. Finding files with Spotlight
      6m 6s
    2. Digging deeper with Finder searches
      5m 11s
  5. 23m 35s
    1. Configuring basic personal preferences
      11m 15s
    2. Adjusting Input Device preferences
      9m 38s
    3. Examining the basic system preferences
      2m 42s
  6. 1h 13m
    1. Organizing workspaces with Mission Control
      5m 49s
    2. Modifying Language & Text settings
      4m 5s
    3. Optimizing Security & Privacy settings
      6m 18s
    4. Getting notifications
      4m 38s
    5. Configuring displays and AirPlay
      2m 20s
    6. Using Energy Saver
      6m 1s
    7. Setting up Bluetooth wireless devices
      3m 39s
    8. Sharing files on a network
      6m 1s
    9. Configuring sharing
      6m 28s
    10. Editing your users and groups
      6m 48s
    11. Setting rules with Parental Controls
      7m 4s
    12. Taking notes with Dictation & Speech
      6m 0s
    13. Exploring the Accessibility settings
      5m 54s
    14. Listening with Sound
      2m 53s
  7. 36m 2s
    1. Organizing your business with Mail
      12m 42s
    2. Scheduling time with Calendar
      8m 32s
    3. Keeping tabs with Contacts
      5m 30s
    4. Tracking your tasks with Reminders
      3m 39s
    5. Staying in touch using Messages
      5m 39s
  8. 37m 18s
    1. Tracking your documents in TextEdit
      7m 3s
    2. Looking up words in Dictionary
      1m 56s
    3. Keeping notes with Notes
      3m 48s
    4. Working with images in Preview
      6m 14s
    5. Working with PDFs in Preview
      4m 27s
    6. Installing fonts with Font Book
      4m 42s
    7. Posting a note in Stickies
      1m 55s
    8. Adding things up with Calculator
      4m 46s
    9. Organizing apps with Launchpad
      2m 27s
  9. 34m 5s
    1. Navigating the web
      3m 38s
    2. Working with bookmarks
      4m 49s
    3. Using Reading List
      2m 4s
    4. Saving web pages and creating web clips
      1m 44s
    5. Viewing and saving PDFs
      3m 24s
    6. Using Safari to search the web
      2m 20s
    7. Opening local files in Safari
      1m 59s
    8. Working with preferences in Safari
      11m 1s
    9. Managing your Internet footprint
      3m 6s
  10. 8m 48s
    1. Playing media in QuickTime
      4m 15s
    2. Recording videos with QuickTime
      4m 33s
  11. 10m 13s
    1. Video conferencing with FaceTime
      3m 38s
    2. Taking pictures in Photo Booth
      3m 47s
    3. The great utility of Image Capture
      2m 48s
  12. 12m 40s
    1. Writing a simple Automator workflow
      4m 15s
    2. Creating an Automator application
      2m 20s
    3. Setting up an Automator calendar workflow
      2m 31s
    4. Creating an Automator service
      3m 34s
  13. 22m 1s
    1. Managing processes in Activity Monitor
      5m 13s
    2. Formatting, partitioning, and repairing storage devices
      8m 58s
    3. Taking care of your passwords
      4m 1s
    4. Setting up a Windows install with Boot Camp
      3m 49s
  14. 14m 57s
    1. Creating a boot drive
      3m 19s
    2. Understanding and configuring permissions
      4m 5s
    3. Exploring troubleshooting techniques
      7m 33s
  15. 19m 35s
    1. Getting your game on
      4m 1s
    2. Integrating with Facebook and Twitter
      2m 38s
    3. Advanced tips and tricks
      9m 35s
    4. Sharing files with AirDrop
      3m 21s
  16. 30s
    1. Goodbye
      30s

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