Spotlight Tips

Search with Spotlight

Spotlight helps you quickly find anything on your Mac, including documents, emails, apps, songs, contacts, and more. It also provides Spotlight Suggestions from sources like Wikipedia, Bing, Maps, news, and iTunes so you can get more information right in Spotlight. Search results have rich, interactive previews so you can play song previews, get directions, send email, make phone calls, and more from results.

Note:   Spotlight Suggestions may not be available in all regions.
Spotlight menu showing search example
  1. Click the Spotlight icon  in the menu bar, or Press Command (⌘)-Space bar.

  2. Enter your search. Results appear as you type; you don’t need to press Return.

    Here are some of the items you can search for:

    • Items on your Mac, such as documents, emails, apps, songs, movies, contacts, events, and reminders.

    • Items in the iTunes Store, iBooks Store, or App Store, such as songs, albums, movies, TV shows, books, and apps.

    • Locations near you, such as stores, restaurants, parks, and landmarks.

    • Wikipedia entries for people, places, and more.

    • Movies playing in theaters near you.

    • News for current events.

    Note:   If you turn off Spotlight Suggestions and Bing Web Searches, Spotlight searches only for items on your Mac.
  3. Click a search result to preview it in Spotlight. You can also use the arrow keys to scroll through the results.

    • Perform actions in result previews: Click items or links in the previews.

      For example, to preview a song from an album on iTunes, click the Play button next to the song. Or, to get tickets for a movie playing near you, click the movie times.

    • Open a result: Double-click the result, or select it, then press Return.

    • See all results from your Mac in the Finder: Scroll down to the bottom of the results list, then double-click Show all in Finder.

With Spotlight, you can also get unit and currency conversions, quickly open apps, and get calculations and definitions.

  • Get currency and unit conversions: Convert dollars to euros, feet to meters, pounds to kilograms, even hectares to acres. Enter the units or currency you want to convert, such as 100 dollars. The top result shows the conversions.

  • Open an app: Enter the app’s name in Spotlight, then press Return.

    Spotlight learns from your searches, so if you enter “s” and open Safari, the next time you enter “s,” Safari is the top result.

  • Get a calculation: Enter a mathematical expression in Spotlight, such as 956*23.94.

  • Get a definition: Enter a word or phrase, then click the result below Definition.

Note:   If you deselected categories in the Search Results pane of Spotlight preferences, you won’t see those results from those categories in Spotlight. If you used the Privacy pane of Spotlight preferences to exclude any folders or disks from searches, Spotlight results won’t include items in those folders and disks. For more information.

Spotlight keyboard shortcuts

Quickly search with Spotlight using keyboard shortcuts.

Open Spotlight to start a search

Command (⌘)-Space bar

Complete the search using the suggested result

Right Arrow

Move to the next search result

Down Arrow

Move to the previous search result

Up Arrow

Move to the first search result in the next category

Command (⌘)-Down Arrow

Move to the first search result in the previous category

Command (⌘)-Up Arrow

Show the path of a search result on your Mac

Command (⌘)

Open the selected result

Return key

See a file or app in the Finder

Command (⌘)-R or Command (⌘)-Double-click

Open a Finder window with the search field selected

Option-Command (⌘)-Space bar

To choose different shortcuts, open Spotlight preferences—choose Apple menu > System preferences, click Spotlight, then choose shortcuts from the pop-up menus at the bottom of the pane. You can also click the pop-up menus, then press the keys you want to use.

If you use multiple input sources and have designated Command (⌘)-Space bar and Option-Command (⌘)-Space bar as shortcuts for switching between input sources, you should change the Spotlight shortcuts.

Find specific types of items when searching

If you’re looking for a specific type of item on your Mac, such as an email or image, you can specify it when performing a search. To specify the type, add the text “kind:[type of item]” at the end of your search. For example, to search for your images of New York City, enter “New York City kind:images.” To search for your email messages that mention Anne Johnson, enter “Anne Johnson kind:email.”

You can use these keywords in Spotlight, Finder, and Open dialog search fields.

Type of item














kind:mail message

kind:mail messages

Calendar events




















kind:system preferences











Narrow down search results

When searching in Spotlight or the Finder, you can add criteria to a basic search, perform Boolean queries, and search items’ metadata.

Add criteria to a search

You can focus a search by adding criteria to a basic search. For example, you can search for particular kinds of files, or for items created on a particular date.

  1. Click the Spotlight icon  in the menu bar, then enter your search.

  2. Double-click Show All in Finder at the bottom of the search results list to open a Finder search window.

  3. Click Add  on the right side of the search window, below the search field.

  4. Click the far-left pop-up menu, then choose your search criteria.

    For example, to search only a certain type of item instead of all items, choose Kind. Or to search for any item whose name contains a particular word or phrase, choose Name.

  5. To add more choices to the far-left pop-up menu, choose Other, then select each attribute you want to add.

    For example, to search copyright information, select Copyright in the list of attributes, then click OK.

  6. Add or remove search criteria as needed by clicking Add  or Remove .

To appear in the search results, an item must match all your criteria. For example, if one criterion specifies searching for items whose name begins with S and you add a criterion to search for items created today, the search results include only items created today whose names begin with S.

Perform a Boolean query

A Boolean query uses AND, OR, and NOT (known as Boolean operators) to narrow search results. You can also use a minus sign (–), which means AND NOT, to exclude items when you search.

Here are examples of what you might type in the search field when you use Boolean operators:

  • author:tom OR author:thom searches for items authored by Tom or Thom, if you don’t know the exact spelling of his name.

  • trip -france searches for items that contain the word “trip” but not “france,” so results might include photos from a trip to Spain but not to France.

  • kind:message date:6/29/14-7/25/14 NOT date:7/14/14 searches for email messages dated from 6/29/14 through 7/25/14, but excludes those dated 7/14/14.

Search for metadata attributes

Most items contain metadata that describes the item contents, how it was created, and other attributes. For example, when you take a digital photo, information such as the camera model, the aperture, and the focal length are among the many attributes automatically stored in the file as metadata. To view metadata for a file, select the file, then choose File > Get Info.

Here are examples of how you might use metadata attributes in your search:

  • trip kind:document searches for the word “trip” in documents only.

  • author:tom searches for all items written by Tom.

  • meeting date:tomorrow searches for meetings you have planned for tomorrow.

  • kind:images created:5/16/14 searches for images created on a specific date.

  • kind:music by:“glenn miller” searches for music by Glenn Miller.

  • modified:<=6/29/14 searches for items modified on or before a specific date.

You can also search for specific types of items, such as apps, contacts, or bookmarks.

Spotlight preferences

In Spotlight preferences, choose the categories that appear in Spotlight search results. If you want, you can also keep Spotlight from searching specific folders or disks.

To open Spotlight preferences, choose Apple menu > System Preferences, then click Spotlight.

Open Spotlight preferences for me

Search Results pane

Choose which categories appear in Spotlight search results: Select the categories you want to include, deselect those you don’t.

By default, Spotlight results include Spotlight Suggestions, Bing Web Searches, conversions, documents, folders, music, and more.

If you don’t want your Spotlight search queries and Spotlight Suggestions usage data sent to Apple, you can turn off Spotlight Suggestions by deselecting the Spotlight Suggestions and Bing Web Searches checkboxes. You can also turn off Location Services for Spotlight Suggestions in Security & Privacy preferences. If you turn off Location Services on your Mac, your precise location will not be sent to Apple. For detailed instructions and information, see About Spotlight Suggestions.

Change the order of results: Drag the categories until they’re in the order you want.

Privacy pane

Keep Spotlight from searching locations: Click Add , then locate the folder or disk you want to exclude. You can also drag folders or disks into the list.

Remove a folder or disk from the exclusion list: Select the folder or disk, then click Remove .

If you add a Time Machine backup disk to the privacy list, you will continue to see messages that Spotlight is indexing your backup disk. This indexing is necessary for Time Machine to function properly and can’t be disabled. Spotlight does exclude from searches any items you store on your backup disk that are not part of a Time Machine backup.

Important:   If you add certain files and folders to the privacy list you may not be notified when updates become available for some apps. If you add your entire internal disk to the privacy list, you won’t be notified about any updates.

Show Spotlight search and Show Finder search window shortcuts

Show Spotlight search: Click the pop-up menu, then choose the keyboard shortcut you want to use to open Spotlight.

Show Finder search window: Click the pop-up menu, then choose the keyboard shortcut you want to use to open a Finder search window.

When you use the shortcut, a Finder window opens with the search field selected.

If a yellow alert triangle appears next to the shortcut you select, then the shortcut is already being used. Click the triangle to open Keyboard Shortcuts preferences and view all the keyboard shortcuts set on your Mac.