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Mac Tips: Cleaver use of Spotlight

by Mrinal Saha

Ever since I switch to MAC, Spotlight is my favorite feature. It’s a ‘desktop search’ feature for Mac OS X which lets you search for ‘stuff’ on your computer. But unlike ‘Window’s search’, the spotlight is dashing fast.

The spotlight has become better, with new Yosemite update. As it now, appears in the middle of the screen and show search results from the internet (via Bing), App Store and iTunes.

spotlight in mac

Spotlight basis:

Traditional way of using spotlight involves these four steps –

1. Open Spotlight by either clicking on search icon, on the upper right corner of your menu bar or press Cmd+SpaceBar (toggle keyboard shortcut)

2. Type in your search queries, like a file name or app installs in your computer

3. Use up/down arrow key to move through the search result 

4. Hit ‘enter’ key to open the selected search result.

Now while reading this, it may look like a bit of work to use spotlight. But once you get hold of it, you are never going back. For instance, let say you want to open browser, then all you have to do is, press cmd+space and type in ‘safari’ and press enter. It’s much quicker, then using mouse.

I sure most of you, are already familiar with spotlight basis. Right ! But there is more advance tips & tricks for using spotlight. Like what? Well, let’s find out.

Some Cleaver uses of Spotlight

Convert currency

convert currency in spotlight

Quickly search for meaning

Quickly search for meaning on spolight

Convert temperature on the go

Convert temperature on the go in spotlight

Spotlight as calculator

Spotlight as calculator

Search files by extension

search using file extension in spotlight

Copy from the spotlight: Drag and drop the search result from spotlight to the desktop (or any place you want) to create a copy.

copy form spolight

Get more info:  Although spotlight shows useful information along the right side of the file if you want to get more details, on the search item press cmd+i. 

Perform intensive search: if your press cmd+space+option then you will see finder windows where you can modify your search with queries like file type, author, type of file, size, etc. There is also an option to save a search, if you use more often.

search intensively using sptlight

Open file in finder: Traditionally when we press enter on the search results in the spotlight, it opens out file, But let say, you want to see this file opening up in finder. For this simply press cmd+enter.

Open file in finder in spotlight

Find the file path: Also if you hold the cmd key, you can see the file path at the bottom of the preview pane. Cmd+alt, while in quick look to see the path of the file

Jump between categories: Use cmd + up/down arrow keys to navigate within categories

Stop sending search data to Apple: Your search queries are sent to apple server to serve you better in future. Although Apple confirm that they don’t log the ip address, however many people consider this invasion to privacy.

So to disable this feature go to Spotlight preference > Search Results.> Now scroll down and uncheck Spotlight Suggestions, Bookmarks & History and Bing Web Searches.

Stop sending search data to Apple:


Search within program’s menu: I am not sure if this is spotlight feature, but it’s best ‘search technique’ I have found.  

While using final cut pro the first time, I have no idea how to speed up a video clip. But spotlight helped me to discover it from the menu. All I have to do is, go to help> search> and type in my query. You can use this trick in any program. Very helpful yet elegant. 

search inside a program menu using spotlight

Also read: Less known Mac shortcuts


The spotlight is awesome, and everyone should use it. In this article, we have some tips & tricks that will help you to become ‘Spotlight power user’. If you have some other hacks, that I have missed then let me via comments.


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