Spotlight is awesome, it has the power to find the file you want with the most minimal amount of information. The problem, however, with Finder and Spotlight searches are they can find thousands of files. It is so good and finding links between files for your search term, that you can be overwhelmed with the number of responses. This post is going to show you two methods you can use to narrow down spotlight searches and find the file you want. These advance search features are best used in a Finder window, but can also be used from spotlight icon in the menu bar. The first method is a simple filter to hone in on the file you want. The second tip, can be used in more complex situations.
Find A File By Type/Kind/Name
One of the quickest and easiest methods to use to narrow down searches is the use the
kind: operator. This allows you to limit searches by the type of file you are looking for. For example if you want to find an image you would type
kind:image into the spotlight search box, then hit enter.
For a PDF you would type
kind:PDF, music files can be narrowed down by the type of file format, for example
kind:mp3 will only show you mp3 files. You can use broad descriptions of files to find the type of file you are looking for, or narrow searches for file types. When you hit enter you will notice the Finder window search box will change, after this you can search for another search term such as a name to further narrow down the search.
This type of searching can be used for a variety of different search criteria to help you find the search results you want. For example you can use;
- date: (where you can add keywords such as yesterday, last week etc)
There are probably other, they are normally present when you start typing into Finder search box. When the drop down box appears, select an item to add it to the search box. This will help you narrow down your search.
You can combine rules by entering them one after another. If you type in kind:image (press the enter key to lock in the rule) then use date:last week, you can see all images you created last week. You can then search by name or another other variable.
Find a File With Advance Rules
Entering a rule within the search box is useful, and a very fast way of finding results. However, we can take this one step further and generate some very advance rules that are very specific.
You will notice when you perform a search in Finder that a search bar appears. It allows you to to narrow down you search to your Mac or the hard drive or folder you were in when you started the search in. It also has a small plus button to add search options. This is where the advance power rules are found.
Begin in Finder by searching for a generic name, something not too specific. When you press the plus bar in Finder it brings up some options to narrow down your search results. For example you can select, Kind, Name, Contents, Date Modified from the list. Using the drop down options you can get really specific with what you want to search for. The advantage of using this option is that it gives you only the viable results, so you don’t have to remember to many specific variables.
You add more search terms using the plus button and the options from the drop down menu. The more you add the more specific your search will be. Too many options and you wont return any results. However, you can modify the options on the fly and Finder will automatically find matching results.
This is very useful, however we can make it ever more advance. Finder and Spotlight are clever. Every time you create a file, it will give it various attributes such as size, time created, all of the normal stuff. It will also store very special, unique bits of data, such as the name of layers in a Photoshop file, EXIF data from camera images, audio bit rate, altitude and GPS location of a file, Tempo, Pixel count, and many other unique bits of information for a file. You can also use this option to search for system files as posted previously.
To access these other settings click on the “Other” option from the drop down menu in which you select kind, last opened etc. This will present a box containing all of the attributes Spotlight stores and can reference. If a random file appears for a specific search term it is because it may be referencing one of these options. Select an option you wish to add to your search and press OK. If you find yourself using this option frequently you can add it too the list using the check box.
When you add them to a spotlight query it will narrow down the search results. As a note, don’t add too many as you may restrict your results.
Save Finder Spotlight Searches For Later
If you find yourself searching for the same thing, or have a complex query that you keep using you can save it for later. Press the save button on the search toolbar. When you hit save, you will be asked to give it a name. Store it in the Saved Searches folder or in a location you wish.
You can then access these searches anytime your want. You can add it to the side bar by using the File > Add To Sidebar option from the menu bar within Finder.
Spotlight is powerful. It can, and will, find any file or folder with the remotest link to your search term. By using some advance rules, and a correct bit of syntax, we can narrow down our searches and find the exact file we were looking for. These search results also work when using Time Machine.
There are plenty of rules to find and use. I am sure more rules will appear as Spotlight evolves.