Ways to customize & speed up Spotlight Searches

In Leopard, Spotlight has been configured in such a way that it can search much faster than that of Tiger. Some Spotlight searching tricks below will certainly improve your productivity.

Adding Specific Keywords

spotlight kind directive.png

By typing search terms as described above, you ask Spotlight to search only for certain type of file. However, you still don’t know exactly what kind of keywords that can be used for this.

File Type Keyword
Applications application, applications, app
Contacts contact, contacts
Folders folder, folders
Email email, emails, mail message, mail messages
iCal Events event, events
iCal To Dos todo, todos, to do, to dos
Images image, images
Movies movie, movies
Music music
Audio audio
PDF pdf, pdfs
Preferences system preferences, preferences
Bookmarks bookmark, bookmarks
Fonts font, fonts
Presentations presentations, presentation

restricting search content.png


Spotlight indexes and searches everything on your Leopard. Though Spotlight returns the search result really quick, you still need to filter the result which will slow you down. Image above displays the path, which is Menubar ▸ Apple ▸ System Preferences ▸ Spotlight Preferences, and the way to enable/disable some of the categories of your Spotlight search, which can be done by ticking/unticking the check boxes.

Determining Action

Return Open highlighted file with default application
Cmd-Return Open file in Finder

Most of the time the first action will be taken. However, you still need to aware of the existence of the second action, which will take you to your file location, for performing further action.



Activating Icon View, Quick Look or Slideshow

Option-Return Show all results in Finder
Cmd-A Select all files
Cmd-Y Quick Look
Cmd-Option-Y Full Screen Slideshow
22 Cmd-1 Icon view

If your purpose is to search for images, photos, or movies, you can use Quick Look, which is the new feature in Leopard, Slideshow or Icon view to view all the search results. Combining this with the first trick, adding specific keyword, will further improve your productivity. Also, Show Index Sheet while in Quick Look or Slideshow is advisable.

Double-Quote for Exact Phrase

exact phrase.png Whenever you know exactly the phrase that you want to search, don’t be hesitate to use Double-Quote. With phrase put in between Double-Quote, Spotlight will return the searching result of several separate words as an unity.

Utilizing Spotlight Window

Cmd-Space Open Spotlight menu
Cmd-Option-Space Open Spotlight window
Cmd-2 List view
Cmd-4 Coverflow view

There are several benefits you can achieve from utilizing Spotlight window instead of using single Spotlight menu :

  1. Wider range of results
  2. Easier to extract more information
  3. More advance feature, such as sorting results, view as list, or view as the Leopard new feature coverflow

Mastering Logical Expression

NOT [term] Result doesn’t contain the term
[term-1] AND [term-2] AND … AND [term-n] Result contains all term-1, term-2 up to term-n
[term-1] OR [term-2] OR … OR [term-n] Result contains one of the terms
Parentheses Set the priority of the logical operation (NOT-AND-OR by default)
NOT ([term-1] OR [term-2] OR … OR [term-n]) Result doesn’t contain all of the terms
NOT [term-1] AND [term-2] OR [term-1] AND NOT [term-2] Also known as Exclusive-OR, which the result MUST contain one of term-1 and term-2

That are many more logical expressions that can be build by using only NOT, AND and OR. However, those above that we listed are really useful and come in handy for your searching activity.