If you’ve been using your Mac for quite some time already, it’s very likely that you would have accumulated thousands of files, or even more. From everyday documents to pictures and videos, the number of files quickly adds up. And assuming that you belong to the majority of Mac users, your file organization skills are to be desired. So most likely, you rely on query apps, such as All My Files or Recent. While both those apps are great ways to locate the files you need, there’s another much less used option on Mac that is far more powerful in terms of searching for the exact files you need, Mac’s very own Spotlight.

What is Spotlight

The Spotlight is actually the most powerful search tool on Mac, particularly if you know how to use it to its fullest. Its power comes from its metadata searchability. Metadata is all the information about the file, it is not just the file name. While other search programs are only able to provide results according to file names, Spotlight is able to provide metadata results for the author, text content, content type, time, date, month, or year to name a few. It is so powerful that it not only searches for files on your Mac but also for information from the internet as well.

How to Search Using the Spotlight

There are basically two ways you can use Spotlight search on Mac. The first is to use a natural word search, and the second is to use the Spotlight query language.

Natural word search is for those who prefer not to learn syntax and all the more advanced stuff. All you’ll need to do is to type in your exact query. For instance, if you want to find pictures created in December 2017, you would type in a phrase like, “pictures from December 2017” and Spotlight will list all the pictures created in that period.

How to Use Mac Spotlight Query Language

A much more powerful way to search is to use the query language, but it will require learning the correct search syntax, which is the order of commands in command line. A command syntax is divided into three basic parts:

  1. The attribute
  2. The comparison operator
  3. The value

Attribute == value

For example, if you want to search for files that have “Mark” as an author, your search command would be kMDItemAuthors == [c] “Mark”

Instead of Authors, you can also use TextContent to search for files with a specific content value, or ContentType to search for files of specific type, or ContentChangeDate to search within a specific date.

There are quite a number of other search parameters you can use with Spotlight’s query language on Mac, but unfortunately, it would be impossible to describe them all in this short article. If you want to learn all the search commands, it’s best to search Apple’s documentation in the developer guide.

Using Natural Language to Search the Internet

Another way to use Spotlight search on Mac, other than doing local machine searches is to search for information on the internet. You can search for the weather at a certain location, baseball or basketball scores, or even the definition of a certain word.

For example, if you wanted to find out the weather in Dallas, Texas, you would simply type in “weather in Dallas, Texas” in the Spotlight search bar. Or if you wanted to know the NBA scores on a certain date, type in NBA scores on (date).

If you want to find out the meaning of a certain word, such as composite, for instance, you would type in “define composite” and Spotlight will provide the definition from a specific website.

The Spotlight is so powerful that you can use it to search for anything on your computer or on the internet and all you need to do is to click the magnifying glass or press Command + Space to bring up the search bar.

How to Ensure Your Mac is in Perfect Working Order

The Spotlight is one of the best, if not the best, ways to search for files on your Mac, but the app is only as good as the condition of the device itself. If your Mac is disorganized or isn’t exactly in an optimal working condition, then even Spotlight would have problems finding the exact files you need. To ensure that your Mac is in perfect working order at all times, it would be best to run a cleaning tool, periodically. The tool is designed to clean your Mac and ensure that the files are optimized for searches.

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