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OS X Mavericks: Narrow down Spotlight search results

Narrow down Spotlight search results

When searching with Spotlight, you can add criteria to a basic search, perform Boolean queries, and search items’ metadata. You can also specify absolute dates and a range of values.

You can also search for specific types of items, such as apps, contacts, or bookmarks. For more information, see:

Keywords to use in Spotlight searches

Add criteria to a basic search

You can pinpoint a Spotlight 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. There are many other criteria you can apply.

  1. If you began your search in the Spotlight menu in the upper-right corner of your screen, click Show All in Finder to switch to a search window.
  2. Click Add (+), located on the right side of the search window below the search field.
  3. Choose search criteria from the far-left pop-up menu.

    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.

  4. To add more choices to the far-left menu, choose Other, then select the checkbox for each attribute you want to add.

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

  5. Add or remove search criteria as needed by clicking Add (+) or Delete (–).

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 the search results. You can also use a minus sign (-), meaning 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:6/29/08-7/25/08 NOT date:7/14/08
searches for email messages dated from 6/29/08 through 7/25/08, but excludes those dated 7/14/08.

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. Here are examples of what you might type in the search field when you search using metadata attributes:

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:5/16/08
searches for images created on a specific date.
kind:music by:“glenn miller”
searches for music by Glenn Miller.
modified:<=6/29/08
searches for items modified on or before a specific date.

To view metadata for a file, select the file, then choose File > Get Info.

Last Modified: May 8, 2014
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  • Last Modified: May 8, 2014
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