OS X Mountain Lion: Find anything on your Mac

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Find anything on your Mac

Spotlight helps you quickly find anything on your Mac and disks attached to your Mac, including documents, emails, apps, songs, contacts, and more. You can also get quick definitions and simple math calculations.

The Spotlight menu is in the upper-right corner of your screen and has a magnifying glass icon. Click it to start searching.

Spotlight menu showing an example of a search

Start a search

You can begin a Spotlight search from the Spotlight menu, or open a search window to do a more detailed search.

  • To open the Spotlight menu, click the Spotlight icon in the upper-right corner of your screen, or Press Command (⌘)-Space bar.
  • To open a search window in the Finder, choose File > Find, or press Command (⌘)-F.

Decide where to search

If you began your search in the Spotlight menu, click Show All to switch to a search window. Then specify a scope for your search.

This Mac:
Search the entire computer and any disks attached to it.
“folder name”:
Search in the current folder, whose name appears in quotation marks. (For example, “Documents” searches the Documents folder, and “Desktop” searches the desktop.)
Search shared folders on disks and computers, if you’re connected to any on your network.

You can also use the search field’s menu to specify that you want to search filenames rather than the entire contents of files.

View your search results

  • If you are viewing search results in the Spotlight menu, press the Up Arrow and Down Arrow keys or move the pointer to scroll through the results. A preview appears for each item as it is highlighted. To open an item in an app, click it.
  • If you are viewing search results in a search window, press the arrow keys or click items to select them. To see a preview of an item, press the Space bar. To open an item in an app, double-click it.

If you use the Privacy pane of Spotlight preferences to exclude any folders or disks from searching, the results will not include items in those folders and disks.

Exclude folders and disks from searches

Save this search to use again

If you plan to search for these items again, click Save in the location bar to save your search as a Smart Folder.

Tips for better searches

  • To find an exact phrase, enclose it in quotation marks (“”).
  • To find items containing references to, for example, both San Francisco and Paris, type:
    "San Francisco" and "Paris"
  • To find items containing references to, for example, either San Francisco or Paris, or both:
    "San Francisco" or "Paris"
  • You can add criteria or type a Boolean query to narrow down your search, or use keywords to search an item’s metadata and find specific types of items. For more information, see these help topics:

    Narrow down Spotlight search results

    Keywords to use in Spotlight searches

Last Modified: Sep 4, 2015

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