Spotlight Tips

Spotlight can find apps, documents, photos, and other files on your Mac, and use Spotlight Suggestions to get news, sports, movies, stocks, weather, and more from the web using sources like Wikipedia, Bing, Maps, and iTunes. Spotlight can even get conversions, calculations, and definitions for you.

Spotlight menu showing search example and a video result you can play

Tip:   You can drag the Spotlight window anywhere on the desktop and make it bigger.

Open Spotlight and search

Open Spotlight: Click the Spotlight icon  in the upper-right corner of the menu bar, or press Command-Space bar.

If it’s your first time using Spotlight, a description is shown in the Spotlight window. Just start typing in the search field where it says Spotlight Search.

Enter a search phrase: Start typing what you want to find—results appear as you type; you don’t need to press Return.

  • You can find files on your Mac by typing what you’re looking for the same way you’d say it. Here are some examples of natural language search phrases:
    • new york photos
    • emails from emily
    • salesreportQ1
    • presentation I worked on yesterday that contains budget
  • You can find things on the web and in the iTunes Store, iBooks Store, or App Store. For example, you can get results for weather, sports, stocks, or transit information. Or search for music, movies, books, apps, nearby stores and landmarks, and more.

Open an app: Type the name of the app, such as Preview, then press Return.

Spotlight learns from your searches, so if you enter “s” and open Safari, the next time you enter “s,” Safari is the top result.

View and use search results

Open an item: Select the item in the results list on the left, then press the Return key. Or double-click the item.

Use a preview: Click items or links in the preview on the right. For example, to hear a song in your iTunes playlist, click the Play button next to the song. Or to purchase tickets for a movie playing near you, click the movie times.

Show the location of a file on your Mac: Select the file in the results list, then hold down the Command key to show the file’s location at the bottom of the preview.

Copy an item: Drag a file from the results list to the desktop or a Finder window.

See files recently used in an app: Enter the app’s name (don’t press the Return key unless you want to open the app). To open a file, double-click it in the preview.

Make a desktop shortcut to an item: Drag the item from the results list to the desktop; just click it on the desktop to open the item in the appropriate app, such as Safari.

See all results from your Mac in the Finder: Scroll to the bottom of the results list, then double-click Show all in Finder. You can narrow the results in Finder.

Get conversions, calculations, and definitions

Convert currencies: Enter an amount to see the equivalent in other common currencies. For example, enter $100, £100, or ¥100. Or enter something like “300 sek in dollars.”

Convert temperatures: Enter a temperature like 98.8F or 32C. Or enter something like “340K in F.”

Convert measurements: Enter a measurement like 25 lb, 54 yards, or 23 stone. Or enter something like “32ft to meters.”

Get a calculation: Enter a mathematical expression, such as 956*23.94.

Get a definition: Enter a word or phrase, then click the result below Definition.

You can set options to exclude specific folders, disks, or types of information (such as email or messages) from Spotlight searches. If you want Spotlight to search content only on your Mac and not include results from the web, you can turn off Spotlight Suggestions and Bing Web Searches. For more information, see Spotlight preferences.

Not all features of Spotlight Suggestions may be available in all languages or regions and some features of Spotlight Suggestions may vary by region.

Spotlight preferences

In Spotlight preferences, choose the categories that appear in Spotlight search results. If you want, you can also keep Spotlight from searching specific folders or disks.

To open Spotlight preferences, choose Apple menu > System Preferences, then click Spotlight.

Search Results pane

Choose which categories appear in Spotlight search results: Select the categories you want to include, deselect those you don’t.

By default, Spotlight results include Spotlight Suggestions, Bing Web Searches, conversions, documents, folders, music, and more.

Allow Spotlight Suggestions in Spotlight and Look Up: Show Spotlight Suggestions in results when you search in Spotlight and look up a word.

If you don’t want your Spotlight and Look Up search queries and Spotlight Suggestions usage data sent to Apple, you can turn off Spotlight Suggestions. Deselect the “Allow Spotlight Suggestions in Spotlight and Look Up” checkbox (which automatically removes Spotlight Suggestions from the list), then deselect the Bing Web Searches checkbox in the list. With the checkboxes turned off, Spotlight searches only the contents of your Mac, and Look Up searches only the dictionary on your Mac.

You can turn off Location Services for Spotlight Suggestions in Security & Privacy preferences. If you turn off Location Services on your Mac, your precise location will not be sent to Apple. For detailed instructions and information, see About Spotlight Suggestions.

Privacy pane

Keep Spotlight from searching locations: Click the Add button , then locate the folder or disk you want to exclude. You can also drag folders or disks into the list.

Remove a folder or disk from the exclusion list: Select the folder or disk, then click the Remove button .

If you add a Time Machine backup disk to the privacy list, you will continue to see messages that Spotlight is indexing your backup disk. This indexing is necessary for Time Machine to function properly and can’t be disabled. Spotlight does exclude from searches any items you store on your backup disk that are not part of a Time Machine backup.

Important:   If you add certain files and folders to the privacy list you may not be notified when updates become available for some apps. If you add your entire internal disk to the privacy list, you won’t be notified about any updates.

Set Spotlight shortcuts

  1. Choose Apple menu > System Preferences, click Keyboard, then click Shortcuts.
  2. Select Spotlight on the left, then change the shortcuts.

    For more information about changing keyboard shortcuts, see Use global keyboard shortcuts.

Spotlight Suggestions

In addition to searching your Mac, Spotlight Suggestions shows suggestions from the Internet, iTunes, App Store, movie showtimes, locations nearby, and more in Spotlight and Look Up. To search, click the Spotlight icon  in the menu bar, then start typing in the field at the top of the Spotlight window, to the right of the Spotlight icon.

When you use Spotlight or Look Up, your search queries, the Spotlight Suggestions you select, and related usage data will be sent to Apple. Search results found on your Mac will not be sent. If you have Location Services on your Mac turned on, when you make a search query to Spotlight or use Look Up the location of your Mac at that time will be sent to Apple. Searches for common words and phrases will be forwarded from Apple to Microsoft’s Bing search engine. These searches are not stored by Microsoft. To provide you with more relevant music and video suggestions, if your Mac can access music or video subscription services, then information such as the names of the subscription services and types of subscriptions may be sent to Apple. Your account name, number and password will not be sent to Apple. Location, search queries, and usage information sent to Apple will only be used by Apple to make Spotlight Suggestions more relevant and to improve other Apple products and services.

If you do not want your Spotlight and Look Up search queries and Spotlight Suggestions usage data sent to Apple, you can turn off Spotlight Suggestions. Simply deselect the checkbox for “Allow Spotlight Suggestions in Spotlight and Look Up” and the checkbox for Bing Web Searches in the Search Results tab in the Spotlight preference pane found within System Preferences on your Mac. If you turn off Spotlight Suggestions and Bing Web Searches, Spotlight will only search the contents of your Mac and Look Up will only search the dictionary on your Mac.

You can turn off Location Services for Spotlight Suggestions in the Security & Privacy pane of System Preferences on your Mac by clicking on the Privacy tab, selecting Location Services, selecting Details next to System Services, then deselecting Safari & Spotlight Suggestions. If you turn off Location Services on your Mac, your precise location will not be sent to Apple. To deliver relevant search suggestions, Apple may use the IP address of your Internet connection to approximate your location by matching it to a geographic region.

By using these features, you agree and consent to Apple’s and its subsidiaries’ and agents’ transmission, collection, maintenance, processing, and use of this information as described above.

Information collected by Apple will be treated in accordance with Apple’s Privacy Policy, which can be found at www.apple.com/privacy.

Note:   Not all features of Spotlight Suggestions may be available in all languages or regions and some features of Spotlight Suggestions may vary by region.