Search Your Mac Quickly

search Mac quickly

Utilize macOS Sierra’s Spotlight to Search Mac Quickly

You know you have a file on your Mac, but you’ve searched high and low (figuratively speaking) and you can’t find said file. Now what? Or, you want to skip the searching shenanigans and find that file efficiently. If you need to search your Mac quickly, we recommend using Spotlight.

Find and Search With Spotlight

Spotlight is sort of like your Mac’s Google search. It looks for keywords or file types on your computer. It also expands beyond your computer and will search the web — giving you Wikipedia results, maps, definitions, and more for your search term.

search Mac quickly

To utilize Spotlight, go to the upper right corner of your Mac’s menu bar. There, you’ll see a magnifying glass. Click this to open your initial search input box. Then, type your search term.

search Mac quickly

search Mac quickly

I searched for “lion.” My results showed me that I had the Lion King Soundrack downloaded on my computer and suggested “Lion King Soundtrack” as an autocomplete option in my search bar. Those music folders on my hard drive were my top search result. The search results also showed me mail and messages I had on my computer that included references to “lion” and other songs on my computer with the word “lion.” When I scrolled down, Spotlight offered me a Wikipedia entry on “lion,” directions to “Lions Park” nearby, and the definition of “lion.” It also found PDF and Excel documents that contained the word “lion” within them.

Set Spotlight Search Preferences

Go to your Mac menu bar: Preferences > Spotlight. Here you can tell Spotlight which areas of your computer to search, and which areas you do not want it to search. For example, perhaps you do not want music results included in your searches. You can turn those results off. You can also set privacy settings. Finally, you can assign keyboard shortcuts for Spotlight.

Tips and Tricks for Using Your Mac’s Spotlight

You can do far more than just search in Spotlight. Here are a few of the cool features:

  • Use Spotlight as a units conversion calculator. I recently had a product that was advertised as 96mm and I quickly input that unit into my Spotlight to learn it equaled 3.78 inches.
  • Similarly, Spotlight acts as a calculator and you can input math equations there without needing to open your calculator.
  • As we mentioned above, Spotlight offers definitions and if you type a word in (or copy/paste) it’ll quickly define the word for you.

search Mac quickly search Mac quickly search Mac quickly

Make Spotlight Even More Powerful

If you really want to optimize Spotlight on your computer, you want to be running a clean Mac. We highly recommend checking out Clean My Mac 3. This program from MacPaw will help you keep your Mac running fast (or speed it up from where it is now) and it will complete Mac maintenance for you. We LOVE it!

And if you’re frequently sifting through files and folders on your computer (perhaps you need to keep large amounts of data on your hard drive), we recommend installing and running Gemini 2, a duplicate file finder. This program will make sure you have only one copy of each file and folder on your computer which can prevent critical mistakes and will help you find things more efficiently when you do use Spotlight.

Check out our reviews of Clean My Mac 3 and Gemini 2 for even more details!
Save space on your HDD with CleanMyMac 2!

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About the Author
Kylie Larson is a content wrangler, helping both small businesses and large organizations get their message up and out. When she's not writing and organizing online, you'll find her walking the dog, with a camera in hand, riding the Chicago blue line, and in the midst of a home renovation project that never ends. Connect with her at
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