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The Spotlight Search Tips Cheat Sheet for Mac

Spotlight is one of the easiest ways to launch files, folders, apps, and more on your Mac. You can bring it up with a keyboard shortcut (Cmd + Space) or by clicking on the magnifying glass icon in the menu bar.
This native macOS feature also comes in handy when you want to look up definitions of words, get sports scores, track flights, do basic math, and retrieve all kinds of information in a snap. And thanks to natural language support, using Spotlight feels intuitive and effortless.
If you’re eager to discover the best tricks Spotlight is capable of, our cheat sheet below can help.
The cheat sheet includes keyboard shortcuts that work in Spotlight and special attributes you can use to filter data faster. You’ll also discover how to use Boolean operators, natural language, and various in-built Spotlight tools to access just the data you need in a few keystrokes.
FREE DOWNLOAD: This cheat sheet is available as a downloadable PDF from our distribution partner, TradePub. You will have to complete a short form to access it for the first time only. Download The Spotlight Search Tips Cheat Sheet for Mac.
The Spotlight Search Tips Cheat Sheet for Mac



Cmd + SpaceOpen Spotlight

¹keyword(s)Display results for search term with first result highlighted and its preview in right-hand pane

“keywords” or “phrase”Display exact matches

²“as”Display App Store as top result

²“pc”Display Parental Controls as top result

Return (Enter)Open selected item

Double-click resultOpen selected item

Down ArrowSelect result below

Up ArrowSelect result above

³TabSelect first item in preview pane

⁴CmdDisplay Finder location of selected result at bottom of preview pane

Right ArrowAutocomplete search keyword using the suggested/selected result

Cmd + Down ArrowJump to first result in next category

Cmd + Up ArrowJump to first result in previous category

Cmd + LJump to definition in results

Cmd + ROpen result in Finder or relevant app if applicable

Cmd + Return (Enter)Open result in Finder or relevant app if applicable

Cmd + IOpen Get Info pane for result

Cmd + BLook up search term using default search engine in default browser

Cmd + CCopy item

Drag result to Finder window or desktopCopy item

Double-click Show all in Finder in results list
View all results in Finder

Hover over preview for audio/video resultReveal Play button to play result in preview

Two-finger scroll over previewReveal scroll bar

Drag search boxMove Spotlight to reposition it

EscClear search box

Cmd + DeleteClear search box

Option + Cmd + SpaceOpen Finder search window with search box selected

⁵Search Using Metadata Attributes

from:NameCreated or sent by Name

by:NameCreated or sent by Name

author:NameCreated by Name

to:NameAddressed to Name

title:Title_NameWith title Title_Name

tag:TagNameWith tag Tag_Name

date:DD/MM/YYFrom DD/MM/YY

created:DD/MM/YYCreated on DD/MM/YY

modified:DD/MM/YYModified on DD/MM/YY

⁶comment:keywordComment contains keyword




kind:event(s)Calendar events



kind email(s)
kind: mail message(s)Emails



kind:image(s), kind:jpeg, kind:pngImages




kind:system preferencesPreferences



kind:pagesPages documents

kind:numbersNumbers spreadsheets

kind:keynoteKeynote presentations

⁸Search Using Boolean Operators

keyword 1 AND keyword 2Results with keyword 1 and keyword 2

keyword 1 OR keyword 2Results with keyword 1 or keyword 2

keyword 1 NOT keyword 2Results with keyword 1 but not keyword 2

keyword 1 -keyword 2Results with keyword 1 but not keyword 2


⁹Find local businessescoffee

places to eat




“apple store”

Get time zone information“time in Sydney”

Get weather information“weather” for local weather
“weather in Mumbai”

Look up definitionskeyword

Convert temperatures“302kelvins in f”

Convert measurements“52 pounds to kilograms”

Convert currencies“600gbp in usd”

Get math calculations“234/5*6”

Get real-time sports scores“cricket scores” “lakers game”

Get stock prices“sbux” for SBUX or Starbucks Corporation

See what’s playing at local theatersshowtimes or movie times

Get movie details and showtimes“men in black”

Track flights“WN3536” or “southwest 3536”

¹⁰Play songs without opening iTunes“waka waka”

Search Using Natural Language

emails i received today

photos from yesterday

files from this week

messages from last week

screenshots i took last month

last year photos

unread emails

pictures i took in june

documents i created in 2019

“spreadsheets from tim”

“presentations from ben”

¹Keyword(s) can be in title of Finder item or within content.

²Speed up search for apps and System Preferences panes by typing in their initials. Works with third-party apps also.

³Works with folders only. Preview pane items can be enclosed files or subfolders.

⁴Works with local results only.

⁵Can be used with or without keywords.

⁶Searches for Finder items with keyword in Comments section of Get Info pane.

⁷Without this filter, searching for an app name also reveals files recently used in app and matching apps in Mac App Store.

⁸Can be used with metadata attributes.
Eg: kind:document date:25/08/19-31/08/19 NOT 28/08/19

⁹Look under Maps category for relevant results. Does not work with all emojis.

¹⁰Hover over relevant track in preview to reveal Play button.

1. Feature availability might vary based on country.

2. Visit System Preferences > Spotlight to toggle visibility of Spotlight categories.

Let Spotlight Find What You’re Looking For
Searching with Spotlight is one of the good habits you should get used to as a Mac user. It’s also among the best productivity tips we recommend for your Mac.
Image Credit: Wesson Wang on Unsplash
Read the full article: The Spotlight Search Tips Cheat Sheet for Mac

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