OS X Tips – Spotlight

Whether you are a power-user or a beginner, there are some really handy little things you can use to make your life easier on your mac. Here’s some of the best short-cuts and tips for using the increasingly powerful Spotlight tool.

Spotlight Search has long been a staple in the OS X feature-set for some time now, but using it has been a little weird at times. With the latest update in El Capitan, Spotlight is more powerful than ever. Using Spotlight isn’t just about finding things, and you don’t even have to click the magnifying glass in the top-right corner of your screen to use it. The only thing you need to learn is the short-cut. And once you do, you might wonder why you didn’t use it before.


Instantly pull up Spotlight and get to business. Outside of Copy, Cut, and Paste, this little miracle worker might be the most useful keystroke you ever use. Once you’ve got spotlight open, just start typing.

Why is Spotlight a go to keystroke for so many power users? Because it’s that good. Using spotlight to find files is nothing new, but now it is smarter than ever. Open spotlight and tell it what you’re looking for. Spotlight now detects natural language so you can say things like “Files I worked on 3 days ago” or “pictures I edited on Tuesday”. Before you know it, the files are staring right back you waiting for you to select.

But really, the biggest boon for Spotlight is its inherent ability to launch apps.


Ever tried using Launchpad? God bless you but why? Spotlight does it better, and faster. “Cmd + Spacebar” and start typing the name of the application. You’ll be a couple of letters in before it knows what you’re looking for. Just hit “Return/Enter” and you’re done. The App launches . It’s faster than using your mouse and physically clicking an Icon or digging through a Finder window to get to the app you need. Try it and you’ll swear by it. I even prefer this method over using the dock. But then again, I am a neat freak when it comes to my desktop.


Besides the natural language enhancement to Spotlight, there’s even more stuff you can do with it given the right access. For instance, get local weather reports, scores for sporting events, or more cat videos, the choice is yours. You can drag a particular file onto an app in your dock directly from the search results and it will open the file in the corresponding app. You can look up definitions and even do MATH and CONVERSIONS!

Does 2 time 8 equal 16 or Jello? Ask Spotlight. Just type in 2*8 and the answer will be there waiting for you (sadly it’s not jello).

For conversions like Feet to Meters, Dollars to Pounds, Pounds to Kilograms,… just input the measurement (i.e. 100ft, 50USD)… et voilà! Converted!


These are some more key-strokes you can use in Spotlight to further speed up your workflow.

  • CMD + Backspace: Instantly erase the search field
  • CMD + Enter: Launch the appropriate app for the currently highlighted file
  • CMD + R: Reveal the highlighted file in a new Finder window

Or perhaps you’re looking up the definition of a term. Open Spotlight, enter the term, and then…

  • CMD + L: Takes you directly to the dictionary result for the term
  • CMD + B: Search for the term in your default Browser

There are many things this little tool can do and these are just some of my favorite ones. Got any tips I should be using? Leave a comment and share your tips.