Useful Spotlight Tips And Tricks Every Mac User Should Know

What is your favorite feature of Mac OS? If anyone asks me this question, I will not hesitate to say it’s Spotlight.

What is Spotlight? It is an instant search feature of Mac OS, which allows you to find documents, photos, music & videos as well as other files.

Apple has added a new search system for Spotlight since Mac OS X 10.11 El Capitan, called “natural language” searching. You can see it as a new version of Spotlight.

With this new version of Spotlight, it’s much easier to search for items on your Mac. For example, you can type “emails from Peter” or “photos from last September” to find particular items, according to your terms.

The Spotlight has been integrated throughout Mac OS. By that, you can also use specific search terms inside other apps, such as Mail or Photos. Besides, you can even use complex phrases like “emails from Peter last year” or “presentations that I was working on September”.

Moreover, you can use this feature to check the current weather of anywhere around the world, getting sports scores & game schedules, getting stock quotes & stock market prices, see recent files in Spotlight, play media in Spotlight, and much more.

Therefore, I will tell you some useful Spotlight tips & tricks you might not know yet, in order to help you use it easier.

Useful Spotlight Tips And Tricks You Should Know

As I mentioned above, with the new search technology, you can easily find anything on your Mac or from the Internet, according to your search terms. You can also easily combine many search terms together to make a more accurate term that finds a more particular thing.

So, let’s get started to learn Spotlight tips & tricks below.

1. Use Natural Language In Spotlight

Spotlight natural language

With the help of the new Spotlight search system, you can find your documents by using natural language.

For example:

  • images I edited yesterday
  • files I worked on two days ago
  • pictures I opened last Sunday
  • photos from last September
  • photos from last year
  • emails from Peter last year that contain documents
  • presentations that I was working on last Sunday

… and much more. You can flexibly change search terms following what you are looking for.

Here is how you can use Spotlight in Mac OS:

  1. Press Command + Space to launch Spotlight search bar.
  2. Type a natural search term, such as “Images I edited yesterday”, without quotes.
  3. While you type, the search window appears.
  4. You can click & drag the search window, to reposition it.
  5. You can also resize the search window.
  6. You can click on any items to view its preview in Spotlight window.
  7. You can double-click on any items to open it in a corresponding app.

2. Check Current Weather Of Anywhere

If you want to know the current weather status of a particular city or area, you can also use Spotlight to get that information. For example, type “weather in New York”, Spotlight will show you the current weather status of New York, as the screenshot below:

3. Quickly Find Web Videos

If you don’t want to use a web browser to search for videos you want, Spotlight can do it for you. Just need to use this structure as the search term:

“keyword video”

For example, “funny cats video”.

4. Check Sports Scores And Game Schedules

If you don’t know what time your favorite team is playing, the score, or game schedule, then try a few search terms below:

  • “team-name score”
  • “team-name schedule”
  • “team-1 team-2 game”
  • “team sport schedule”

Take a look at the screenshot below as an example.

5. Check Stock Quotes And Stock Market Prices

You can now ask Spotlight for stock quotes, as well as stock market prices.

Just use a few search terms below:

  • “ticker symbol”
  • “company-name stock price”
  • “market-index price”

For example, find all stock information about Apple with AAPL ticker:

6. Use Keyboard Shortcuts In Spotlight

Alongside the most important keyboard shortcut every Mac user should know is Command + Space, which uses to open Spotlight. However, there are a few other useful keyboard shortcuts you can use when Spotlight is already open.

  • Option: By pressing and holding the Option key, you can view the location of selected item as the text format, located at the bottom-right of Spotlight window.
  • Command + R, Command + Enter: By pressing Command + R or Command + Enter, Spotlight will open the directory that contains your selected item, in Finder. If your selected item is an email or contact, then it will be opened in a corresponding app.
  • Command + L: By pressing Command + L, you will jump to the dictionary definition, if available.
  • Command + I: By pressing Command + I, Spotlight will open an information dialog box in case selected item is a file, a directory or application.
  • Command + B: When you press this keystroke, Spotlight will find match results with your search terms in the default browser.
  • Command + Backspace: When you press this keyboard shortcut, it will clear Spotlight search box instantly.
  • Command + Z: You can use this keystroke to undo what you typed, but already removed, as well as restore a previous search.
7. Combine Spotlight With Other Apps

As you know, Spotlight can help you to find anything on your Mac, as well as from the Internet. However, it can be used to create a new reminder or a new iMessage.

Let’s try these search terms and see what it will happen:

remind me to buy shampoo tomorrow
text Peter: I’m going to be late

8. Filter Spotlight Results

If you want to force Spotlight to find only a specific type result, such as music, you can type:

kind:music + search term

For example, to find audio files matching “Adele”, just type the following:

kind:music Adele

Spotlight search with KIND

There are many other forms you can use to filter Spotlight search results, such as:

  • kind:documents
  • kind:word
  • kind:excel
  • kind:powerpoint
  • kind:pages
  • kind:numbers
  • kind:keynote
  • kind:spreadsheet
  • kind:presentation
  • kind:app
  • kind:bookmark
  • kind:contact
  • kind:chat
  • kind:event
  • kind:folder
  • kind:movies
  • kind:images
  • kind:fonts
  • kind:pdf

You can also use author: or date: to show results that created by a particular person or created on a specific date.

9. View Recent Files In Spotlight

View recent files in Spotlight

Yesterday, you viewed several images with Preview, but now, you forgot the names of those images. Then you can easily find them again by typing “Preview” in Spotlight.

On the right window, you will see a list of files you recently opened using Preview. You can also apply this method to other apps, such as TextEdit.

Unfortunately, apps like Microsoft’s Office or Excel isn’t yet compatible with this feature.

10. Play Media In Spotlight

Play audio or video in Spotlight

When you search for an audio or video, you can move your mouse cursor over the preview section on the right of Spotlight window, to show a play button.

When you click on this play button, the selected audio or video will be played, even when Spotlight window disappears. If you want to stop, re-open the Spotlight and click on the pause button.

11. Conversions In Spotlight

Conversions in Spotlight

If you aren’t good at converting between two units, Spotlight can help you do that. For example, when you type 100ft in Spotlight, you will instantly see that it is 30.48 meters. Or if you type £100, you will be told it is $147.

More flexible, you can type input unit and output unit, such as 100ft in cm, or 100 miles in km.

12. Do Maths In Spotlight

Do math in Spotlight

Not good at doing maths? Don’t worry! Let Spotlight help you. Spotlight comes with a nifty calculator. All you need to do is just type the expression, and you will see the result instantly. For multiplication & division, you need to use * and / respectively.

You can also use pi, cos, sin, and tan in Spotlight as well. To find out further about Spotlight’s maths function, open Terminal, and type “man math” and look under the list of functions.

Spotlight math functions

I hope you can use your Mac OS computer better with these Spotlight tips and tricks.

If you know any other great Spotlight tips & tricks, do let me know by leaving your comment below.


A detailed article to show you useful Spotlight tips and tricks you should know in order to control and master your Mac easier.

User Rating 5 (3 votes)

Leave a Reply