5 Things You Never Knew About Spotlight

Many people use Quicksilver as a replacement for Spotlight, but if you’re happy with the native file search and app launcher in Mac OS X, then why change? You probably know that you can access Spotlight quickly with the Command-spacebar keyboard shortcut, but here are a few more tricks you might not know exist.

  • Spotlight makes a great calculator and dictionary. Just open the search box, type an equation, and watch the answer appear as you type. It works on long equations with several steps (623+191*87-4), as well as mathematical terms like square root or power. Type a word in the search box and its meaning appears in the results — so you can search for the definition of pi or the numerical value of pi, your choice.
  • By default, Spotlight shows the first 20 results of a search. While you can’t change the number of returns, you can eliminate some of the categories the app checks so the results you get are more pertinent. Select Spotlight in the System Preferences, and click on Search Results. If you typically use Spotlight to search documents and email then uncheck categories like Webpages and Music so they’re ignored in the future.
  • Do you tag your pictures with keywords in iPhoto? Use Spotlight to snag images and drop them right into an email without even opening iPhoto. If your photos contain metadata on what type of camera was used, start your search with the keyword make to get a list of all pictures taken with that camera (for example, make:Nikon).
  • Spotlight can search inside the public files of other Macs on your network, if they’re running Leopard. If they’re running an older version of OS X, or another operating system entirely, it can only search for specific file names.
  • Many popular third-party apps, like OmniOutliner and Intaglio, have plugins for Spotlight to make their files searchable too. Check here for a full list of what’s available, and to find out if your favorite app has a plugin you didn’t know about.

What’s your favorite Spotlight trick? Let me know in the comments.