Improve Spotlight Searches with Search Operators in Mac OS X
If you know some specific attributes of a file, application, or item you are looking for on a Mac, you can use Spotlight Search Operators to dramatically narrow down your returned results in the OS X search feature. For example, if the file type of a document you are looking for is a PDF, you can pre-qualify search results by using operators to return only PDF’s within Spotlight. There are tons of search operators to use, and some can get very specific. Let’s jump into this a bit to learn more.
Remember, to access Spotlight search on a Mac, hit the Command+Spacebar keys together. Then just type in the little popup search box to start narrowing down the queries and returned items. Spotlight adjusts files live and on the fly depending on what is looked for and specified, thus if you want to try an operator it will immediately adjust the search to accommodate the search operator request.
Here are a some sample operators to enter before your search query that you can try yourself in Spotlight for Mac OS X:
Spotlight Search Operators
Note that all of these search operators are used in Spotlight in the following syntax format “operator:specific” always separated by a semi-colon. If you’re having troubles with results coming back, check your syntax to make sure you have typed things correctly.
The usage of this is demonstrated in the attached screenshot, where I pre-qualified my search for ‘asia’ with the PDF filetype operator, which led Spotlight to only search PDF documents for the search term.
You can even use date sensitive search operators, to search for files created or edited between, before, after, or on specific dates! This makes finding things even faster and more precise, so try them out yourself.
More Specific Spotlight Search Operators
You can also get specific with operators by listing file types, kinds, and dates, like so:
Advanced Spotlight Search Operators with Time Ranges
Finally, you can also search Spotlight with advanced ranges for times and dates, meaning you can find files that were modified after a specific date, created before a date, or modified within a date range. This is done by using the greater than and less than symbols < and >
date:>10/1/09 will find any file modified after November 1, 2009, note that the dates you enter must correspond to the short date format you have set in your International preferences
date:<12/31/09 will find any file modified before December 31, 2009 date:1/1/06-12/31/09 will find files modified between the two specified dates. Example syntax for this would look something like so:
This is really best tried out yourself rather than demonstrated, so launch Spotlight and give it a test yourself to see how it works on your own Mac with your own files.