Find Files with Date Specific Searches in Spotlight for Mac OS X
Being able to quickly access recent work files on a Mac is an obvious productivity booster, but what if you need to find files created or modified on a very specific date? There are a few ways to do this, but one of the fastest tricks is using date search operators in the Spotlight search menu of OS X.
For the unfamiliar, search operators are additional signals you can provide to Spotlight to help narrow down a search beyond just looking for a file or folder name. In this case, we’ll use date operators to find files based on the day when they were created or modified.
Search for Files Based on Creation Date in Spotlight
The simplest form of using the creation date modifier is to specify an exact date to Spotlight. To try this yourself, you’d want to hit Command+Spacebar to bring up the Spotlight search in OS X, then use the following search syntax:
This will cause Spotlight to list all files created on the provided date. For example, to find files that were created on August 12, 2016 you’d use the following:
Spotlight will return the list of files, apps, documents, and folders created on that date, looking something like the following:
You can also provide additional operators to show files created before or after a specific date by using the < and > symbols, like so:
This can be used to modify the search query so that files created before < or after > a specified date are listed.
Another helpful trick can be searching for documents based on when they were modified, that is, when they were edited manually or modified by an app or file system.
Search for Files Based on Modification Date in Spotlight
To search for documents, files, or folders on the Mac that have been modified on a specific date, use the following search operator style in Spotlight. Again, hit Command+Spacebar to summon Spotlight and try the following type of search:
For example, to find files modified on May 14, 2014, you’d specify that date using the following (note if you use international date formats you’d want to adjust the query to accommodate that instead):
This will cause Spotlight to return everything that was modified on that specific date.
Again, you can also use the greater than and less than symbols to narrow down results based upon modification before or after a specific date, like so:
Remember, results returned through Spotlight can be cut and copied directly from the menu, which helps to make the Spotlight search tool basically an extension of the broader Mac file system. Additionally, you can modify the search priorities of Spotlight to list specific file types before others, which can further add to the usefulness of this trick and the Mac search feature in general.
Try these Spotlight tricks out the next time you’re looking for files, documents, or apps created or modified on specific dates or before or after provided dates, you’ll be happy you did.