13 Must-Know Spotlight Keyboard Shortcuts for Mac

Mar 9, 2012 - 18 Comments

Spotlight icon

Spotlight is the powerful built-in search engine on Mac. Not only will it find just about any file or folder buried on your file system or attached drives, but it also doubles as a fantastically quick application launcher, dictionary lookup tool, and so much more.

If you aren’t using Spotlight on a regular basis yet you really should start doing so, and perhaps it’s just a matter of learning some great tips and shortcuts to help get you started.

With that in mind, here are 13 (11 original keystrokes + 2 bonus) helpful keyboard shortcuts and tricks to assist you in getting the most out of the excellent Mac search feature.

4 Basic Spotlight Shortcuts

These are the most basic shortcuts to use Spotlight:

  • Open Spotlight menu – Command+Space
  • Open Spotlight in the Finder – Command+Option+Space
  • Clear Spotlight search box – Escape
  • Close Spotlight menu – Escape twice

7 Spotlight Usage & Navigation Keyboard Shortcuts

These shortcuts are for interacting and navigating within Spotlight search results:

  • Open first search item – Return
  • Navigate search results – Arrow Up and Arrow Down
  • Open to location of first search item in Finder – Command+Return
  • Get Info on search item – Command+I
  • Show Quick Look Preview of Spotlight results – Command key or hover with the Mouse cursor (Mac OS X 10.7 and later only)
  • Show path/location of search result – Command+Option while hovering over search result
  • Jump categories in search results – Command+Arrow Up or Command+Arrow Down

2 Spotlight Bonus Tricks

Not quite keyboard shortcuts, but these are a few amazingly useful tricks that many users don’t know Spotlight can do:

  • Launch an App – Type the app name and hit Return to launch it
  • Get a Definition – Type a word to define and hover over the “Look Up” option to see the definition

Remember each these tips and you’ll be mastering Spotlight in no time, speeding around your Mac like never before!

Don’t forget that you can use search operators to improve results by looking only for specified file types or dates, and much more. They can really help to narrow down results and find exactly what you’re looking for.

We have plenty more Spotlight tips if you’re interested too, check them out.


Related articles:

Posted by: William Pearson in Mac OS, Tips & Tricks


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  1. […] That’s because it’s tied to the universal Spotlight search feature, but if you use the Spotlight Command+Spacebar shortcut and menubar for the majority of your Mac file system-wide searches, there’s little reason to have the […]

  2. […] you’ll find that tapping on the app name launches it directly from Spotlight as well, just like in OS X. Chances are if you can’t find an app because it’s buried in a folder, this will be the […]

  3. […] Quick Look features exist elsewhere in native OS X apps, even in the Finder and in Spotlight menu results. stLight.options({ […]

  4. Foobar says:

    Just use the super-dominating program Alfred from the apple-store. Since I’m using that, i feel putty for all those who still use Spot light (besides anything that concerns extensive in-document search).

  5. James Ludtke says:

    Nice tips, but here is the tips I really need:

    1. How to efficiently, with one click, switch from search for text to search for file/folder name.

    2. How to efficiently, with one click, open a browser window to select the folder to search in.

    To me, Spotlight is still a pain in the neck, and elsewhere.

    • Theo Vosse says:

      Searching for a file/folder name is best done from the Finder: type the name in the search box (top right) and you’ll get a little menu under it that says “File name contains …”. Click it, and the search changes to file name search. This feature is new in 10.7, I think.

      In the same Finder search, you can see the whole directory structure of the file you were looking for on the bottom of the window. Double click on the name of the directory you want, and it’ll open in the same window. This works since 10.5.

  6. Tony says:

    MBPro 2011 sorry..

  7. Tony says:

    In Lion on MbPro 2001 the correct command to call Spotlight from the Finder is : Ctrl+space

  8. […] Saltare le categorie nei risultati di ricerca – Command + Freccia su o Command + Freccia Giù. Via | OSXDaily […]

  9. Rado says:

    In Lion I have system default shortcut to open Spotlight control+space. command+space switch language keyboard. Doesn’t it standard?

  10. Theo Vosse says:

    Nice, but preview is always on, at least in my case, also when using the arrows to navigate.

    I also found that when you get the path (BTW, the path is visible under the preview!) using cmd+option, you can hold cmd and release opt to see some extra information on the match (it’ll highlight it), which will alternate with the path.

  11. Daniel S. says:

    Spotlight is awesome. I open all apps by typing the name and keep no apps on the dock. Keeps things nice and minimal.

  12. Justinq says:

    Is there any way to permanently enable the path/location display without having to use a keyboard modifier?

  13. Shiba Inu says:

    Didn’t know a few of these, nice tips thanks

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