Find Files with Date Specific Searches in Spotlight for Mac OS X

May 14, 2014 - 11 Comments

Spotlight 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 MacOS.

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.

How to Search for Files Based on Creation Date on Mac with 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 Mac OS X, then use the following search syntax:

created: xx/xx/xxxx

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:

created: 08/12/2016

Spotlight will return the list of files, apps, documents, and folders created on that date, looking something like the following:

Find files based on creation date in Spotlight

You can also provide additional operators to show files created before or after a specific date by using the < and > symbols, like so:

created: <08/12/2016

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:

modified: xx/xx/xxxx

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.

Find files modified on a date in Spotlight

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:

modified: <05/15/2015

Find files modified before or after a date in Spotlight search

Finding files modified before and after a specific date in Spotlight for Mac

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.


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Posted by: Paul Horowitz in Mac OS, Tips & Tricks


» Comments RSS Feed

  1. GaryB says:

    This is awesome. But, there is a big problem with RAW images. It appears that Spotlight logs the metadata file timestamp, not the Finder’s timestamp.

    I’m trying to audit a large collection of renamed RAW images, comparing timestamps of what is in a bunch of folders on a computer (found through spotlight) to what came out of a camera. But, I can’t reconcile them since the metadata and file dates don’t match. Search shows one and Finder shows another.

    Is there a way to get Spotlight to pay attention to the Finder’s dates?

    • same issue says:

      ditto , need to see by ‘date added’ as I upload every 3 months from phone to pc, and no I dont use cloud i burn to cds

  2. Paxton31 says:

    When I try this, “Spotlight Preferences” appears below the search field and it won’t search. The only option I have at that point is to click on “Spotlight Preferences” which isn’t what I want.

  3. Michael says:

    The easier way to do a complex search is to open Finder and do a cmd+F.
    You can even save your search and you then get a smart folder. The smart folder will always contain your up to date results.

    If you use iPhoto (love it), you can also create a smart album there too. I did this to be able to quickly find videos downloaded from my iPhone. Call your smart album “Movies” and then set it to “Photo” “is” “Movie”.

  4. João says:

    Oh ok, didn’t recognize it! Thanks!

  5. João says:

    Nice! I also like the wallpaper, any link?

  6. RM says:

    I gave up on spotlight years ago, never able to find anything since Lion/ML/Mavericks.
    Try EasyFind.

  7. James Ludtke says:

    Can’t get Spotlight to work with dates. When entering the date search the drop down window insists on “Name matches: date created: >02/23/2011”, and nothing is found.

    How do I get rid of the “Name matches” part?

  8. mariodrumblue says:

    I know it’s silly but “created on August 12, 2016”? Does it mean Spotlight is also a crystal ball?

  9. Dan says:

    I live this! Thanks!

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