Jump Between Spotlight Search Result Categories in Mac OS X

Jul 31, 2016 - 8 Comments

Spotlight icon Spotlight on the Mac will search through many different file types and folders to help you find what you’re looking for, but if Spotlight finds multiple matches across different categories, you’ll see the search results returned under each respective category listing.

While many Mac users will use the cursor to click the result they want, some more advanced users use the arrow keys to navigate within the Spotlight search results as well. This tip is an extension of the latter trick, letting you navigate quickly through Spotlight search results by jumping to different category listings in the Spotlight result window.

This trick to quickly moving between Spotlight result sections is pretty straight forward, here’s what you’ll need to do:

  • When in a Spotlight search result screen with multiple result categories, hold down the Command Key while using the up and down arrows to instantly jump to the next category of search results

For example, if you’re on the topmost listing at first search:

Jump Spotlight search result categories in Mac OS X

Holding down the Command key and pressing the down arrow a few times will jump down multiple categories rather than having to wade through or selecting the individual results.


Try this yourself by searching for anything that may have multiple category results. Depending on how you have arranged the Spotlight search result category priorities your topmost result categories may look different from the screenshots here.

This works with any results in the Spotlight menu, just hold down the Command key with the up and down arrow to make the broader category jump through the Spotlight search results.

This is one of many great tricks for Spotlight, don’t miss our Spotlight tips section for both iOS and Mac, and be sure to check out some great Spotlight search tricks for the latest versions of Mac OS X too.


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


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  1. Eleven says:

    I have seen this opinion in many places including official Apple forum, but it is not true. You can reorder Spotlight results on macOS Sierra from the command line, e.g.:

    defaults write com.apple.Spotlight orderedItems -array ‘{enabled=1; name=MENU_DEFINITION;}’ ‘{enabled=1; name=APPLICATIONS;}’ ‘{enabled=0; name=MENU_SPOTLIGHT_SUGGESTIONS;}’ ‘{enabled=1; name=MENU_CONVERSION;}’ ‘{enabled=1; name=MENU_EXPRESSION;}’ ‘{enabled=1; name=SYSTEM_PREFS;}’ ‘{enabled=1; name=DOCUMENTS;}’ ‘{enabled=1; name=DIRECTORIES;}’ ‘{enabled=1; name=PRESENTATIONS;}’ ‘{enabled=1; name=SPREADSHEETS;}’ ‘{enabled=1; name=PDF;}’ ‘{enabled=0; name=MESSAGES;}’ ‘{enabled=0; name=CONTACT;}’ ‘{enabled=0; name=EVENT_TODO;}’ ‘{enabled=0; name=IMAGES;}’ ‘{enabled=0; name=BOOKMARKS;}’ ‘{enabled=0; name=MUSIC;}’ ‘{enabled=0; name=MOVIES;}’ ‘{enabled=0; name=FONTS;}’ ‘{enabled=1; name=MENU_OTHER;}’ ‘{enabled=1; name=SOURCE;}’

    This is enabling my configuration which positions dictionary query results at the top of the list.

  2. Steve says:

    This works in the Safari URL auto-complete menu too. Jump between sections.

  3. As far as I can remember, the ability to prioritize result categories has been removed since El Capitan. Can anybody else confirm?

    • User says:

      That’s what I discovered as well.

      To me, it’s inexplicable, but reflective of the state of Apple software today.

    • Stephen Strum says:

      The ability to rearrange the order of Search Results is definitely not possible in El Capitan. I believe this too was the case with Yosemite.

      I agree with “User” that those at Apple who make decisions re software seem to have lost vision & creativity since the departure of Steve Jobs. Many users have excellent ideas that would enhance the performance of the OS. Instead, we are subjected too asthenic so-called “upgrades” that are also too frequent, but that make our computer work less enjoyable and diminish efficiency. The last OS that I actually enjoyed was 10.68. Since then, Apple’s OS have been ho-hum in the opinion of this advanced user.

    • Conehead says:

      Yes correct, for no obvious reason Apple has removed the ability for users to change the search result category. This is why when you search for something in Spotlight, half the time you get stuff you have no interest in and that doesn’t match what you want.

      Everyone should file a report with Apple requesting the feature be added again in macOS Sierra using Feedback tool. If people do not file feedback about the product, nothing will change.

  4. Robert D. says:

    Please move the above comment to the correct article, sorry.

  5. Robert D. says:

    I tried your suggestions, still have trouble sending photos from my iPhone 6s to my son’s Blackberry. Probably less than a 50% success rate. Very frustrating as there is no problem for iPhone to iPhone.

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