Spotlight search has been a trusty and reliable assistant to Mac users for years. You can look up files, perform basic calculations, keep tabs on the weather, and search a whole lot more by simply hitting the iconic Cmd + Space shortcut. And while Apple has consistently updated it, Spotlight still has a few features missing.
Thankfully, the competition has caught up. If you’ve found Spotlight lacking or want to try a new universal search for your Mac, here are the best alternatives.
Think of Alfred as Spotlight on steroids. It retains the efficiency of macOS’s native tool, but comes with a vastly superior set of capabilities. The draw of Alfred lies in its customizability. You can tweak nearly every aspect of it and search your computer or the web however you want. That includes overhauling the appearance with themes, create custom phrases for searching specific files, and more.
If you spend enough time learning its core functionalities, Alfred can be an incredibly powerful utility. You can build workflows to perform repetitive tasks through a single command without having to code anything. The app has an active community and marketplace from where you can download and integrate new extensions.
For instance, installing the Slack add-on will allow you to search your conversations and files right from Alfred. Similarly, you can browse through your passwords on 1Password and LastPass.
For people who are heavily dependent on their browser, Alfred can be a sophisticated web searching tool as well. While the essentials are free to use, you’ll have to pay to unlock most of Alfred’s advanced features.
Download: Alfred (Free, premium version available)
2. Find Any File
Spotlight’s ability to scour your computer for a file is sufficient for the majority of users. But if you’re someone looking for a more comprehensive platform, try Find Any File.
Find Any File comes with a multitude of filters you can employ to search your drives. So for instance, you can specify a keyword the file name should end with. It lets you combine multiple fragments like this as well to narrow down the criteria even further.
In addition, Find Any File takes advantage of your machine’s file system drivers to execute queries more quickly. The app can even extract results from inside packages and bundles, which is entirely absent from Spotlight.
Find Any File also gives you a file management window so you can manually browse the directory, unlike Spotlight which directly opens the file. The one feature where Spotlight takes the lead is that Find Any File cannot fetch results from a file’s content.
Find Any File, of course, is not a Spotlight replacement. But if you are hunting down lost files more often than not, it’s the way to go.
Download: Find Any File (Free, premium version available)
While the rest of these apps guide you to the right location, LaunchBar wants you to carry out your task entirely at the search bar. It does so through intelligent links and sub-interfaces.
So for instance, say you’d like to copy a file to another folder. All you need to do is fire up LaunchBar and locate the file. Once LaunchBar has pulled it up, you can press the Tab key and begin typing the destination folder’s name. Finally, hit Enter. Just like that, you can go through folders or view a file’s details, right from LaunchBar itself.
LaunchBar has a ton of other handy tools you won’t find on Spotlight. There’s also a clipboard manager, emoji search, and like Alfred, third-party extensions. LaunchBar has a free trial, after which you will have to pay a one-time fee.
Download: LaunchBar (Free trial, $29)
If you only want a little more control and personalization options over Spotlight, Ueli is for you.
Ueli is largely identical to Spotlight both in looks and functionality. But it builds on top of the default option with a bunch of supplementary features such as custom abbreviations, themes, terminal integration, and more.
With Ueli, you can also execute system commands (like restarting) from the search bar. And of course, it provides access to all the standard trappings like web search, file lookup, and similar.
Unlike Spotlight, Ueli easily lets you search through different engines too. To use DuckDuckGo, you can type d before the query to automatically grab results from DuckDuckGo instead of Google. Ueli is also completely open source and free of charge.
Download: Ueli (Free)
Butler is for those who value flexibility and a large amount of options more than anything else. It doesn’t have any attractive themes or even a modern design. Butler excels in its extensive array of services.
You have a dense dashboard where all your configured triggers and actions are laid out. You can personalize each of them and set up new ones exactly as you like them. What’s more, you’ll find a series of other nifty tools like a clipboard manager, a Mac menu bar navigation shortcut, and custom phrases.
Butler has nearly every feature you can think of, so there’s a steep learning curve if you’d like to master it. Like most on this list, Butler is not free. After getting started with a free trial, the app charges a $20 fee.
Download: Butler (Free trial, $20)
Do More With Spotlight on Mac
There’s clearly no shortage of Spotlight alternatives for Mac. And while the majority of them offer a ton of extra features, native tools are always more reliable.
If you tried any of the aforementioned apps and they ended up hampering your computer’s performance, you can fall back to Spotlight. To ensure you get the best experience, supercharge your Spotlight experience with some tips and tricks.