Mac Productivity

The Spotlight Search Tips Cheat Sheet for Mac

Akshata Shanbhag 22-02-2020

Spotlight is one of the easiest ways to launch files, folders, apps, and more on your Mac. You can bring it up with a keyboard shortcut (Cmd + Space) or by clicking on the magnifying glass icon in the menu bar.


This native macOS feature also comes in handy when you want to look up definitions of words, get sports scores, track flights, do basic math, and retrieve all kinds of information in a snap. And thanks to natural language support, using Spotlight feels intuitive and effortless.

If you’re eager to discover the best tricks Spotlight is capable of, our cheat sheet below can help.

The cheat sheet includes keyboard shortcuts that work in Spotlight and special attributes you can use to filter data faster. You’ll also discover how to use Boolean operators, natural language, and various in-built Spotlight tools to access just the data you need in a few keystrokes.

FREE DOWNLOAD: This cheat sheet is available as a downloadable PDF from our distribution partner, TradePub. You will have to complete a short form to access it for the first time only. Download The Spotlight Search Tips Cheat Sheet for Mac.

The Spotlight Search Tips Cheat Sheet for Mac

Cmd + SpaceOpen Spotlight
¹keyword(s)Display results for search term with first result highlighted and its preview in right-hand pane
“keywords” or “phrase”Display exact matches
²“as”Display App Store as top result
²“pc”Display Parental Controls as top result
Return (Enter)Open selected item
Double-click resultOpen selected item
Down ArrowSelect result below
Up ArrowSelect result above
³TabSelect first item in preview pane
⁴CmdDisplay Finder location of selected result at bottom of preview pane
Right ArrowAutocomplete search keyword using the suggested/selected result
Cmd + Down ArrowJump to first result in next category
Cmd + Up ArrowJump to first result in previous category
Cmd + LJump to definition in results
Cmd + ROpen result in Finder or relevant app if applicable
Cmd + Return (Enter)Open result in Finder or relevant app if applicable
Cmd + IOpen Get Info pane for result
Cmd + BLook up search term using default search engine in default browser
Cmd + CCopy item
Drag result to Finder window or desktopCopy item
Double-click Show all in Finder in results list
View all results in Finder
Hover over preview for audio/video resultReveal Play button to play result in preview
Two-finger scroll over previewReveal scroll bar
Drag search boxMove Spotlight to reposition it
EscClear search box
Cmd + DeleteClear search box
Option + Cmd + SpaceOpen Finder search window with search box selected
⁵Search Using Metadata Attributes
from:NameCreated or sent by Name
by:NameCreated or sent by Name
author:NameCreated by Name
to:NameAddressed to Name
title:Title_NameWith title Title_Name
tag:TagNameWith tag Tag_Name
date:DD/MM/YYFrom DD/MM/YY
created:DD/MM/YYCreated on DD/MM/YY
modified:DD/MM/YYModified on DD/MM/YY
⁶comment:keywordComment contains keyword
kind:event(s)Calendar events
kind email(s)
kind: mail message(s)
kind:image(s), kind:jpeg, kind:pngImages
kind:system preferences
kind:pagesPages documents
kind:numbersNumbers spreadsheets
kind:keynoteKeynote presentations
⁸Search Using Boolean Operators
keyword 1 AND keyword 2Results with keyword 1 and keyword 2
keyword 1 OR keyword 2Results with keyword 1 or keyword 2
keyword 1 NOT keyword 2Results with keyword 1 but not keyword 2
keyword 1 -keyword 2Results with keyword 1 but not keyword 2
⁹Find local businessescoffee
places to eat
“apple store”
Get time zone information“time in Sydney”
Get weather information“weather” for local weather
“weather in Mumbai”
Look up definitionskeyword
Convert temperatures“302kelvins in f”
Convert measurements“52 pounds to kilograms”
Convert currencies“600gbp in usd”
Get math calculations“234/5*6”
Get real-time sports scores“cricket scores” “lakers game”
Get stock prices“sbux” for SBUX or Starbucks Corporation
See what’s playing at local theatersshowtimes or movie times
Get movie details and showtimes“men in black”
Track flights“WN3536” or “southwest 3536”
¹⁰Play songs without opening iTunes“waka waka”
Search Using Natural Language
emails i received today
photos from yesterday
files from this week
messages from last week
screenshots i took last month
last year photos
unread emails
pictures i took in june
documents i created in 2019
“spreadsheets from tim”
“presentations from ben”
¹Keyword(s) can be in title of Finder item or within content.

²Speed up search for apps and System Preferences panes by typing in their initials. Works with third-party apps also.

³Works with folders only. Preview pane items can be enclosed files or subfolders.

⁴Works with local results only.

⁵Can be used with or without keywords.

⁶Searches for Finder items with keyword in Comments section of Get Info pane.

⁷Without this filter, searching for an app name also reveals files recently used in app and matching apps in Mac App Store.

⁸Can be used with metadata attributes.
Eg: kind:document date:25/08/19-31/08/19 NOT 28/08/19

⁹Look under Maps category for relevant results. Does not work with all emojis.

¹⁰Hover over relevant track in preview to reveal Play button.

1. Feature availability might vary based on country.

2. Visit System Preferences > Spotlight to toggle visibility of Spotlight categories.

Let Spotlight Find What You’re Looking For

Searching with Spotlight is one of the good habits you should get used to as a Mac user. It’s also among the best productivity tips we recommend for your Mac 10 Awesome Hidden Productivity Tips and Tricks for Your Mac While the Mac App Store is filled with awesome productivity apps, you don't need to look that far for some immediate productivity influx. Read More .

Image Credit: Wesson Wang on Unsplash

Related topics: Cheat Sheet, Mac Feature, Search Tricks, Spotlight.

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