Spotlight – The Advanced Course

Spotlight quickly finds folders, launches applications, jumps to contacts in address book all with a command-space keystroke and the first few letters of what you want to find/access.  But, Spotlight can go deeper too – filtering folders down to anything you desire based not only on search, but also metadata and through the use of boolean expressions.

Spotlight as a Filter

Spotlight can be accessed from both the command-space keystroke to search the whole hard driver, or through the search box on individual finder windows by hitting command-f (note: if done from a finder window, you must select folder from gray tool bar popup).  Either way, once searching, you can search for more than just text in a filename or inside a document.

In this example, the folder shows all files contained within the folder. In the next screen shot, the same folder has been filtered down to contain just those documents with the label ‘red.’ Finally, using the Spotlight search box, all files have been filtered down files created between 3/1/07 and 8/1/09 AND containing the word “discovery.”

Spotlight as Search Hound

A little language kung fu in your typical command-space search can also yield some great results.  For example, if you are looking for just a contact in address book: (1) hit command-space; (2) type “kind:contact smith” without quotes will bring up a list of all your address book contacts named smith. cursor down to the desired entry, hit return and address book opens.

Similarly, even tasks and events in iCal can be located. Command-space followed by “kind:event deposition” without quotes will call up all iCal events containing the word definition. Now, think about that for a moment. If you get in the habit of using a formal naming convention for events and tasks, you can instantaneously pull up a complete list of all events and tasks for a particular client-matter. Discipline yourself and staff to use Client – Event or Client – Task in the title for events and tasks and you can find them down the road through Spotlight and, of course, through your iCal search function as well.

You can download a complete list of Spotlight search operators from Mac OS X Hints. The Mac OS X Hints post contains an excerpt from David Pogue’s book, The Missing OS X manual which can give you an even more detailed look into how to make this work for you.

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