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Spotlight on Spotlight

Released as part of OS X 10.4, Spotlight might be one of the most useful tools on your Mac! Most people think of it only as a way to search for files. In fact, though, it can do that and so much more.

If you don’t use Spotlight much on your Mac, you’re in for a treat. Simply hold down the Command key and tap the space bar. You should see a text box appear in the top-right corner of your screen. You can also get this box by clicking on the magnifying glass icon on the far right side of your menu bar. This is the Spotlight input area and you can enter just about anything in there.

For instance, you could enter a word from a file name or even a word or phrase found in the contents of a file. Give it a moment and your results will begin to appear. If you see the document you want, you can either click on it to open it or use your arrow keys to move to it and your return key to open it. If you just want to see where it is saved, you can simply hover your mouse pointer over it for a moment to see its location.

But Spotlight goes much further than just finding documents. There’s all sorts of other tricks it can perform:

  • Looking for  a particular email message? Those are files, too, and if you’re using Mail, you can type a phrase in, and all emails with that phrase will be listed.
  • If you use iChat, you can also search through your chat logs. This can be helpful if you’re looking for details on a particular chat with somebody.
  • Need a phone number? Try typing in a name from your Address Book. You can click the entry to open it or just hover over the entry to see the contact’s phone number.
  • Math problem? Need to know what 13 times 235 is? Pop open finder and type in “13*235 ” and you’ll see your answer below your entry.
  • What’s a drumlin? Hear a word on the radio and want to know what it means? Simply type it in the spotlight for a quick definition.

These are just a few ways to use Spotlight to make your Mac even easier to use. Got more suggestions? We’d love to hear them; just add them in the comments.

Rocket Yard Contributor
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  • Spotlight makes a great quick app launcher! Type just enough characters that the app is hilighted as the top hit (2-3 usually) and then hit return. Apps are pre-cached by the Spotlight menu to make this fast and seamless!

  • Wow, thanks, I lose files all the time, but I can remember what’s in them so this will be really helpful! Sounds like I’ll be able to get contact’s phone numbers a lot faster now using this method.