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In the macOS operating system of the Apple Mac there are several functions that are intended to simplify use and speed up the workflow. Spotlight is one of those features. Spotlight search is easily invoked with the keyboard shortcut command + spacebar or with the magnifying glass icon in the menu bar. In addition to finding files, folders, web pages, and Siri Suggestions, the search box can also be used for Calculations and conversions be used. In this guide you will find a few tips and tricks for using Spotlight on the Apple Mac as well as links to other resources.
History of the Mac search function: AppleSearch, Sherlock and Spotlight
Being able to search for content on the computer and in the network makes digital work a lot easier. Because instead of entering paths, using search engines and otherwise wasting time, you can do everything at once with an extensive search function. Apple started implementing search tools in its Mac systems back in the early 1990s, then called AppleSearch.
Practical tip: CMD + spacebar to quickly open Spotlight.
Then in the late 1990s and early 2000s, Sherlock was rolled out onto Mac computers as a search engine Cupertino brought. More specifically, this happened in the systems Mac OS 8.5 to Mac OS X 10.3 Panther. As part of WWDC 2004, Spotlight was presented, which was designed by file system designer and developer Dominic Giampaolo since 2002. Spotlight 2005 came to users with Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger.
Spotlight can also be used in current macOS versions such as 10.15 Catalina, 11 Big Sur and 12 Monterey. If you want to call up the text field shown in the screenshot above, simply click on the magnifying glass symbol in the menu bar at the top right. If you prefer to use the keyboard, hold down the command key (command, cmd, or ⌘) and press the spacebar. This is how you get to the input field for searches, questions and tasks.
Reading tip: Use Spotlight features on iPhone
Features of Spotlight on Mac
As mentioned at the beginning, a wide variety of functions can be used and tasks solved via Spotlight on the Mac. The following list should give you an overview of the individual options. I make no claim to the completeness of the same. If you have any other use cases for Spotlight on macOS, please leave a comment. But first, here are the Spotlight features I know:
- Search for files and folders on the hard drive
- Search for apps on the hard drive and in the App Store
- Search email and messages on Mac
- Search for web content, favorites and pages in Safari history
- Search for definitions in the dictionary
- See Siri recommendations for the term you entered
- Currency, temperature and measure conversions
- Calculate equations entered in the search field
Leveraging content displayed in Spotlight: Here's how!
Searching and finding files, apps, websites and other content is one thing. But utilizing the listed results is another matter. To open a webpage, dictionary entry, file, app, or anything else, you have to double-click the corresponding search result. But you can also have a preview displayed first. Under macOS 12 this works e.g. B. by selecting the search result and then pressing the tab key. Further usage instructions can be found in the official macOS manual - also for earlier macOS versions (see link in the following list).
More resources about Spotlight on Mac
- macOS User Guide for macOS 10.13 to macOS 12: Have a look here
- Wikipedia entry with history and technical background: Read through here
After graduating from high school, Johannes completed an apprenticeship as a business assistant specializing in foreign languages. But then he decided to research and write, which resulted in his independence. For several years he has been working for Sir Apfelot, among others. His articles include product introductions, news, manuals, video games, consoles, and more. He follows Apple keynotes live via stream.
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