Submit Hint Search The Forums LinksStatsPollsHeadlinesRSS
14,000 hints and counting!

10.5: Get more from Spotlight with new operators Apps
In OS X 10.4, there were a few special operators you could use to narrow your results. For instance, kind:pdf or date:tomorrow were acceptable search terms. In 10.5, the number of such operators has been greatly expanded, though there's little to no documentation on what's available.

Early on, I stumbled on the filename: syntax, which lets you quickly find by filename (use filename:"file name in quotes" for filenames with spaces in them). Macworld author Kirk McElhearn was intrigued by Spotlight's new powers, and started digging. What he discovered are some new ways to use the existing operators, as well as a slew of new operators. You can read his Spotlight's Secret Search Syntax article for all the details, but I'll hit a few highlights here.

For example, you can now use greater than, less than, or equals signs with the date operator:


The results will be what you'd expect -- any file modified after October 26th, 2007 (and on my machine, there's a ton of those now!).

But more interesting than that are the huge variety of brand new operators and functions:
  • The kind operator now supports a huge number of types. kind:word or kind:text or kind:word (to find Word documents). Kirk details a way to get a sense of the number of different options available.
  • Music-related operators, such as bitrate:, codec:, and composer:.
  • Photography-related operators, such as iso:, whitebalance:, and aperture:.
Many of these operators existed in 10.4, but to use them, you had to work through the Others pop-up in the Finder's search box. Now you can type them directly into the Spotlight (or Finder) search box. Just type, for instance, iso:>400 or codec:aac, and off you go.

You can find a long list of these operators in the following file; the section of interest starts on line 312: As of now, these short names aren't documented, so this file is the only spot you'll find them. You can, of course, still use the Others pop-up to get the full names and descriptions, but the shortcuts are much quicker to use.

Update: David Pogue was kind enough to send along an excerpt of his upcoming OS X 10.5 Missing Manual on Spotlight's new advanced operators. Feel free to download and read: PDF [199KB]Text [27KB] ... Thanks, David!
  • Currently 3.50 / 5
  You rated: 4 / 5 (6 votes cast)

10.5: Get more from Spotlight with new operators | 4 comments | Create New Account
Click here to return to the '10.5: Get more from Spotlight with new operators' hint
The following comments are owned by whoever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.
10.5: Get more from Spotlight with new operators
Authored by: davidpogue on Nov 15, '07 05:06:14PM

Kirk's notes on the new Spotlight syntax are great, but I'd like to clear up two small statements in his article:

1. that there's no master list of the new Spotlight syntax, and

2. that it's not documented! :)

It's actually documented in my own "Mac OS X: The Missing Manual," Leopard Edition, coming out Dec. 1. I've sent Rob the relevant pages from the book, which includes the complete list of 120 different Spotlight query terms!

(I got it from a product manager at Apple. It's great to have, especially since Spotlight accepts only one-word search terms, and it's not always easy to guess the one-word version of each metadata type. For example, to find images wider than 800 pixels, you might expect that you could use the "pixel width" metadata type--but it doesn't work unless you type "width>800.")

--David Pogue

[ Reply to This | # ]
10.5: Get more from Spotlight with new operators
Authored by: DonColore on Nov 15, '07 10:23:07PM

Just tried this but had little success. Poking arround revealed that on international systems (in my case German), those keywords got translated and are case sensitive:

"kind:app" translates to "Art:Prog"
"kind:app", "art:Prog", "Art:Prog" and "art:prog" doesn't work on German OS X 10.5.1

[ Reply to This | # ]
10.5: Get more from Spotlight with new operators
Authored by: Anonymous on Nov 15, '07 11:14:34PM

Instead of reading though that .strings file, Command+shift+f in Finder, change the "Name" search parameter to "Other.." and you get a full(?) list of searchable parameters. You can check the box to make them show up in the Finder search drop-down thingy, or select one and hit okay to use it once.

[ Reply to This | # ]
10.5: Get more from Spotlight with new operators
Authored by: kirkmc on Nov 16, '07 12:58:50AM

Yes, but the list in that file shows how to use the multi-word operators, which is not always obvious from the list in the Finder.

And, David, it's not documented _yet_. :-)


Read my blog: Kirkville --
Musings, Opinion and Miscellanea, on Macs, iPods and more

[ Reply to This | # ]