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How to Search Using New Advanced Mac Spotlight Techniques

Spotlight, Apple's marvelous desktop search utility that debuted with OS X Tiger, only gets better with Leopard. Here are a few advanced Spotlight search techniques that were introduced on Macs with Leopard:

  • Boolean query: You can enter a search phrase using AND, NOT, or OR (in caps as shown) within a parentheses. So you can type (Mary Ann OR Ginger) NOT Mrs. Howell to bring up references to either of the first two castaways but not the millionaire’s wife. You can substitute a hyphen (-) for NOT, as in vacation – island to indicate you don’t want to see any trip pictures from your tropical adventures.

  • Dates: By entering kind:message created 3/11/08, you can search for an e-mail you sent on March 11 wishing a pal a happy birthday. You can also enter a range of dates as in kind:images date 3/11/08 - 3/15/08.

  • Quotes and phrases: By placing quotation marks around a particular phrase, Spotlight will search for that exact phrase. If looking for a song with Blue Sky in it, put quotes around the phrase, as in “Blue Sky”, to have Spotlight look for that precise match. Otherwise, Spotlight will search for anything with the words blue and sky in it.

  • Definition: If all you want is a quick definition, type the word in the Spotlight search field, and Spotlight will tell you what it means, just below the top hit. If you need a more thorough definition, click the Definition search result, and Spotlight will take you to Dictionary.

  • Calculator: Spotlight will solve a math problem for you without you having to summon the Calculator program. Just type the problem or math equation in the search box, and Spotlight will serve up the result. For example, to divide 654 by 7, all you need to is type in 654/7, and Spotlight will provide the answer (93.428571429).

  • Web history: Spotlight follows you around the Web, sort of. That is, it indexes the names of sites you’ve recently visited. Just enter a search query that relates to a site you want to return to.

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