How to Use the Spotlight Menu and Window in Mac OS X Lion

One way to search for files and folders in Mac OS X Lion is to use the Spotlight menu itself — the magnifying-glass icon at the far right end of your menu bar. Click the icon to open the Spotlight Search box and then type a character, word, or series of words in the Search box to find an item.

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Memorize and use the super-convenient and easy-to-remember keyboard shortcut for opening the Spotlight search box, which is Command+spacebar by default in Mac OS X Lion. If you don’t find Command+spacebar appealing as a shortcut, you can change it to whatever you like in the Spotlight System Preferences pane.

If you highlight an item in Spotlight’s results list, a preview pops up to its left, a là What’s Up, Dock.doc. That’s a nice feature, new in OS X Lion.

Spotlight is more than just a menu and Search box; it also uses a technology that’s pervasive throughout Mac OS X and apps including (but certainly not limited to) Mail, Address Book, and many, many more. The reason why it’s so spectacularly speedy is that it “indexes” your files when your Mac is idle. The upshot is that Spotlight knows file locations and contents soon after a file is created or modified.

You can also use the Spotlight window to create and perform more sophisticated searches. You can access this window in two ways:

  • Click the Show All in Finder item on the Spotlight menu or press Command+Option+spacebar.

  • Use the criteria at the top of the window to narrow your search.

Regardless of which method you choose to invoke it — the Search box in a Finder window, the Spotlight Search box in the menu bar, or the Spotlight window — Spotlight saves you time and effort.

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