How to Customize Spotlight on Your iMac

By Mark L. Chambers

You might guess that such an awesome OS X feature as Spotlight has its own pane in System Preferences — and you’d be right again. The following figure shows off the Spotlight pane in System Preferences: Click the System Preferences icon on the Dock and then click the Spotlight icon to display these settings.

Fine-tune your Spotlight menu and Results window from System Preferences.

Fine-tune your Spotlight menu and Results window from System Preferences.

Click the Search Results tab to

  • Determine which categories appear in the Spotlight menu and Results window. For example, if you don’t use any presentation software on your iMac, you can clear the check box next to Presentations to disable this category (thereby making more room for other categories that you will use).

  • Determine the order that categories appear in the Spotlight menu and Results window. Drag the categories to the order in which you want them to appear in the Spotlight menu and window. For example, you might like the Documents and System Preferences categories to appear higher in the list because you use them most often.

  • Specify the Spotlight menu and Spotlight Results window keyboard shortcuts. You can enable or disable either keyboard shortcut and choose the key combination from the pop-up menu. By default, the menu keyboard shortcut is the Command key+Space, and the results window keyboard shortcut is the Command key+Option+Space.

Click the Privacy tab (shown in the next figure) to specify disks and folders that should never be listed as results in a Spotlight search. Yes, Spotlight respects your security, but the disks and folders that you add to this list won’t appear even if you are the one performing the search, so the exclusion is absolute. This is a great idea for folders and removable hard drives that you use to store sensitive information, such as medical records.

When locations must remain private during a search (even from you!), add them to this list.

When locations must remain private during a search (even from you!), add them to this list.

To add locations that you want to keep private, click the Add button (bearing a plus sign) and navigate to the desired location. Click the location to select it, and then click Choose. Alternatively, you can drag folders or disks directly from a Finder window and drop them into the pane.