macOS: Using Boolean Operators in Spotlight Searches

1 minute read
| Quick Tip

As TMO’s own Jeff Butts mentioned in this great article, you can use operators (like “kind”) to narrow down your Spotlight searches. But did you know that you can also use Boolean queries just like you can on the Web to further refine your results? It’s pretty awesome!

To use this feature, all you’ll need to do is insert AND, OR, or NOT (or a minus sign) into your search, depending on what you’re trying to find. For example, if I wanted to see files on my system with either “TMO” or “writing” in the title, I’d invoke Spotlight by clicking on the magnifying glass in the upper-right corner of my screen or by using its keyboard shortcut (Command-Spacebar), and then I’d type this:

Spotlight with "OR" boolean operator

Note that there’s no space after the colon.

Alternatively, I could find items from two separate dates.

Spotlight with "OR" boolean operator specifying two dates

“NOT” is handy, too. You could use it to exclude file types, say, from your results.

NOT in Spotlight boolean operator searching for a specific date and excluding all PDF files

Similarly, the minus sign will let you exclude keywords easily.

Minus TMO in Spotlight boolean operator using the minus sign to exclude PDF documents containing TMO

That search would find me all of the PDFs on my system that don’t include “TMO.”

If you have any more questions or would just like to see more ways to use this, check out the examples Apple posted on this support page. When you’re reading that, be sure to pay attention to all of the different file types you can search for and the little trick about searching for everything modified before a certain date (“modified:<=5/16/12”). I’ve found that especially useful for tracking down older files!

(And hey, if you’d like to learn how to use this kind of thing with Google, too, I’ve got your back. Here’s some additional reading for you all.)

Add a Comment

Log in to comment (TMO, Twitter, Facebook) or Register for a TMO Account