How to Use Spotlight & Launchpad for More Efficient OS X Search

Spotlight Launchpad Search

Spotlight, the handy system-wide search tool first introduced in OS X 10.4 Tiger, is a quick and easy way for Mac users to find files and settings on their Mac. Many users have also come to rely on the feature to search for and launch applications, replacing the Dock and Finder.

As Spotlight has gained functionality over time, however, it has become less useful for users with many documents and applications; there simply is not enough room in Spotlight’s search results window to fit all of the desired files.

Spotlight Search Default

A solution to this problem was recommended by Mac Geek Gab listener Tom: Now that Launchpad includes a search function as part of OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion, users can separate their application and file searches, maximizing efficiency for each type of query.

First, go to System Preferences > Spotlight > Search Results. Uncheck at least the Applications box, although you may also consider unchecking additional boxes that you don’t want to appear in your search results.

Spotlight Search Settings

At TMO, we like to use Spotlight to find just our user files, and not emails, bookmarks, or contacts. So we also unchecked System Preferences, Messages & Chats, Contacts, Events & Reminders, Webpages, and Fonts. If we ever need to search for anything in those categories, we can use the search built-in to each specific application.

Next, we need to enable an easy way to search Launchpad for Applications. Users could aways use the Dock icon or trackpad gesture to trigger Launchpad, but nothing beats the simplicity and convenience of a keyboard shortcut.

Launchpad Keyboard Shortcuts

Head over to System Preferences > Keyboard > Keyboard Shortcuts > Launchpad & Dock. Assign a keyboard shortcut to “Show Launchpad” by double-clicking in the shortcut area and pressing the desired key combination. The shortcut can be set to almost anything depending on the user’s preference, but we chose “Control - Space” to keep it similar to Spotlight’s “Command - Space.”

Launchpad Search

Once the shortcut is in place, pressing the key combination will bring up Launchpad. Simply start typing (there’s no need to move your cursor into the search box at the top of the screen).

Spotlight Custom

With this configuration, Spotlight becomes an excellent way to locate files, while Launchpad becomes a user’s go-to app launcher. The ability to access Launchpad with a keyboard shortcut and perform an immediate search for an application may win over some Mac users who found little use in the feature after its initial introduction last year.