OS X Lion: Magnificent New Spotlight Features

In Lion’s version of Spotlight, Apple has added a few tweaks and improvements that I really like and find quite useful in my workflow. We’ve come a long way from the days when we’d pray to the gods of search that Tiger would find something, anything close to what we were looking for. No? Just me? Well, in any case, read on to get the skinny on what’s new with Lion’s searching capabilities.

To get started, either click on the magnifying glass in the upper-right of your screen or use the keyboard shortcut to open Spotlight (it’s Command-Spacebar). The first thing you’ll notice after you type something in is the new “Web Searches” section in your results window.

Selecting the Web option will unsurprisingly do a search within your default browser for whatever you’ve typed in. Choosing the second option will open up your Mac’s built-in Dictionary application, which will allow you to use its Wikipedia support to browse articles on anything your little heart desires. 

Secondly, you can now drag files out of your search results. A good way to use this would be to search for something you’d like to attach to an e-mail and then drag it onto Apple Mail in your Dock, which will start a new message with whatever you’ve dragged. You can also use this to put applications in your Dock, insert the path to a file in Terminal, or even paste the results of a calculator equation into an e-mail or document. Be aware that if you drag something out of the results and onto, say, your desktop, doing so copies the file in question instead of moving it.


I’m going to put this Calculator result somewhere, I promise.  


Another useful new feature is the ability to get a Quick Look–type preview of items within your results. You can access this by holding the Command key for a moment when an item is highlighted, or you can select something with your arrow keys or by hovering with your mouse. When you do so, you’ll be able to try all sorts of cool stuff, like viewing the entire definition of a word or paging through a Keynote presentation’s full content, without even opening the associated program. I LOVE not even opening the associated program!


Here’s the Spotlight preview for one of my saved images. See the information bar?


Also, when you’ve got that preview open for an item, you can hold down the Command key, and an information bar will appear at the bottom of the window. It’ll cycle through data about the item and the location of it for as long as you continue to hold down Command, and if you hold Option, too, you’ll switch immediately to the location. This is very handy if you’re like me. I have pretty much no idea where files are living on my hard drive and rely on Spotlight for everything. That’s normal, right?