Spotlight - am I missing something?

Did Spotlight break in Big Sur(ly)?

I’ve stopped using it because I can never get it to find what I want.
I have had to resort to dropping to digging up a tutorial on the Unix “find” command(of course I can’t remember how to use find) , then drop to Bash and look for files that way.

Can Spotlight find filenames only, without looking at the contents of a file? I rarely need to search for file contents, although I can see how that is useful at times.

Spotlight has long supported search prefixes, so name:happyPiglet will return files with the term as a substring in the name.

However, could things be broken in Big Sur? Possibly. :stuck_out_tongue:

Outside of needing to reboot my M1 Air, a name: search worked just fine.

Do note: It is still indexing at the moment which would logically affect the results.


For those times where I accidentally hit control-space instead of option-space (Alfred), it has always worked fine. It certainly finds by file names.

Would definitely recommend using a launcher instead. Spotlight is fine, but pales in comparison to a dedicated launcher.


For finding files? Why?

Alfred does a better job than spotlight at finding files. Just type space and my search and it will give me 10 hits without all the other recommendations.

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I suppose that’s subjective. :slight_smile:

As @DEVONtech_Jim pointed out, you need to use the “name:” qualifier to find the files, but even then if you click one of the results Spotlight wants to open the file, which isn’t what you want. I think what you want to use is Finder Search instead of Spotlight. From there, you can choose “Open in enclosing folder” etc.

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Indeed! Good ol’ Command-F in a Finder window works a treat too. :slight_smile:

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I’m just going to echo the Alfred recommendations. And I say that as someone who took almost a decade to start using Alfred. I’d heard recommendations, I even played with Alfred a bit, but I never got into it, until this single comment from someone piqued my interest enough to look at it more clsoely.

Alfred is faster than Spotlight. Even though Spotlight is built-in.

That proved true. The commands are simple-as too, in Alfred, for what you requested.

“john” - Will search for app names containing the word John
" john" - With the space at the beginning, will search for file names containing John
“in john” - Will search for files containing the text John

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However, clicking a match will cause the file to open, which OP doesn’t want.

Command-click will open the location in finder.

(edited to correct key, I use a PC a lot)

It’s command-click (or command-enter) in Alfred to reveal in finder for me.

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When I need to search my entire Mac or even some out of the way corner, I open the HoudahSpot app, which uses the Spotlight indexes but gives me a more flexible, guided, front-end without having to remember search syntax.

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Right sorry, command-click, but it works in Alfred and Spotlight.

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I love HoudaSpot and use it regularly, but for me it is the nuclear option when it comes to search. Unless I know I need the advanced features I’ll usually try Alfred first. If it comes up empty then I’ll fire up HoudaSpot.

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Alfred works well enough for me most of the time, but having heard of HoudahSpot but never looked into it…that looks pretty dang neat.


Because I need the files, and don’t remember where they are.

I’ve had a license for Alfred for a long time but never got around to learning it. It sounds like overkill if spotlight can search for files though.
One of these days I need to take Alfred 101

Will finder search the whole file system or just the current directory?

I never knew this- thanks