Spotlight on System Files

If you’ve been missing system files (e.g. plist files) in your Spotlight results or Finder searches, you need to follow this tip over at TidBits:

When you choose Other, you get a dialog listing all the kinds of metadata the Spotlight index knows about. You can just pick one to use it; you can also select a checkbox to specify that that option should appear in the menu from now on, so you don’t have to pass through the Other dialog to access it. I recommend that you immediately check two items that I think you’ll be using quite a lot:

System files. When set to Include, files are sought even in special locations such as /Library/Caches and ~/Library/Preferences. For example, if you search on “com.apple” you won’t find much, but if you include system files, you’ll find hundreds of preference files.
[Emphasis mine]

Spotlight items. When set to Include, searches are expanded beyond files and folders to include other sorts of entities, such as iCal events, Safari history items, and preference panes.

A huge power user tip: When you summon the Finder search window with Command-Option-Space, or from the Spotlight menu, Spotlight items is set to Include. When you summon the Finder search window with Command-F or by typing in a Finder window’s search field, Spotlight items is not set to Include. This is actually quite brilliant. Spotlight is making a very reasonable distinction and assumption here: if you started in the Finder, you probably just want to look for files and folders, but if you summoned the search window in a more global way, you probably want to look at all kinds of entities. Of course you can always summon a Criteria Bar and change the setting if the initial default isn’t what you intended.

Good search means a lean, clean system…

2 thoughts on “Spotlight on System Files

  1. A huge power user tip: When you summon the Finder search window with Command-Option-Space, or from the Spotlight menu, Spotlight items is set to Include

  2. This is actually quite brilliant. Spotlight is making a very reasonable distinction and assumption here: if you started in the Finder, you probably just want to look for files and folders, but if you summoned the search window in a more global way, you probably want to look at all kinds of entities

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