Search for Files
Okay, this first one is a little obvious, but we’d be remiss if we skipped over it altogether. You probably already know that Spotlight can be used to search for files on your Mac. That was, after all, it’s original purpose, and it’s the first — and often only — thing most people think of when they think of Spotlight.
Bring up Spotlight by clicking on the magnifying glass in the top right corner of your menu bar, or by hitting CMD+SPACEBAR on your Mac keyboard, and then just type in something that you’re looking for, such as the name of a file. Spotlight will return a plethora of results, organized into categories such as PDFs, images, documents, spreadsheets, and so forth.
What you may not realize, however, is that not only does Spotlight search by filename, but it can actually search inside most popular file formats, so you can find a phrase inside a Powerpoint presentation or Word document, for example. Spotlight also indexes a ton of other metadata that it knows about in your files, so for example you could search for the name of a layer in a Photoshop file, the caption for a digital photo, or the album name in an MP3 file.
There’s also one other trick that’s worth mentioning here: While double-clicking or pressing enter on a result will open that file in its native application, if you hold down CMD while doing so, it will open a Finder window instead to show you where that file is located. Further, you can also drag-and-drop results right out of the Spotlight window, making this a great way to quickly find a file that you need to attach to an email without having to fiddle with multiple Finder windows — just press CMD+SPACEBAR, type in what you’re looking for, and drag the result right into your new message window. macOS is even smart enough to let you do things like drag content found in the Notes app and paste it in directly as text rather than a file attachment.
Thanks to the Files app on iOS, you can also use Spotlight search in a more basic manner to find files on an iPhone or iPad; you won’t be able to search for items inside files on iOS, but you can still search by name and open those files directly.