Getting the most out of the revamped OS X Spotlight search in Yosemite

Posted:
in macOS edited July 2015
One of the biggest changes in OS X Yosemite is Apple's Spotlight search, which has gained a completely new, front-and-center look, and also adds the ability to search well beyond your Mac.




The link to Spotlight search remains in the upper right corner in Yosemite, but clicking it -- or using the command-space shortcut --?no longer brings up a drop-down menu. Instead, the Spotlight search bar occupies in the middle of the screen in a big, bold presence.

As users begin to type, the text box will automatically suggest words and begin to list appropriate search results. In addition to previous results like applications, files, emails, definitions and conversations, Spotlight now also taps into websites, the App Store and iTunes Store, movie times, and even current news.




Results from Spotlight in Yosemite appear quickly, populating the pop-up window within a matter of seconds. And the Spotlight window automatically disappears once a user moves on to another task.

Results are presented in a list on the left side, and selected items can be previewed with a large QuickLook Pane presented on the right. Any file that can be viewed using QuickLook can be previewed within Spotlight.




This quick preview of content includes information from the Web and external sources, such as movie times, Wikipedia pages or an App Store listing.

OS X Yosemite also adds new calculation functions to Spotlight, with unit conversions of distance, temperature and currency. For example, entering "100 dollars" into Spotlight automatically presents the conversion rates to euros, British pounds, Japanese yen, Canadian dollars, and Swiss francs, with euros receiving the most prominent placement in the QuickLook pane.




Web data in Spotlight is pulled from a variety of sources as well. While up-to-date currency information is culled from Yahoo, movie times are provided by Fandango, and general Web search results come from Microsoft Bing.

As before, Yosemite users can still choose which sources to include in Spotlight searches through System Preferences. A total of 21 categories are included, and all are enabled by default.




Under the Privacy pane in Spotlight settings, users can also add a list of folders or disks they want to prevent Spotlight from searching.

Following the launch of Yosemite last week, some critics alleged that Apple was automatically collecting user information, including search and location data, through its Spotlight Suggestions. But Apple has addressed those concerns by explaining that it minimizes the amount of information collected.




According to Apple, the company doesn't retain IP addresses from users' devices, and exact location data is never sent by Spotlight. The Spotlight Suggestions feature is also said to avoid using a persistent identifier, so search history can't be tracked.

Apple devices use a temporary anonymous session ID for a 15-minute period before the ID is discarded. And for Bing searches, only commonly searched terms and city-level location information is provided to Microsoft.




Users still concerned about the privacy of Spotlight Suggestions can opt out via System Preferences. Spotlight Location Services and Bing results can also be switched off to a user's liking.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 69
    MacProMacPro Posts: 18,142member
    One thing many people I help on Macs fail to ... dare I say .. 'spot' ... is the more traditionally interfaced search is available in the top right of all open windows in the 'search' box..
  • Reply 2 of 69
    nick29nick29 Posts: 111member
    The currency conversion gimmick would be useful if you could input any other currency or edit the results for usd, I entered 100 pln (Polish currency) and got results in docs but not currency
  • Reply 3 of 69
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Nick29 View Post



    The currency conversion gimmick would be useful if you could input any other currency or edit the results for usd, I entered 100 pln (Polish currency) and got results in docs but not currency



    It works for some other currencies, but not all. I just tried converting HKD (Hong Kong Dollars) and it was recognized, but trying to convert PHP (Philippine Peso) was not.

     

    Sadly, I think that PHP and PLN are just not popular enough.

  • Reply 4 of 69
    I was so ready to move from Alfred to using spotlight instead and then realized that Spotlight can't issue commands to Sleep or Restart the computer.

    So Alfred it is.
  • Reply 5 of 69
    They need to adjust the lettering for dark mode. When I type in a search phrase it can't be seen.
  • Reply 6 of 69

    So, how do you open the FOLDER for a 'found' local item? There used to be a mechanism (I think it was 'Open containing folder').

     

    If you hold down the CMD (Open "apple" key), you can see the path below the description field on the right pane, which helps, but isn't nearly as convenient, especially since you can't always see the entire path for 'deep' items.

  • Reply 7 of 69

    I absolutely HATE that the spotlight is not anchored to the spotlight icon in the menu bar like it used to be. Why is it centered on the screen?  I have to now re-focus my attention and find spotlight on the screen in a sea of open windows versus having it appear under my mouse like a proper interface should.  What was the purpose of that???

  • Reply 8 of 69

    Forget the new features , Yosemite has big wifi connectivity issues https://discussions.apple.com/thread/6601963

     

    For me the 802.11ac Timecapsule connection creaks along at 200mbs on  5GHz band now when it used to do 1300mbs and wifi drops in and out on the 2.4GHz bands

     

    (I know the TC's fine as other non-yosemite kit report rates of 1300mbs)

  • Reply 9 of 69
    asciiascii Posts: 5,941member

    The fact that OS X now sends your search terms to Microsoft without asking (opt-out), makes Tim Cook's trip to China to talk about privacy seem a little ridiculous.

  • Reply 10 of 69
    paxmanpaxman Posts: 4,594member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Nick29 View Post



    The currency conversion gimmick would be useful if you could input any other currency or edit the results for usd, I entered 100 pln (Polish currency) and got results in docs but not currency

    It works for more currencies - just do as in google - type 123 usd to hkd, for instance.

  • Reply 11 of 69
    MacProMacPro Posts: 18,142member
    ascii wrote: »
    The fact that OS X now sends your search terms to Microsoft without asking (opt-out), makes Tim Cook's trip to China to talk about privacy seem a little ridiculous.

    You could always just uncheck the box to use Bing.

    1000
  • Reply 12 of 69
    ibeamibeam Posts: 322member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by digitalclips View Post



    One thing many people I help on Macs fail to ... dare I say .. 'spot' ... is the more traditionally interfaced search is available in the top right of all open windows in the 'search' box..

    Yeah. I never use Spotlight for anything. It just doesn't fit my way of file management. I'm most likely searching for a file name or a phrase in a pdf. In either case I want to go to the folder with all the related documents and the traditional search shows me that where as Spotlight does not. For the life of me I can't understand how Spotlight decides what is the top hit. Just trying it now the top hit is so not what I would expect.

     

    If I wanted to search news or the web I would use a search engine in a browser.

  • Reply 13 of 69
    solipsismxsolipsismx Posts: 19,566member
    k2director wrote: »
    I was so ready to move from Alfred to using spotlight instead and then realized that Spotlight can't issue commands to Sleep or Restart the computer.

    So Alfred it is.

    I don't see any reason for Apple to include those options, but if they are important to you and the only two reasons to stick with Alfred you may want to consider using Automator to make a simple command that will permit this to happen. Just name them Sleep.app and Restart.app, respectively, and you'll be good to go.
  • Reply 14 of 69
    kkerstkkerst Posts: 330member

    I like the conversion capabilities, but I wish it were customizable. It doesn't know what a mil is. Engineering conversions baked into Yosemite, or least the ability to add them, would be great. 

  • Reply 15 of 69
    MacProMacPro Posts: 18,142member
    I absolutely HATE that the spotlight is not anchored to the spotlight icon in the menu bar like it used to be. Why is it centered on the screen?  I have to now re-focus my attention and find spotlight on the screen in a sea of open windows versus having it appear under my mouse like a proper interface should.  What was the purpose of that???

    I agree I wish it floated, I have three screens and would like to pop it on my right one along with mail. That said I simply use the search in Mac windows instead most times ...

    1000
  • Reply 16 of 69
    MacProMacPro Posts: 18,142member
    ibeam wrote: »
    Yeah. I never use Spotlight for anything. It just doesn't fit my way of file management. I'm most likely searching for a file name or a phrase in a pdf. In either case I want to go to the folder with all the related documents and the traditional search shows me that where as Spotlight does not. For the life of me I can't understand how Spotlight decides what is the top hit. Just trying it now the top hit is so not what I would expect.

    If I wanted to search news or the web I would use a search engine in a browser.

    If you turn Bing off it gets a lot more useable. See above I included the where to screen shot ...
  • Reply 17 of 69
    asciiascii Posts: 5,941member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by digitalclips View Post





    You could always just uncheck the box to use Bing.

    I think you also have to uncheck item 2 in that list, "Spotlight Suggestions" and then open Safari and uncheck "Include Spotlight Suggestions" in the Search tab to disable all sending of search queries to the Internet.

     

    But that doesn't change the fact that it started sending them without asking first. How hard is it to pop up a dialog and ask whether you want your searches to be local only or go out to the Internet? 1 line of code to pop up the query sheet + 10 more lines for an event handler when you click Yes or No?

     

    The reason for this is clear to me. They turn it on by default and make it hard to turn off (3 locations) because they want people to get in the habit of doing their web searches through Spotlight instead of google.com, and thereby cut off the advertising revenue of their competition. If it works it will put Google in a pretty pickle, but ultimately it is putting corporate strategic concerns ahead of the user and the product which, in the long term, always ends badly.

  • Reply 18 of 69
    If only we can remove Bing.
  • Reply 19 of 69
    splifsplif Posts: 592member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by webmaestro View Post

     

    So, how do you open the FOLDER for a 'found' local item? There used to be a mechanism (I think it was 'Open containing folder').

     

    If you hold down the CMD (Open "apple" key), you can see the path below the description field on the right pane, which helps, but isn't nearly as convenient, especially since you can't always see the entire path for 'deep' items.


    Can't you just click on the nested folder on the right side of spotlight?

  • Reply 20 of 69
    ibeamibeam Posts: 322member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by digitalclips View Post





    If you turn Bing off it gets a lot more useable. See above I included the where to screen shot ...

    Even if I unchecked everything except documents, it still would not be usable in my workflow, as I mentioned, because it does not show the path to the document and in most instances if I am looking for a LARGE .psd I don't want to wait 30 seconds to see a preview, I just want to go to the parent directory. The traditional search suits my needs exactly.

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