Brilliant ways to find files on a Mac with Spotlight and search

How to find files on the Mac by using Spotlight tricks that are not well known. Learn the secrets of successful searching.

Spotlight is an excellent tool for finding files and there is a search box in Finder windows too. However, there are some clever, non-obvious ways to search for things, as outlined here.

I am going to search for screenshot images here, but the techniques used can be applied to other file types and the search techniques are probably ones you haven’t seen before.

Search for images of a particular size

Suppose you want to find images of a certain type, such as screenshots that you have taken of apps and the desktop on the Mac. Screenshots are saved to the desktop of course, but you probably move them elsewhere because there is only so much space, and this means they could be anywhere on the disk.

To find the screenshots, open Spotlight by clicking the magnifying glass in the menu bar or by pressing Command+spacebar. Then enter the width and height of images you want to find.

My old MacBook is a pre-retina model and the desktop is 1280 x 800 pixels, so I search for:

Search for images with a specific size using Spotlight on the Apple Mac

Select the option to Show all in Finder and a Finder window opens to show all the screenshots that are on the disk, even if they have been renamed.

Search the Apple Mac for images with a specific size

It is possible to take screenshots of just a window instead of the whole screen and these would not be exactly 1280 x 800 pixels, so the search would not find them. However, there is another way to find the screenshots.

Search for profile info in Finder

Select a screenshot in Finder and press Command+I to open the info window. Look in the More Info section where it says Color profile: Color LCD

The file info window on the Apple Mac

This is the colour profile my Mac’s screen is set to (yours may be different, so check a screenshot) and you can search for colour profile info.

Search in Spotlight and select the option to View all in Finder. Actually, you can skip Spotlight and just enter it into a Finder search box. Make sure to search the whole Mac and not just the current folder.

Search the Apple Mac for images with a certain colour profile

This search files all files with this colour profile, so this includes screen shots that are windows and not the full screen, files that have been renamed and so on.

Search meta information in macOS

The Mac stores meta data with files and this consists of bits of relevant information, such as the camera settings when a photograph is taken, the artist, album, track and other information in music files, and there is meta data for documents that include the author, and there are other types of files with meta data too.

When you take a screenshot and save it to disk, some meta data called kMDItemIsScreenCapture is set to indicate that the file is a screen capture. That is very useful because the great thing about meta data is that you can search for it.

Open a Terminal window and enter:

mdfind "kMDItemIsScreenCapture=1"

Search for screenshots from the command prompt using mdfind on the Mac

The result is a list of all the files on the disk containing this attribute. In other words, all the screenshots.

With a slight modification, you can use this search in Spotlight or in the search box in a Finder window like this: kMDItemIsScreenCapture:1

Search for screenshots on the Apple Mac using Finder

The result is a list of all the screenshots on the disk and it does not matter when you took them, what size they are or where they are located. This is a clever search trick that 



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