How to search for files on the Mac

There are a number of ways to search for your files on the Mac, some of which rely on you knowing which folder they're in and others allowing you to specify more refined search options.

Searching for specific files is easy if you know what the name of the file is, this can be done using the spotlight on your mac. However, if you do not know the filename and want to find a specific file you have been working on, you can use the Finder search facility and specifiy different parameters for the search.

Searching using Spotlight


  1. When you know the name of the file you want to find, you can use the spotlight to locate anything matching your search. Click the Magnifying Glass icon in the top right of your screen and type the name of the file you are looking for.
    NOTE: The serach is not case sensative, but it can help to refine a search. Remember that the spotlight will also find files on other drives connected to the machine and partitions you have.


  2. Spotlight Search
  3. The Spotlght will display all the files containing the text you've typed. In this instance I've searched for a test file created in MacDraft Professional. When you've located the file you want you can either click it to open it in its default application or click "Show All in Finder". Click "Show All in Finder" to open a Finder window displaying all of the files corresponding to your search.

  4. Show All Files

In this window you will be able to see what folder the file is stored in so that you will not need to search for it again. Depending on how many files there are containing the serach phrase you used will determine how many display in this Finder window. The more specific you are with the name the more likely you are to display the file you are looking for.

Searching using the Finder


  1. Open the Finder by selecting the "Finder" icon from the dock.
  2. Finder Icon

  3. Select the folder you think the file may be in, for example select the "Desktop" folder from the panel on the left. With the Finder window active press Command - F on the keyboard.

  4. Search window
  5. In this section you can define the search criteria for the file. You will notice at this point the "This Mac" section is selected. Click the "Desktop" section to the right of it, to change the search area to the Desktop folder (or the name of the folder you're searching).

  6. Choose Search Folder
  7. Now we are ready to define the parameters if the file(s) you are searching for. You will see the pop-up menus showing Kind and Any. This is saying the kind of item you are looking for is any. We need to add a second createria to search for. To do this click the "+" button to the right of the criteria.

  8. Add Search Parameter
  9. For the purpose of this guide we want to add a criteria for the File extension. Click the pop-up that says "Last opened date" and select the "File extension" criteria. If it is not there, then click the "Other option, scroll down to find "File extension" and click the check box to the right of it, then click the OK button.

  10. Pick Other Search Parameter
  11. The File extension criteria will now be added to the search. As we are searching for a particular MacDraft Professional file, we are looking for the .md60 file type. In the textbox to the right of the File extension pop-up type".md60" and you will notice all the files that have that extension will appear.

  12. Define Parameter Name

You can use this method to search for any type of file in any folde on your system. This is agreat way to locate specific files folders and other items quickly, by refining your search using different parameters. You may find multiple files appear when using your criteria, if you know the name or part of the name, you can refine the search even more by adding it to the search filed at the top right of the Finder window.



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