How to find by name in OS X

The default content search in OS X can be quickly overridden with name-only search options.

When you search for items in OS X, the default is to use the Spotlight menu that is located to the right of the menu bar. This will allow you to search for items by content and metadata, which the system keeps indexed for quick access. In addition to Spotlight, OS X includes a Finder search feature, which uses the same index as Spotlight, but gives you scope and filtering options to refine your search.

While convenient for most searches, the default uses of these options may clutter searches in which you are trying to find a file by a specific name. With content searching active, a search for a specific name will yield all files that contain the searched term, instead of just those with the term in the name.

If you find you would like to search for files by name instead of content, then there are two quick ways to do so.

Name search in the OS X Finder
The "Search by Name" feature looks like the standard Finder search when invoked, but the scope is limited to file names. Screenshot by Topher Kessler/CNET

The first option is to use the Spotlight menu but specify the name filter using the "name:" keyword. For example, if you are looking for files containing the word MacFixIt in their name, then you would search for the following term in Spotlight:

name: MacFixIt

The second approach is the Finder search. While you can always manually add a filter to the standard Finder search to limit its scope to names, OS X supports a quick way to invoke a name-only search, by pressing the hotkey Shift-Control-Command-F instead of the standard Command-F in the Finder. When you do this, the search window will appear similar to a standard search, but with no filters set. You can add filters to the search to limit by date created, kind, and other criteria, but the search will be limited to file names.



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About the author

    Topher, an avid Mac user for the past 15 years, has been a contributing author to MacFixIt since the spring of 2008. One of his passions is troubleshooting Mac problems and making the best use of Macs and Apple hardware at home and in the workplace.

     

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