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How to use Spotlight search in iOS 8 to find more results

The new Spotlight can dig up news, iTunes content, movie showtimes and even entries from Wikipedia.

spotlight-search-ios8.jpg
Screenshot by Lance Whitney/CNET

With the launch of iOS 8, Apple has beefed up the search capabilities in its Spotlight feature.

Previously designed to search for items just on your iPhone or iPad, Spotlight has been a handy tool for finding emails, appointments, contacts, music and other locally stored items. But in iOS 8, the search universe has expanded way beyond just your local device.

Here's how the new Spotlight works:

Trigger Spotlight by swiping your finger down from just below the top of your iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch. The search field now says: "Spotlight Search" instead of just "Search iPhone" or "Search iPad."

The screen also explains the types of items you can now find. Beyond searching your local device, Spotlight will offer suggestions from the Internet, iTunes and the App Store. It can also locate nearby locations, showtimes for movies, the latest news and even items from Wikipedia.

For example, I opened Spotlight and typed "Guardians of the Galaxy," the new movie that's been in theaters for a while. In response, Spotlight pointed me to a local theater where I could see the film, as well as to a Wikipedia entry on the movie. It also served up links to various Web sites about the film, including the flick's IMDB page, an Amazon page selling the soundtrack and a Marvel website on the movie.

A search for "CNET" pointed me to the CNET website as well as websites about CNET, various CNET contacts, emails, events and the CNET mobile app. Asking Spotlight to track down "Mexican restaurants" showed me a couple such restaurants in my neighborhood, along with a few related websites. And searching for "Robin Williams" conjured up a Wikipedia entry on the late actor and comedian, a Robin Williams comedy album stored on my iPhone and a different album that I could purchase on iTunes.

In most cases, Spotlight shows you just a link to the item you want, so you have to tap the link to drill down further and see the full entry. The new Spotlight is a handy way to delve beyond content that's stored on your local device. But you can limit its capabilities through the Settings page should you wish.

Open the Settings app on your iOS device. Tap the General tab and then tap Spotlight Search. The results show you check marks in front of all the different types of items Spotlight will find in a search. To filter out a certain item from the search, simply tap it to remove the check mark. For example, tapping off Bing Web Results will prevent Spotlight from scouring the Web for information.

By default, your Spotlight searches and related information are sent to Apple. On its privacy screen for Spotlight, the company says it doesn't store your searches and instead uses the data to try to make its search suggestions more relevant. However, those of you concerned about privacy may still wish to turn off the entry for Spotlight Suggestions to prevent your search queries from being shared in this way.

For more helpful iOS 8 tips, be sure to check out our complete guide to iOS 8.