Three tips for getting the most out of Spotlight in Yosemite

With Yosemite, you can use Spotlight for more than just searching for documents and launching apps. Learn three new helpful functions that have been added to Spotlight.

Matt Elliott Senior Editor
Matt Elliott is a senior editor at CNET with a focus on laptops and streaming services. Matt has more than 20 years of experience testing and reviewing laptops. He has worked for CNET in New York and San Francisco and now lives in New Hampshire. When he's not writing about laptops, Matt likes to play and watch sports. He loves to play tennis and hates the number of streaming services he has to subscribe to in order to watch the various sports he wants to watch.
Expertise Laptops | Desktops | All-in-one PCs | Streaming devices | Streaming platforms
Matt Elliott
3 min read

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The new OS X 10.10 Yosemite has supercharged Spotlight, turning the built-in search tool you previously used to find documents and launch apps into a universal search tool that can surface results from Wikipedia, Maps, news sites, and more. Read our primer on what's new in Spotlight and continue here to learn about three additional tricks Spotlight has up its sleeve.

1. Movie times and locations

Search for a movie title, and one of the search categories Spotlight returns is Now Playing in Theaters. Highlight that option on the left and in the preview pane on the right you'll get information (powered by Fandango) about the movie including show times, the plot summary and links to its trailer(s). It also shows the movie's release date, runtime and Rotten Tomatoes rating.

Screenshot by Matt Elliott/CNET

If you want to head to the movies but don't know what you want to see, just type in "movies" into Spotlight. From the Now Playing in Theaters category, you'll see which movies are playing nearby along with show times.

2. Unit and currency conversions

Need to know what the temperature is in Celsius? Or if you are reading this outside of the US, do you need to know what the temperature is in Fahrenheit? Just type in 50f (or 10c), for example, and Spotlight will convert the temperature to the other scale (along with kelvins, should you prefer an absolute thermometric scale). You can also type in "50 degrees" to see the conversation based on the scale you use.

Screenshot by Matt Elliott/CNET

Likewise, you can enter a unit of length, mass or volume, and Spotlight will convert it to other units.

Lastly, Spotlight has long had a calculator function but now its larger window makes your calculations easier to see.

3. Directions

Spotlight pulls in results from the Maps app, which means you can use it to search for restaurants, museums, and other points of interest. If you select the Maps category from the left sidebar, then in the preview pane on the right you'll see a map preview along with buttons to get directions either to or from the location. Clicking on the map preview or either button opens Maps.

Screenshot by Matt Elliott/CNET

While on the topic of restaurants, you may want to learn a bit about a restaurant before getting directions to it and blindly setting out. Not to worry, Spotlight has you covered; it pulls in Yelp information to show you hours of operation, photos, and user reviews.

While Spotlight is more powerful in Yosemite and I find myself using it more, I wish it would let me do more right within its window rather than handing me off to other apps. For example, I'd like to watch movie trailers in Spotlight rather than it opening a new tab in my default browser. Similarly, I'd like to be able to zoom in and out on the map preview and view directions within Spotlight instead of waiting for the Maps app to open.

For more Yosemite tips, please see CNET How To's guide to Mac OS X 10.10 Yosemite.