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Mac Search Options

written by: •edited by: Rebecca Scudder•updated: 11/5/2010

When Searching a file or data in Mac OS X does not have to be done with Spotlight; there are also many other search tools available in most Mac applications. Here I will explain the different search options available in Mac OS X and in the common programs that come with the operating system.

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    Spotlight & Finder

    Spotlight allows you to search files on hard drives which have been indexed. You can search files from the Finder in three ways:

    (1) Use the search box on the Finder toolbar.

    (2) Use the Spotlight options at top right side of the Mac OS X menu bar.

    (3) Use the keyboard command Cmd-F to open a Finder search window.

    When you enter a search keyword in the Finder or Spotlight text box, the search results will come up immediately below the search box. If the desired file is shown, just double-click on the file name to open it.

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    Spotlight & Mac OS X Applications

    Spotlight also allows you to search songs in iTunes, email messages in Apple Mail, addresses in Address Book and for other similar functions in Mac OS X programs.

    When a word is searched in a Spotlight application, results come up immediately. Some programs even use more than one function of Spotlight. For example Safari uses Spotlight for searching RSS feeds, browsing history and bookmarks.

    Some programs do not use Spotlight inside the program but they give ways to highlight a document so that the files could be easily searched with global Spotlight searches. Some programs let you select keywords, which can be used for Spotlight searches later.

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    Find & Replace

    Spotlight is a great tool for finding files but it does not let you replace the desired information inside a file. Find & Replace is another tool for searching files and many Mac OS X applications also provide this.

    The Find & Replace is a standard search tool that is similar in all Mac OS X programs that use it. This tool can be accessed from the Edit menu of a program and it gives you several options like Find Next, Find and Find Previous.

    The Find & Replace pane usually has the same options such as Next, Previous, Replace & Find and Replace across programs.

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    Google Search

    The Google Search feature lets you search the Internet as well as your own system from within many Mac OS X programs. This feature is usually accessible from the contextual menu with the option “Search in Google" after highlighting a word in a document. For example, you can right-click on a word with your mouse and select “Search in Google". You can download Google Search for Mac from here.

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    Dictionary Search

    Some Mac OS X applications offer another nice and efficient search option called as Dictionary Search. Like the “Search in Google" option, the “Look Up in Dictionary" is accessed from a contextual menu. When a word is highlighted and right-clicked, a pane opens with a pronunciation, definition and part of speech for that word. To get detailed information, you can launch the Dictionary program from the pane.