Why won't Spotlight find things?
January 22, 2013 3:14 PM   Subscribe

I do a Spotlight search for "foo." I have at least a dozen files with "foo" in the name. I do the search while looking at foo.pdf, foofighting.pdf, etc. right in the Finder right in front of me. But when running the search, none of them show up. Why? Under System Preferences for Spotlight, I have Folders, Files, and PDF Files all checked. Any idea why Spotlight is blind to these files?
posted by megatherium to Computers & Internet (8 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Do you have any privacy settings that might be preventing them from showing up?
posted by mazola at 3:19 PM on January 22, 2013

(locations can be prevented from indexing under 'System Preferences: Spotlight: Privacy')
posted by mazola at 3:20 PM on January 22, 2013

Spotlight tends to care about file contents more than filename. Try searching with a tag like so: "name:foo".
posted by chairface at 3:40 PM on January 22, 2013

When I use the Spotlight "menu" (the little spotlight icon in the upper right of the screen), searching for "foo" does not list files that look like "foofighting", only files like "foo.pdf" and "foo-fighting.pdf".

It seems like when I use the Spotlight "window" (which I get to using option-command-space on my machine), do a search for "foo" and select a name search, that sometimes it will show me results like "foofighting.pdf"--but not always.

The issue is probably that Spotlight builds an index of tokenized terms, it is not doing a substring search.

If there are files that you still think Spotlight should still be able to find given the above, you can try forcing it to update its index. See for example, "Reindex Spotlight from the Command Line".

An alternative method to find files by name is to use find from Terminal. For example, open Terminal and type "find . -iname \*foo\*" to find files in your home directory with names like "foo.pdf", "FOOFIGHTING.pdf", etc.
posted by jjwiseman at 3:55 PM on January 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

I usually always search by name, but I also have the programs "Find Any File" and "EasyFind" just for those instances. They do an old fashioned, pre Spotlight type file search.
posted by bongo_x at 5:00 PM on January 22, 2013

Do you have "Contents" instead of "File Name" checked at the top? Because I have this happen to me all the time and I never realize it's that.
posted by NoraReed at 5:34 PM on January 22, 2013

Seconding Find Any File. Spotlight doesn't search every folder, but FAF does.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 6:00 PM on January 22, 2013

Thanks for the pointer to Find Any File. That is just what I need.

You would think that Apple would build Spotlight to find both names and content of files. (The dialog says "Filenames: Name matches foo")

On my Windows computers, I have the same problem. There are two or three alternatives for indexed file searches, but Locate32 is very handy when I just want to find the damn file when I know what it is named, just not where it is.
posted by megatherium at 7:18 PM on January 22, 2013

« Older How to keep video links from clogging google...   |   Airprint works...and is lame. Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.