It’s easy to lose track of all the stuff on a computer but, happily, there are some very cool tricks for finding it again too.
By the way; these tricks all work on Macs and on Windows and Linux computers too.
First things first – where to look.
These days all computers come with an automatic indexer built in. Every document and file that you make on your computer, or download to it, gets indexed.
To find things in your computer’s index, look for the search tool icon, which is always some version of a magnifying glass. On Macs, the search tool is called “Spotlight” and the icon looks like this or . On Windows the search tool usually appears as a blank field with the magnifying glass icon next to it, something like this . When you click on the Mac icon a similar blank field will pop open for you.
Trick #1: type a little, find a lot.
OK; it’s time for a self-directed demonstration. First, think of a word that you’ve used in a document on your computer. Any word will do.
Now, click on the search tool on your computer, and type only the first letter of your word into it. Don’t press enter or anything else, but just watch.
Instantly, a larger window will pop open above (Windows) or below (Mac) the search field, and it will quickly begin to fill with all sorts of stuff that, in some way or other, includes the letter, that you’ve typed.
This result is, of course, is too much information, but notice how quickly your computer is responding to your search query.
Now, slowly type the rest of your word, one letter at a time and watch what happens. For this demonstration, give your computer a second or two to respond to each letter that you type and notice how the search results quickly change and get “filtered” to match all of the letters that you have typed so far.
So, trick #1 is to let the indexer do the work for you. Type only as much as is needed for your computer to find the documents that you’re after. By typing less, you’ll give the computer a chance to show you matches faster and also to show you matches that vary a little bit in spelling or form.
Trick #2; search from the inside out. The indexer will also find letters (or numbers or symbols) that are inside words. This is handy when there might be different forms; like “McDonald” or “Macdonald”. So, for example, if you type just “donald” you’ll find them all. If you want to skip the guys named Donald in your results, then type a search for “cdonald”.
Trick #3; finding dates. Every document on a computer has a
“date stamp”. Your indexer knows about these and has special ways to deal with them.
Let’s say that you want to find a file that was made on a certain date. To find it you would enter “date:” and the desired date. For example; “date:2/7/1999” (without the quotes) will result in only files that were created or modified on February 7, 1999.
Date ranges. Or, say if you want to find all of the photos with a date in February of last year, you could search for “date:2/2010”.
You can also search for a range of dates by using two dots (periods) to indicate a range. For example; “date:2/10/2010..2/20/2010” will find you all of the files stamped on and between those dates.
And, smart computer that yours is, it will let you use relative terms for dates, like “week”, “next month”, “last week”, “past month”. For example; “date:last year” will find just those files.
You also use the words “before” and “after”. For example; the results for “after:2/20/2010” will only include files made or changed since that date.
Trick #5: find files by kind. Your indexer knows “kinds” of documents; like pictures, or music or contacts from your address book.
For example, to find only pictures, you could search for “kind:pictures” (or “pics”). To find music you can search for “kind:music” or “kind:song”. Or, to find me in your address book, search “kind:contact mike pepper”
Trick #6: combine tricks. Let’s say that the search for “cdonald” still found too many matches; so what you do is combine things, as with the contact search for me.
So; if you wanted to find only that song about the guy with the farm, you could search for “kind:music cdonald”. (Order doesn’t matter, by the way; “cdonald kind:music” would also work.)
Or, if you wanted to find only documents that contain Mc- or MacDonald, and that were created this year, you could search for “cdonald kind:docs date:this year”
There are actually many, many more tricks for your computer’s index searches. If you find this to be a pretty useful too, and want to get into it a little further, you can check it out yourself at the links below, or give me a call if you’d like a little one-on-one help with it. Mike Pepper ~ Computer Guy, 845-855-5824.
Search tips specifically for Mac Spotlight, go to: http://goo.gl/lESnH
By the way; the Windows list is longer and all of the items listed there also work on Macs and Linux. Cool!
As always; if I can help answer any questions about these or other ways to make your computer more helpful, please give me a call any time!
Mike Pepper ~ Computer Guy, 845-855-5824.