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Spotlight Search: Setting the Finder’s Search Box Preferences

How to Restrict Spotlight’s Search to the Current Folder

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Spotlight Search: Setting the Finder’s Search Box Preferences

Use the dropdown menu to set Spotlight’s search preferences for a Finder window.

Spotlight Search - Setting the Finder’s Search Box Preferences

Spotlight, the system-wide search service in Mac OS X, is one of the easiest and quickest search systems available for the Mac. You can access Spotlight by clicking the ‘Spotlight’ icon (the magnifying glass) in the Apple menu bar, or by using the search box available in the top right corner of every Finder window.

The problem with using the Finder window search box is that its default behavior is to search your entire Mac. I prefer to use Finder search boxes to search the folder that is currently open in a Finder window. Thanks to Snow Leopard, I can now do this.

With the introduction of Snow Leopard (OS X 10.6), the Finder now lets you specify the default behavior for Spotlight in a Finder search box.

Setting the Finder’s Search Box Preferences

  1. Click the ‘Finder’ icon in the Dock. The ‘Finder’ icon is usually the first icon on the left side of the Dock.
  2. From the Apple menu, select ‘Finder, Preferences.’
  3. Click the ‘Advanced’ icon in the Finder Preferences window.
  4. Use the dropdown menu to select the default action when performing a search. The options are:
    • Search This Mac. This option uses Spotlight to perform a search of your entire Mac. This is the same as using the ‘Spotlight’ icon in the Mac’s Apple menu bar.
    • Search the Current Folder. This option restricts the search to the folder currently in view in the Finder window, and all of its sub-folders.
    • Use the Previous Search Scope. This option tells Spotlight to use whatever search parameters were set the last time a Spotlight search was conducted.

  5. Make your selection and then close the Finder Preferences window.

The next search you perform from a Finder search box will use the parameters you just set in Finder Preferences.

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