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Apple Mac OS X tips and tweaks

Date: 22nd September 2011

OS X Lion: Hidden features in Spotlight

Spotlight is a great utility on the Apple Mac and it enables you to find files almost instantly. Not only does it display the search results sorted according to type in the results list, it displays previews of documents when the mouse hovers over them.

This much is obvious, but in OS X Lion there is a hidden feature that is not so obvious and there is a subtle change to the display if you hold down the Option key. You may not have noticed the change or even tried it. You can also easily copy files from the search results and this makes it easy to open them for editing or in an app other than the default that is associated with it.

Click the Spotlight magnifying glass in the top right corner and enter a search term. Let the mouse hover over a document or image so that the preview appears on the left. Now hold down the Option key and watch as a thin border is drawn around the preview. It's slightly thicker at the bottom and the filename is displayed. Keep the Option key held down and after a few seconds it will change to show the path to the file. This is useful if you aren't sure where a file is located on the disk drive.


Another thing you can do is to drag the file off the Spotlight search results list and drop it on the desktop. This creates a copy of it and it is useful if you want to edit the file and save a new version because the original is kept untouched in its original location. Clicking a file in the Spotlight results will open it in the application that is associated with that file type, but if you copy it to the desktop you can right click it and select Open With and choose a different application. That is sometimes useful.

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