Don't wait on Spotlight
If you use Spotlight searches in the Finder, and you’ve got one or more large, data-laden hard drives (my system has two drives with 10 partitions), you’re probably well aware of these searches’ ability to turn your Finder into a first-class spinning rainbow demonstrator. This most often happens just as you start typing your search term. For instance, say you’re looking for a particular landscape photo, and you begin to type the word carnation . “Thanks” to Spotlight’s live search feature, as soon as you begin typing, your Mac starts looking for matches. This isn’t a problem if your search word is short. But with a longer word, such as carnation , Spotlight wastes time looking for matches for “car,” all the while showing you the beautiful rainbow cursor while it goes hunting. Really, you don’t care about cars; you just want your carnation photo.
While you can’t totally avoid the extraneous results and the spinning ball, here’s one way to greatly minimize them. Instead of typing your search term in the Finder’s search box, first type it into any open application. For example, you could type in Safari’s address bar or Google search box, a TextEdit document, a Sticky note, or a widget. Now select the word with the mouse, and then hit Command-C to copy it to the clipboard. Switch back to the Finder, click in the Spotlight search box (or just hit Command-F), and then hit Command-V to paste your search term. You don’t even have to hit Return, since the Finder will still try to do a live search.
Now instead of seeing Spotlight struggle with matches on all the partial-words it can make from your search term, it will just find matches on the entire word. You may still see the spinning rainbow, but at least it won’t prevent you from typing the rest of your term. Note that you can also use this trick with the Spotlight search box (Command-Space), but it’s not as useful there—Spotlight doesn’t seem to start searching quite as quickly when using this input box, so it’s possible to completely type most search terms before Spotlight “wakes up.”