Search for files by name

Reader Colin McAuley seeks a better way to find. He writes:

I have a lot of stuff on my Mac and I’m constantly in the Find window looking for it. More often than not I’m doing a search for the name of a file rather than a word or phrase buried in the content, yet the find dialogue box defaults to “Contents” instead of “File Name.” Is there a way to change this so that I don’t have to click on File Name during a search?

I don’t know of a way to change the default of a Search window from Contents to File Name, but I can offer a few ways to make your searches more specific.

My colleague, Scholle Sawyer McFarland, reminds me that when you press Shift-Command-F in the Finder, a Search window appears with File Name selected instead of Contents. This and other fine search tips can be found in Sharon Zardetto’s Develop Your Finder Search Savvy article from last year.

And then there’s Spotlight’s Search field. A fairly quick way to pinpoint files by name is to enter name: followed by your search terms—name: hamster helper, for example—in the Spotlight field. Do so and the results you see will contain just those files that include the specific words you entered after name:.

Configure the Smart Folder to also search for System files

You can also create a Smart Folder in the Finder that gives you more of what you’re after. Just choose Finder -> New Smart Folder. In the resulting New Smart Folder window select File Name at the top of the window and click Save. Assign an intuitive name such as Search by Name and click the Save button and you now have access to a File Name search from within a Finder window’s sidebar.

(I additionally add the condition to show System files. You can too by choosing Other from the Kind pop-up menu, entering System in the search field, enabling the In Menu option next to the System Files entry, and clicking OK. Now just choose System Files from the Kind pop-up menu, change the second pop-up menu to read Are Included, and save your search.)

Another option is to forego Apple’s search altogether. Instead, use something like Devon Technology’s free EasyFind or Houdah Software’s fuller-featured $30 HoudahSpot to conduct searches exactly as you’d like them.

Updated to include Shift-Command-F tip.

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