Goal - find a clever way to discover what Spotlight has (or hasn't indexed).

I have an xls spreadsheet that has the names and emails addresses of people who attended a recent course of mine. In the past few weeks I need to search precisely which course someone attended. The person had a unique last name and so I just put the name into spotlight. Nothing found. A few minutes of digging manually confirmed the person had attended the course I expected.

Related discoveries

  • none of the contents of that file is indexed by Spotlight - tested by searching other names
  • older xls files in the same folder are correctly indexed
  • Searching on the filename finds the file so the file itself is found by spotlight
  • Copy the column of names to a temp spreadsheet, save them and search - file find
  • Rebuilding the index from scratch warmed my CPU but didn't change anything
  • I've checked the simple spotlight preferences - xls spreadsheets aren't ignored

Since I don't know why its getting missed I'm concerned that other files might not get indexed properly as well.

1 Answer 1


I would suspect a corrupt file. It may be just damaged enough to stop Spotlight reading it properly.

If you select the file in the Finder and hit the space bar does it open in Quick Look? If it doesn't then it is broken.

Try opening it in Excel and copying and pasting everything into a new file.

  • Interesting copying the contents to another file worked. That begs question do I have any other corrupt files? Why did that get corrupted etc. Jan 16, 2014 at 15:25
  • My reply would be to mutter under my breath about Office. I spent a few years as IT Manager of a law firm and got to hate MS and Office for such travails. Jan 16, 2014 at 16:04
  • Oh, to check you can do a search on Excel files on your Mac in the Finder then open the first in Quick Look. Then the down arrow will move you to the next and so on. If Quick Look opens it then you can probably assume Spotlight is indexing it. Jan 16, 2014 at 16:07
  • thanks for taking the time to reply. Excel is imperfect however I returned to it finding both LibreOffice and Numbers more painful. LibreOffice (used to) Crash to often for my taste and Numbers often does things that just don't make sense to me. Finally the world tends to use xls or xlsx as the standard file format. (Since I'm not allowed carriage returns I need another comment). Jan 17, 2014 at 16:20
  • thanks for the quick look trick. Its an interesting point. Basically the thesis is that Quicklook and Spotlight use the same engine to read/understand files. Naively as a recovering developer I had hoped there was programmatic/automated way of testing the correctness. C'est la vie. Jan 17, 2014 at 16:23

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