I don't really understand how Spotlight works, I sometimes search for a file that I know it exists, and Spotlight doesn't find it.
Then I browse to it and it's there.
The volume or folders where it is in are not excluded from Spotlight, I've made sure of that.
Should I (and how?) rebulid Spotlight's index? or otherwise do something so every file can be found?

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Edit: I searched for textwrangler and Spotlight found it, also found it with barebones, so it looks like not every pattern that would match the filename works the same for Spotlight.

  • The way that Spotlight finds the files is based on the frequency that you are using that file. So if in the first instance you can't find your file then you can try first press "Show All" results where your file might show-up. Commented May 30, 2011 at 17:04
  • Follow the advice here: apple.stackexchange.com/questions/1072/… Commented May 30, 2011 at 17:19
  • @Tigran (what an awesome name! I want to be called Tigran) I'm not using Spotlight from the menu bar, I'm using it from the search box on a finder window, so there's no Show All, actually I think it's already showing all. Isn't it a little clumsy that Spotlight only finds the most used files, which you probably would find yourself anyway?
    – Petruza
    Commented May 30, 2011 at 18:48
  • @Martín: but I re-installed the OS a week ago, the index shouldn't be corrupt already, right?
    – Petruza
    Commented May 30, 2011 at 18:49
  • @Martín: how do you link to an answer?
    – Petruza
    Commented May 30, 2011 at 18:51

1 Answer 1


Spotlight generally only searches at the beginning of words. It can find barebones because it is right after a period, or textwrangler for the same reason, but not wrangler. (It also understands underscores, hyphens, and CamelCase as marking the beginning of words.)

To work around this, instead of doing a straight up spotlight search do a search in Finder (with cmd+F or cmd+option+space). Leave the search box blank, and click the plus button next to where it says "Save." Then make your query "Name" - "contains" -"wrangler" and you are good.

You also need to be careful because I think the file you are searching for is considered a system file. If you are searching within the Preferences folder you will get the right result, but if you are just searching within the home folder or on the entire hard drive, the system file won't show up, unless you push the plus button again and add to your search query "System files" - "are included." Since "System files" isn't in the dropdown box by default, you will probably need to click "Other..." and then find it. You will have the option of adding it permanently to the dropdown box.

search Edit: Added image for clarity

  • 1
    This is correct +1 I added an image to make it clear :) Make sure that the search box (top right) is empty or you will get strange results, because that is also taken into consideration. Commented May 31, 2011 at 8:43
  • Great answer, thanks! and great screenshot @Martín, by the way can you tell us what all your toolbar buttons are? they look interesting.
    – Petruza
    Commented May 31, 2011 at 15:56
  • Ooooohhhhhhhhh!!! Other... menu option opens the door to whole new search capabilities! +1 I'm growing to love Spotlight
    – Petruza
    Commented May 31, 2011 at 16:01
  • @Petruza left to right: icon view, list view, column view, cover flow, quick look, Action, Dropbox, ShellHere>, delete and burn. Commented May 31, 2011 at 21:23

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