In earlier versions of OSX, when you search in a Finder window, it gave you the choice of searching by contents or file name. In Lion this choice seems to have disappeared, I can only search by content now. Is there any way to search by name in Lion?

6 Answers 6

  1. Open a finder window
  2. Open the folder you wish to search in
  3. Click in the search box
  4. Type the text you want to find
  5. A dropdown should appear like the one in the image below which allows you to select the 'Filename contains' option

Finder window

If you've already run the search and want to alter the search to only look for files with your search term in the filename, you can click the '+' button just beneath the search box and change the search type from there. See screenshots below:

Finder window 2

Finder window 3

Mike Scott has nice suggestions from the comments that are worth incorporating here to use the name: selector in spotlight.

You can prefix your search with name: as shown below
Finder window 4

This results in a window which you can select 'Filename' or 'Everything' from if you click the button labelled 'name' in the search box as shown below:
Finder window 5

  • Oh thanks. I'd noticed the drop down out of the corner of my eye when I did a search, but I never looked closely at it because I figured it was just the same old useless suggestions list you always got. It's still not as good as the old way though because it disappears when you finish searching - is there any way to get it back without starting the search all over again? I often want to switch to file name search after seeing the results of a content search.
    – Ross Smith
    Commented Jul 24, 2011 at 12:20
  • 8
    Or just prefix your search term with "name:".
    – Mike Scott
    Commented Jul 24, 2011 at 12:51
  • 1
    @Mike Scott: best real-answer-buried-in-a-comment ever. Looks like "filename:" is needed to limit searches just to filenames -- with "name:" the file I'm looking for still gets buried among e-mail message items, etc. Commented Aug 6, 2011 at 15:59

Search using the name: selector

name:index.html in spotlight

The Found app was awesome. It was free on the app store and lightning fast (seems faster than LaunchBar to me - and that's saying a lot as it's also speed demon). More recently, find any file and HoudahSpot are my go-to tools when finder and spotlight are not the best tool for searching filesystem.


Another way would be to use the Terminal and the mdfind command-line utility. Add this function to your ~/.bash_profile (or any other shell config file you might use):

spot() {
  mdfind "kMDItemFSName=='*$@*'cd";

You can then use the spot function on the command-line:

spot foo bar

This will search for all files and directories containing the arguments you passed to spot in their name.

Note that cd in the above function is a modifier, making the search case-insensitive (c) and ignoring diacrtical marks (d). For more info about querying, see this document.

  • I had missed the cd - what a power move. Thank you!
    – bmike
    Commented May 10, 2022 at 14:38

⌃⌘F (File > Find by Name…) also opens a Spotlight window that is set to search by name by default.

  • As far as I can tell, this opens a window that searches the Desktop folder. Is that the right keyboard shortcut?
    – daviesgeek
    Commented May 31, 2012 at 16:34
  • 1
    @daviesgeek It searches in the current folder if you've set that as the default in Finder's preferences.
    – Lri
    Commented Jun 1, 2012 at 13:47
  • Oh. I get it now :-)
    – daviesgeek
    Commented Jun 1, 2012 at 15:08
  • 2
    Actually, ⌃⌘F with Shift too. That's Command, Control, Shirt, F
    – Alex V
    Commented Jan 14, 2018 at 23:10
  • There doesn’t appear to be any visual feedback that the search is by file name only (vs also searching file content), but that is indeed the behavior. Commented May 10, 2022 at 12:54

Ross is correct that the option to switch between searching filenames or contents disappears once you perform your search -- if you don't choose filenames to search filenames from the drop-down when you first type in the search term. Once you perform the search without having clicked on that drop-down, the drop-down will not appear even if you click again in the search bar. You have to type another character in the search bar, then delete it, and THEN the drop down appears.

This is pretty stupid on Apple's part. They took something that was simple, very clear and self-explanatory, and made it hard to find, a bit difficult, less useful and inconsistent. If you want to search contents first and then switch to filenames, it's not as easy as the simple click of a visible button. No logical reason for this. I hope they return the original, better-designed feature.

  • 1
    Do you really think Apple made this change by mistake or without considering it would force people to change their thinking? I'd say they weighed it carefully and the overwhelming benefit to some was worth pissing off some people. I'd say that's more likely than them being stupid, but we're all allowed our speculation on the issue.
    – bmike
    Commented May 30, 2012 at 23:42

It does not disappear - just enter your query into the searchfield and hit enter - then click into it again and find the possibility to switch right there.

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