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Sometimes when typing a search term in the search bar in Preview or Spotlight the text entry locks up for a few seconds. I assume this happens because it is beginning to search on the letters I've already typed to return a fast result. The problem is if I mistype my search, which happens often, I now have to wait for it to catch up on the incorrect search just so I can correct my text.

Is there a way, even involving Terminal hacking, to turn off the automatic searching as you type functionality in Preview, and maybe across the whole OS so that when I hit enter it sends the search and not before?

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No - spotlight has live searches hard coded into the app.

You have two options:

  1. Work on tuning the system so it's less busy and that the disk IO needed to look up things from the spotlight database are faster.
  2. Paste the entire search string into the search field to avoid incremental updates.

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