I am looking in a folder for a file which contains path in its name. I enter path in the search box, and select it to search the current folder (which is my default anyway). The tool tip indicates Filenames Name matches: path.

What I see is 110 items, none of which even contain the string path, let alone match.

enter image description here

What does the finder think I am looking for, and what do the results actually mean?

This is a relatively new iMac running MacOS Sierra.

  • Picture of the search might help [suitably anonymised in photoshop if needs be]. A lot depends on where the search is & how finely the parameters are specified. If you actually need 'hard' searching then Spotlight is not the best tool; it's a bit too 'user friendly'. There are alternatives, command line or UI-based. If you can edit your question to clarify, answers will be easier to provide.
    – Tetsujin
    Commented Jan 20, 2017 at 20:35
  • @Tetsujin I have added an image. I am aware of other tools, which I do use regularly. The question is what do the results mean?
    – Manngo
    Commented Jan 20, 2017 at 23:50

3 Answers 3

  1. In the Finder, use command-F to get a Finder search window. You will get:

  2. There is now a bar with criteria added. You see a pop-up menu "Kind" followed by "is" and another pop-up menu "Any". Click the "Kind", and choose "Name" from that menu:

  3. There now is a pop-up menu just following "Name", select "contains" from that, and type the word "path" in the field that follows.

  4. You can add criteria by clicking the + sign at the right of the search bar.

Spotlight does seem to "power" the default search field in Finder windows. I use Spotlight only in desperation, as it almost never ever finds what I'm looking for. But with the search criteria in the Finder's search window I usually book success.

So, remember: command-F gets you a Finder search window with a criteria bar, and that certainly helps.


There are two issues here: by default, Finder will:

  • search the contents of files as well as their names
  • search either your entire Mac hard disk, or the current folder and all its subfolders.

To solve the first problem, you need to to tell Finder just to match filenames. When you typed "path" into the search box, a dropdown menu should have appeared, with the option "Name matches: path". Select that, instead of just pressing Enter. Alternatively, you can type name:path into the search box, which has the same effect.

You can't really solve the second problem with Finder; even when restricting the search to the current folder, there is no way to exclude its sub-folders. For that, you'll need a third-party tool, or learn to use commands in the Terminal like ls *path*.

  • As you see in the screen capture, a particular folder was selected. The question is why do all of those results appear which do not contain the search string path?
    – Manngo
    Commented Jan 20, 2017 at 23:49
  • Yes, sorry: just re-edited answer to cover that.
    – calum_b
    Commented Jan 20, 2017 at 23:52
  • I already had Name matches: path, but I didn’t know about the name:path technique. It didn’t help either.
    – Manngo
    Commented Jan 21, 2017 at 0:04
  • Ok... you didn't have 'name matches path' selected in your screenshot, as that would look like this. But if you're doing that now, I don't have any other ideas :/
    – calum_b
    Commented Jan 21, 2017 at 0:09

You can also add criteria to the pop-up list. A useful one is the file extension. E.g. here is the result for a search for all files that are images with file extension jpeg (not jpg) opened in the last 3 weeks: enter image description here

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