How do I have a recursive search for filetypes in a Finder folder?

  • no AppleScript
  • no Terminal
  • 100% Spotlight

Is this possible? Looking for mp3 and jpg file types. I am using El Capitan (macOS 10.10)

2 Answers 2


Spotlight Search

Use the kind attribute in your Spotlight search. For example, in the search dialog, type


to find all MP3 files. I have a listing of all the relevant attributes in this answer.

So, for a more relevant example, you would issue a Spotlight search with your search term in double quotes and specify the attribute as follows:

"search term" kind:mp3

Not indexed by Spotlight

If you have a location not indexed by Spotlight, the most efficient tool for doing this is the built in tool find, however, since "Terminal" is off the table, you're options are limited.

  • Use Finder Search ⌘ CommandF and create a query for that specific location. Here's an example of a Finder search for images in my "Backgrounds" folder (and below)

    Finder Image Search

  • Use a 3rd party tool. Disclaimer: There are many tools out there, but the good ones will usually have a cost. These are the ones I'm familiar with however, they are not what I use as I prefer to utilize built in tools like find, mdfind and even locate via the command line.

    • HoudahSpot 5 ($35USD) Allows you to create and save complex search queries on macOS.
    • Alfred (Free, but Powerpack is about $40USD). This is more of a productivity and workflow tool, but it does have excellent search capabilities. The Powerpak can greatly enhance all of the functions.
    • Find Any File ($8USD). A search utility that goes beyond Spotlight.
    • EasyFind ($0). File search utility that helps organize your searching. Recommended by user Tetsujin
  • I just realized this folder is on a volume that isn't in Spotlight.
    – Rich_F
    Nov 15, 2020 at 19:29
  • If it's not indexed by Spotlight, Spotlight won't find it. Do you want to know how to index it or do you want a different method to search?
    – Allan
    Nov 15, 2020 at 19:34
  • I was under the assumption it was indexed. Then I remembered after I posted. I know how to search other ways. I wanted the Finder to do it.
    – Rich_F
    Nov 15, 2020 at 19:35
  • Also EasyFind (freeware)
    – Tetsujin
    Nov 15, 2020 at 19:54
  • I didn't know about that one @Tetsujin - thanks!
    – Allan
    Nov 15, 2020 at 20:05

It is possible to do a recursive search in Finder using Spotlight.

I just forgot to make sure that Spotlight had indexed the volume I was trying to search.

I removed this volume from the Privacy tab in System Preferences > Spotlight, and now I can search it recursively with Finder.

  • This doesn't seem to be an answer to the question? Please edit to clarify the meaning of this post if it is indeed an answer, or edit the original question if it was meant to be an amendment to the question.
    – minseong
    Nov 15, 2020 at 19:30
  • Is that good enough for you? I won't draw any pictures.
    – Rich_F
    Nov 15, 2020 at 19:32
  • 2
    It may explain why you were confused, but it doesn't actually answer the question as asked.
    – Tetsujin
    Nov 15, 2020 at 19:38
  • It answers it completely. You simply cannot do what I want without having it in Spotlight. It's not in Spotlight because it was in my Privacy tab in the Spotlight preferences. Take it out and it gets into Spotlight.
    – Rich_F
    Nov 15, 2020 at 19:40
  • 1
    Just FYI...Spotlight does an indexed search, not recursive. It's assumed when you say "recursive search" you mean directory recursion - searching the directory and all child directories. The Finder search (Cmd-F) would be closest to that. You really only need to specify recursion when operating on the command line.
    – Allan
    Nov 15, 2020 at 20:05

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