I have already limited Spotlight search to Applications inside System Preferences > Spotlight

However, this seems to actually just limit searches to the directory /Applications.

It means there are results from application files, configuration files, etc..

Is it possible to limit Spotlight search results to the .app file extension?

Using macOS Catalina (10.15.7).

3 Answers 3


Interesting. I saw your clarification; you want Spotlight to only search apps, always, or to default to that, and you can opt out?

I don't think you can, directly, but you could record an Automator flow that launches Spotlight, adds the appropriate kind:app, and then change the system keyboard shortcut to point to your flow.

It really depends on what you are trying to do. Spotlight searches are quite valuable for documents, are you sure you want to give that up?

Also, have you considered using Alfred or something like it, instead?

  • Removing documents from the search result is what I'm actually trying to achieve in the first place. I'd never heard of Alfred before, I've just downloaded Alfred 4 with the PowerPack and I've been able to customise a search popup that's exactly how I hoped it to be. It's actually more perfect than I could have hoped with Spotlight.. so great suggestion, thanks. I think using Alfred is going to be the best solution until Spotlight has similar configurations to Alfred (if ever).
    – Craig
    Commented Nov 29, 2020 at 21:13

If you invoke Spotlight (⌘ + space) and enter search term followed by kind:app you will see only applications (and 'Related searches' block with 'Search the Web' and 'Search in Finder' options)

enter image description here

Refer to Apple support document Search by the type of items to find item types you can use to narrow Spotlight search results.

  • I like it. I managed to entirely miss that section on the linked page. O_o.
    – negacao
    Commented Nov 27, 2020 at 23:36
  • This is a very good answer, but the goal is to have the "kind:app" filter forced to the search results, always. Do you think it would be possible to modify the CMD+Space shortcut to automatically paste in "kind:app " so that the type filter is pre-populated? Is this something automator could do?
    – Craig
    Commented Nov 28, 2020 at 19:10
  • This raises a question: why do you need list of apps (this is about personal productivity not personal preferences :-))? Generally apps (except utilities) are useless all by themselves, files/documents are needed to have any use of application. Spotlight is meant for search and there is built-in Finder for managing files (incl program files). In Finder there is 'Application' folder which you can access from keyboard ⌘+⇧+A. Now you are in Applications folder, what next? Commented Nov 30, 2020 at 6:39

If you initiate your search from Finder (rather than Cmd + Space), after typing your search name you can add criteria using the + button on the right side:

enter image description here and then filter by "Kind" is "Application." If you want to filter to items named "*.app": on my screenshot where the dropdown box is "Kind," scroll down and select "Other", then choose "File Extension", and you can do this:

enter image description here

(Filtering by "Name" is "*.app" did not produce the same result for me.)

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