In previous versions of macOS, Spotlight would show two columns, one with results and the other with a preview of the selected result.

In macOS Big Sur Spotlight's default view is one column. In order for me to see the right hand column I have to click the chevron or press return. How can I make this two-column view default, like it was in previous releases?

default macOS Big Sur Spotlight window

macOS Big Sur Spotlight after interaction

  • 1
    I've been looking for this info, too. I can't find any hack yet to show the preview pane.
    – fsb
    Dec 8, 2020 at 20:52
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    I'm not sure, but you could look into the associated spotlight plist file and do a defaults write command on the plist? I wouldn't advise it if you aren't familiar with terminal. The plist is located in ~/Library/Preferences/com.apple.spotlight.plist
    – AVelj
    Dec 9, 2020 at 3:38
  • I gave up trying to hack the app and found a replacement app instead. The app is called macOS Catalina and it has been the best thing I've ever installed. Installing it takes some effort, but it fixes this Spotlight behavior, plus adds awesome keyboard shortcuts to the app. (e.g. command+K to jump to the dictionary definition)
    – Dillon
    Feb 10, 2021 at 22:52
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    For anyone interested by @AVelj's suggestion, I checked the plist file for Spotlight (doing defaults read com.apple.spotlight) and there doesn't seem to be any defaults for the preview column, unfortunately. Sometimes I don't understand Apple's decisions...
    – Victor
    Jun 20, 2021 at 8:20

1 Answer 1


Not exactly a permanent fix that you can set by default. But when you search in spotlight, you can just press tab after typing your search, and it will pop up the column preview. You don't have to select any of the search results to enable column view, just press tab after typing your search in spotlight

  • How is this different than pressing the return key? My question is about not having to press an extra button and you are suggesting I press another button.
    – Dillon
    Jan 11, 2021 at 19:45
  • With the exception of conversions (which expands to two columns), the return key opens the file selected in spotlight. So if you just want to preview the file in the right hand column, you'd need to press tab, otherwise it'll open the file if pressing return. As to making two-column view the default layout, I don't there is that option yet to modify the spotlight plist. Again, my solution is temporary workaround, until Apple reintroduces the two-column view as a default option. You can always provide feedback to Apple about this
    – AVelj
    Jan 11, 2021 at 23:45

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