I absolutely do not understand the rules that Spotlight (osx 10.8) uses to search my files. If I enter the query sbml and select filename from the dropdown menu, these are the results that come up:


but if I chose the query libsbml instead, this is the only result I get:


Now, I wouldn't expect the first four answers to come up on the second search, but why does a search for sbml not turn up libsbml-5.6.0-libxml2-macosx-lion.dmg? Clearly, sbml doesn't have to be the first 4 letters in the filename, nor the last 4 before the extension. So what is the deal?


I rans a few tests in 10.8.2. My empirical results show that spotlight returns results for partial matches when the start of the name matches, but not any part of the name. I have not found a way to change this.

I have another challenge with multiple word searches. My empirical experience is that a filename search containing multiple words (separated by spaces) yields results only if the search words are contiguous in the filename. For example:

Given some files with these names:
xxx rules and roles yyy.zzz
aaa roles and rules bbb.ccc

  • a search for {roles} or {rules} will find both files
    (note: the braces are included here for clarity; they are not part of the search string)
  • a search for {rules and roles} will find the first file only;
  • a search for {roles and rules} will find the second file only;
  • a search for {roles rules} or {rules roles} will find nothing;

I find this last behaviour frustrating, as I don't want to have to remember the word order in my filenames. And one-word searches get too many hits.

Anyone with answers for this?

  • interesting (and frustrating)! but this isn't an answer, more like a comment or extra info... – Sibe Jan Apr 29 '13 at 21:35
  • This is really annoying. – Matt M. Oct 24 '13 at 19:21

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .