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Two Ways to Reveal the Location of a Spotlight Search Result in OS X

Two Ways to Reveal the Location of a Spotlight Search Result in OS X

Spotlight is a great way to find and launch just about any application or file on your Mac. But what if you’re not sure which file you’re looking for, or what if you just want to find where a file is located? While it’s simple to open a file via Spotlight, there’s no obvious way in Spotlight to show you the location of a file. Here are two quick ways to reveal the location of a Spotlight search result.
os x spotlight search

Preview Spotlight Location with Command Key

When you’re browsing through Spotlight search results in OS X Yosemite, just tap and hold the Command key on your keyboard and you’ll see a preview of the result’s path appear below the right side of the window. Depending on the complexity of the file’s path, this may be difficult to read, but it will at least give you some hint as to the file’s location, and it is particularly helpful when dealing with files that have similar or identical names.
spotlight preview location
Note that this trick only works for files and applications that have a traditional path in Finder. It won’t work for items contained within other applications, such as results for Contacts, Calendar events, or Safari bookmarks.

Reveal the Spotlight Result’s Location in Finder

If previewing a Spotlight result’s path isn’t enough to help you determine its location, or if you want to explore the folder in which the result resides (e.g., you’re searching for a project file and you want to see which other associated files may be in the same folder), you can tell Spotlight to reveal the result’s location in Finder.
spotlight reveal in finder
Simply highlight the desired result in Spotlight, hold the Command key, and press Return (or hold Command and double-click on the result). Normally, pressing Return will open the file or launch the application, but adding the Command key to the mix instead opens a new Finder window showing the folder that contains the Spotlight search result.

Older Versions of OS X

Our examples and screenshots deal with the current version of OS X (as of the date of this tip), Yosemite. In older versions of OS X, prior to the major Spotlight revamp in Yosemite, you can also use these tips, but the first method works a little differently.
os x lion spotlight preview location
Highlighting a Spotlight result and holding the Command key in older versions of OS X will show a preview of the result in a pop-out window to the left. If the file has a title, it will be displayed at the bottom of the preview, but if you wait a moment, the title will scroll up, revealing the file’s path on your Mac’s drive. This brief delay before seeing the result’s location makes it a bit less convenient than Spotlight in Yosemite. However, the second method of holding Command and pressing Return works the same as Yosemite, revealing the result in a new Finder window.

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10 thoughts on “Two Ways to Reveal the Location of a Spotlight Search Result in OS X”

Randy Wilson says:
None of the above solutions (Cmd-Return; hold Cmd; etc.) work in Mojave. Spotlight is now worthless again. :/
Michael Moraga says:
That was helpful. Thank you. Why I couldn’t find this information on an Apple related site, I’ll just generously conclude is my tech-website illiteracy.

I agree with all the previous criticisms. Apple (and most of the tech industry) seem to be living in a bubble surrounded by other tech people. They do not seem to care enough about the average user to make the interface easy to use (profits?). Sadly, these days, the average user is dependent on their computers to survive. This is an unsustainable model and helps to increase the digital divide and thus global inequality. Apple needs to make their products more “usable”.

Ileana says:
Thank yoooooo!
Ashtreex says:
Absolutely. What is the point of showing you there is a file “somewhere on your computer”. Using cmnd-F you get the entire path at the bottom of the box. Yet again I think Spotlight is absolutely useless.
Keiko says:
Thank you for posting this!! Super helpful!! :)
bill says:
Apple products, completely intuitive. Of course pushing the command key will reveal something in an area of the screen that was completely empty. Anyone would know that….NOT. They do this kind of crap all the time too. It boggles me that such an inconsistent interface can be considered more intutive than MS. NOt that MS is perfect but right click works almost everwhere.
john says:
Thanks for this info, it was very helpful. Agree with some of the other posters that Apple is seriously lame for hiding shit like this and making you memorize key combos to do see stuff that should obviously just be visible in the first place. Good lord Apple, get your shit together.
David Peiró says:
Tip: in Mavericks hitting cmd+alt will reveal the file location whitout you waiting a second.
Yannis says:
Great! I didn’t know this! Especially the Command + Enter (Return) combination!
However, it doesn’t work for mails & messages…
Designer_Dude says:
So how do you find the finder location on Mac OS Sierra? Holding the command key will show the path, but the beginning of the path is missing because the window is not wide enough, and the window can not be expanded. This has got to be the dumbest omission ever. I’ve seen about a dozen bugs in Sierra. It’s mind boggling to me how some of these things make it through the beta stages if I’m able to find them in just a couple of hours. But anyway.

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Jim Tanous

Apr 24, 2015

676 Articles Published