The Ultimate Guide for switching from a PC to a Mac
(Part 2 - coming soon)

Monday, November 12, 2007

Searching with a "not" in Spotlight!

One thing that is weird about Spotlight is that it only seems to accept positive searches.  You cannot say "contains" this and "doesn't contain" this.  

The only option for "Contents" is "contains":

The same thing happens with "Name", there is "contains" and "is", but there is no "doesn't contain" and "is not":

The way around this that I found is to choose "contains" and to add a "-" in front of the word.  So if you search for "Contents" "contains" "application -ical", it will search every file and document to find where it is written application, but it is not written ical.  Make sure that there is no space between the "-" and the word or it won't work.  That is the only way I found, but I think it is still an issue because the option of excluding files or names is not obvious and the "-" is not explained in the Finder help file.


Blogger Olaf said...

That's just great. Another tip to save me precious minutes !

November 11, 2007 at 9:00 PM  
Blogger Andre R said...

you are actually only half right on this one.... on the actual spotlight search bar, you can type in NOT (capital letters because that is what differentiates Boolean from regular text on computers) and then the word you don't want.

e.g. ".app" will give you ALL files ending with .app
"NOT .app" will give you all files NOT ending with .app

try it!

November 12, 2007 at 12:15 AM  
Blogger Terry Singh said...

lol i don't get it:s!

November 12, 2007 at 11:45 AM  
Blogger steerpike said...

they both don't work by me.

November 12, 2007 at 3:25 PM  
Blogger Andre R said...

ok to clarrify, you CANNOT type in "NOT" into the extra search parameters, it has to be in the original spotlight bar...
also, iAm using Leopard, perhaps this is just in the new Finder?

Not only cnan you use NOt, but you can also use OR... iFind using 2 boolean parameters doesn't always wrk... but one for sure does....

iCan garentee this because when iWanted to create a slideshow with all the pics on my comp iDid ".jpg OR .jpeg" and it gave me both .jpgs and jpeg...

November 12, 2007 at 3:43 PM  
Blogger J J said...

-ical (using your example) is how qualifiers are used in ebay searches. I think it is neat.

November 12, 2007 at 3:45 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I love your tips, but can you make more of them with steps, so they are easier to follow? Thanks!

November 12, 2007 at 3:54 PM  
Blogger Andre R said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

November 12, 2007 at 4:02 PM  
Blogger Andre R said...

ok, just to help clarify this furhter... iHave a site that iStarted a few days ago... go to
click on "Tips"
then go to the latest post, "Boolean in Spotlight"

it should be up soon,iHave pictures there to help you guys see it...

November 12, 2007 at 4:04 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Hold down the Command and Option keys, and the little + sign in the circle at the right side of the search window changes to a - sign. Click it, and you can add any number of exclusions to the search.

November 15, 2007 at 12:29 AM  
Blogger PK said...

the "-" operator is common in engines. It's used in pretty much everything. Google, eBay, Ask, etc.

November 20, 2007 at 1:09 PM  
Blogger Andre R said...

iHave actully dsearch... seems the "NOT" parameter that works for me is in fact apart of the new Finder... and only the new Finder... So for Tiger users, searching with a not is harder... for Leopard users, you can use NOT AND OR...

November 20, 2007 at 3:23 PM  

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