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How to overhaul macos’ spotlight search using alfred

Last updated on December 8, 2020 By Stacey Butler 2 Comments

Spotlight Search is a feature that lets you search for apps on your Mac and search your mail, messages and the internet for relevant content. Although Spotlight issues are not a new thing, recently, some users have had trouble with their Spotlight after upgrading to macOS Big Sur. Some people use Spotlight often and some rely on Spotlight for their work. In this article we will give you some troubleshooting tips to try so that you can get your Spotlight Search working again.

If you are having trouble with Mail Search in Big Sur, see:

If you are having problems with Spotlight not working on iOS, see: Spotlight Search Not Working On iPhone / iPad? Fix.

Restart your Mac

It’s good to try this first, as this simple step may resolve the problem with Spotlight.

  • Go to Apple menu  > Restart.

Check Spotlight Search Categories

If your searches are not turning up results from certain search categories, you should check that you have those categories selected for search.

  1. Go to System Preferences: Apple menu  > System Preferences.
  2. Select Spotlight.

How to overhaul macos’ spotlight search using alfred

  1. The categories that are checked are the only ones that will be included in your searches.

Rebuild Spotlight Index

You will remove either your entire disk (Macintosh HD) or selected folders, then add them back. This will force Spotlight to reindex.

Using System Preferences

  1. Go to System Preferences: Apple menu  > System Preferences.
  2. Select Spotlight.
  3. Select Privacy, then click the plus (+) button.

How to overhaul macos’ spotlight search using alfred

  1. Select Macintosh HD from the side pane on the left, under locations. If you don’t want to reindex the entire disk, choose folders to add instead of choosing Macintosh HD. Click Choose.
  2. Click Ok to prevent Spotlight from searching Macintosh HD.

How to overhaul macos’ spotlight search using alfred

  1. Now select Macintosh HD from the list and click the minus (-) button.

Note: Reindexing may take awhile. You may want to give it at least several hours to complete.

Using Terminal

If you prefer, you can initiate a reindex from Terminal.

  • mdutil manages the metadata stores used by Spotlight.
  • The -E flag erases each local store for the volumes indicated. The stores will be rebuilt.
  1. Open a Terminal window.
  2. Enter the following command:
  1. Enter your administrator password if prompted.

Restart SystemUIServer Process

You can try killing the SystemUIServer process. It will restart on its own.

  1. Go to Activity Monitor: Open Finder and select Go from the top menu bar. Select Utilities from the dropdown. Double-click on Activity Monitor in the Finder window.
  2. Search for the process: Begin typing SystemUIServer in the search field.
  3. Click on it to select it. Click the Stop sign with an X in it to stop the process.

Restart All Spotlight Processes

  1. Go to Activity Monitor: Open Finder and select Go from the top menu bar. Select Utilities from the dropdown. Double-click on Activity Monitor in the Finder window.
  2. Type Spotlight in the search field.
  3. Select all spotlight related processes and click Stop (Stop sign with an X in it).

Other Options

If the above steps have failed to solve the problem for you, you might, first of all, consider contacting Apple Support for further help. Other ideas include running a disk check or reinstalling Big Sur.

Run a Disk Check

To use First Aid, you will boot into macOS Recovery.

  1. Shutdown your Mac: Apple menu  > Shutdown.
  2. Turn on your Mac. Immediately press and hold down two keys: Command (⌘) and R. Release the keys when the Apple logo appears.
  3. If prompted, enter your password (for a user with admin status).

Run First Aid

  1. After startup is complete, the macOS Utilities menu should appear.
  2. Select Disk Utility and click Continue.
  3. Click on View and select Show All Devices.
  4. Run First Aid on each volume:
    • Select a volume, such as Macintosh HD from the sidebar, then click the First Aid button . Repeat with each volume (Macintosh HD – Data, etc).
  5. Run First Aid on each container.
  6. Run First Aid on the storage device. It should be the top level in the sidebar.
  • If an error is found and repaired, run First Aid again until there are no reported errors.
  • If Disk Utility is unable to repair the disk, or First Aid fails, try once again.
  • If you still have trouble with Disk Utility, see Repair a storage device in Disk Utility on Mac.

When you are finished with running First Aid in Recovery Mode, you may restart your Mac (in regular mode) to see if your problem persists.

Reinstall Big Sur

Backup your Mac using Time Machine. Then you can use that backup to reinstall macOS Big Sur.

  1. Connect your external drive to your Mac.
  2. Restart your Mac in Recovery Mode:
    1. Power on your Mac. Immediately hold down 2 keys: Command (⌘) and R.
    2. Release when the Apple logo appears.
  3. Choose Restore from Time Machine. Then click Continue.

How to overhaul macos’ spotlight search using alfred

  1. Click Continue. You should see a screen showing your Time Machine backups. Choose your most recent backup.

Recent Articles:

Comments

I found that when I went to the “Privacy” Tab I found my entire Hard Drive was checked. Once I deleted it, I was able to search again. I don’t know why it was in the Privacy tab as I didn’t purposely put it in that list? Anyhoo, I would never have found the problem if not for this article. Many thanks

Kill all processes that come up in a search for spotlight fixed Mail search for me. There were 5.

How to overhaul macos’ spotlight search using alfred

New updates are being added at the bottom of this story…….

Original story (published on December 15, 2020) follows:

Some Mac users who’ve installed the macOS Big Sur update on their devices are claiming that the Spotlight search function no longer works as it did prior to the update.

Users are disappointed since they aren’t able to rely on Spotlight to find the files, apps, documents, and other items they want to access quickly.

How to overhaul macos’ spotlight search using alfred

Moreover, there isn’t just a single problem that has ruined the user experience. Instead, there are several issues that degrade the function.

A user has listed some of the major issues that they noticed with the Spotlight search function after installing the macOS Big Sur update on their computer. We’ve shared a screenshot of it below:

How to overhaul macos’ spotlight search using alfred

As you can tell by the number of upvotes and comments on the user’s post on Reddit, many users who installed the macOS Big Sur updates are facing similar issues and agree that Apple has messed up Spotlight.

But this is also only part of a bigger picture because some users claim that Spotlight no longer works on their Macs after the macOS Big Sur update.

According to those who are dealing with this issue, Spotlight does not return any results when searching for files, apps, documents, and other items.

How to overhaul macos’ spotlight search using alfred

ITs been weeks since I downloaded big sur and spotlight is still not working consistently. How has apple not patched this yet? (Source)

It seems that under Big Sur spotlight no longer indexes the content of RTF files. (To verify this create one with textedit, save it, search). This must be a bug / regression right? What could be a more canonical example of spotlight usage than finding text in RTF? (Source)

Ever since I updated to Big Sur, Spotlight is working pretty bad, sometimes it brings no results and sometimes it just freezes everything, apparently it only gets back to working after a system reboot 🙁 (Source)

While the issue does not affect all macOS Big Sur users, it’s clear that some are having terrible luck with getting Spotlight to function as normal.

Fortunately, there are a few workarounds that seem to have fixed most of the issues users are experiencing with the Spotlight search function.

Workarounds for macOS Big Sur Spotlight issues

1) Uninstall Little Snitch:

According to one user, the Little Snitch program might be the reason behind the Spotlight search issues for some. Therefore, uninstalling the program and reinstalling it should fix the problem.

uninstall LS completely. enjoy Spotlight working as expected. reinstall LS. enjoy Spotlight still working as expected. shake head about stupid LS bug that seems impossible to fix. (Source)

2) Give it time to index files:

Some users might be noticing the issue because Spotlight has not been able to index all the files on the computer after installing macOS Big Sur.

However, after some time, the problem automatically disappears since the system has enough time to index all the files on the Mac. Thus, you may want to give it some time for all files to be indexed.

I do not know how to reproduce this or whether it will come back, the problem came out of the blue and just vanished again. The best solution so far seems to me to just keep the machine running through the night and hope it will be done with whatever task that causes the problems by the next morning.. (Source)

3) Switch to Alfred:

It’s widely accepted that Alfred is better than the default Spotlight feature on macOS and thus many users who are fed up with the broken search function on macOS Big Sur are recommending others to switch to Alfred.

Why not use Alfred? Personally, Spotlight always felt like a gimped version of Alfred to me. (Source)

At present, Apple has not acknowledged any issues reported by users when using Spotlight. The company has just rolled out the Big Sur 11.1 update, however, we didn’t come across any reports of the issue being fixed.

Nonetheless, we will continue to keep an eye out for any developments on the matter and will post an update if something relevant surfaces.

In the meantime, check out our dedicated tracker to know more about the status of bugs and issues found on macOS Big Sur.

Update (March 04, 2021)

Apparently, the Spotlight search function workaround that involved uninstalling Little Snitch also addresses the issue where the Recents folder wouldn’t show any content, but the search results appear when searching from within the folder.

PiunikaWeb started as purely an investigative tech journalism website with main focus on ‘breaking’ or ‘exclusive’ news. In no time, our stories got picked up by the likes of Forbes, Foxnews, Gizmodo, TechCrunch, Engadget, The Verge, Macrumors, and many others. Want to know more about us? Head here.

If Alfred can’t find the files or applications you’re looking for, take a look at these steps to troubleshoot the issue.

Note: If you’ve upgraded to macOS 11 Big Sur, please ensure that you’re using Alfred 4.3+ and that Big Sur is also up to date.

Built-in Troubleshooting

Alfred 4.1 added a built-in file troubleshooter which can be run from Alfred’s Preferences:

Help > Troubleshooting > File Search Troubleshooting > Run Troubleshooting

Click the “Run Troubleshooting” button and drop the file which cannot be found from Finder into the troubleshooting sheet, and Alfred will attempt to diagnose the file search issue.

How to overhaul macos’ spotlight search using alfred

You may simply need to add a folder to Alfred’s default search scope, but in the case of a metadata warning or failure, this will almost always be resolved by rebuilding your macOS metadata.

If the troubleshooting passed, try using Alfred’s file search mode.

Troubleshooting Guide

If the Built-in Troubleshooting tool has highlighted indexing issues, or you’re experiencing any indexing issues on your Mac, these steps will guide you in resolving them.

1. Use the “find”, “open”, and “in” keywords

Alfred uses an intelligent search scope to be fast and efficient. The results included in Alfred’s default results include applications, contacts and other file types you’ve specified in your Default Results preferences.

You can expand your search by prefixing your search with these keywords:

  • open” (or a quick press of the spacebar as a shortcut) to launch the file/app you’re searching for
  • find” to reveal it in Finder
  • in” to search inside files

2. Set the Search Scope correctly

Alfred searches for files within his defined search scope. To review your settings, go to Preferences > Features > Default Results.

Ensure the file you’re searching for is located within your search scope. You can drag in additional folders if your files are stored outside of the existing scope.

How to overhaul macos’ spotlight search using alfred

To keep Alfred’s results clean, we recommend use use the spacebar prefix (as in step 1) to search for files but if you’re searching for types you want to include in default results (without a keyword or spacebar prefix), ensure these are checked in the Essentials or Extras.

If your search scope is correct, move on to the next step.

3. Check your Spotlight settings

Launch your System Preferences to the Spotlight preference pane to ensure all checkboxes for the file types you want to search are selected. Spotlight allows you to choose which file types are indexed by macOS. As Alfred relies on the same metadata, it’s essential that the boxes are checked for all file types you want Alfred to find.

How to overhaul macos’ spotlight search using alfred

4. Check the Spotlight Privacy tab

In System Preferences > Spotlight > check the Privacy tab, and ensure that it doesn’t contain files or folders you want to index, as anything contained here will not be included in the macOS metadata index.

How to overhaul macos’ spotlight search using alfred

5. Rebuild your Mac’s metadata index

It’s possible for the metadata gathered by macOS to become corrupted or be missing some files, which means Alfred won’t return the results you expect.

This can sometimes be obvious because Spotlight won’t show any results either, but in some cases, Spotlight may still be showing old cached data. Rebuilding the index will allow macOS to reindex all files, refreshing the results it provides you.

You should rebuild your Mac’s index even if Spotlight appears to be showing the right results.

How to rebuild your Mac’s index:

Keep a close eye for any error messages relating to your index. Indexing can take up to an hour on older Macs, during which time Spotlight and Alfred’s search results may be incomplete, so time for a cup of tea?

How to overhaul macos’ spotlight search using alfred

You should see the message “Indexing enabled” after typing your password. If you see the message “Spotlight server is disabled” or a similar message, you’ll need to re-enable indexing on your Mac. Contact us from your Powerpack email address if you’re not sure how to re-enable it.

Once macOS has finished reindexing, type “reload” into Alfred to refresh his cache of your Applications.

If you notice that Alfred appears to find an application that Spotlight doesn’t see, this can be because Alfred has previously cached the application. Typing “reload” into Alfred will refresh the cache so the app will disappear. You’ll then need to perform the indexing step above.

6. Reload the Applications cache

If you are looking for an Application, it’s possible that your application cache has somehow become outdated. Type the word “reload” in your Alfred window to refresh your app cache.

7. Check the name of the file you’re searching for

Ensure that the name of the file you’re searching for is accurate, as you may be searching for a file name that doesn’t exist. Consider using the * (star) character as a wildcard if you only know part of the word you’re searching.

Still having issues?

If you’re still unable to find files on your Mac, get in touch and give as much detail as you can on your situation and the steps you’ve taken.

  • Diagnostics file: If you’re using Alfred 4, type “?diagnostics” into Alfred and attach the resulting file to your email.
  • File Troubleshooting output: Please copy the output of any file troubleshooting you’ve run, and any errors you saw

Further useful information:

  • What file are you searching for, where is it located on your Mac and what file type is it?
  • Can Spotlight find the file, or can neither Spotlight or Alfred find it?
  • Are you struggling to find a single file or many?

The more information you provide, and the more thoroughly you answer questions, the easier it’ll be to resolve your issue! 🙂

Last updated on December 8, 2020 By Stacey Butler 2 Comments

Spotlight Search is a feature that lets you search for apps on your Mac and search your mail, messages and the internet for relevant content. Although Spotlight issues are not a new thing, recently, some users have had trouble with their Spotlight after upgrading to macOS Big Sur. Some people use Spotlight often and some rely on Spotlight for their work. In this article we will give you some troubleshooting tips to try so that you can get your Spotlight Search working again.

If you are having trouble with Mail Search in Big Sur, see:

If you are having problems with Spotlight not working on iOS, see: Spotlight Search Not Working On iPhone / iPad? Fix.

Restart your Mac

It’s good to try this first, as this simple step may resolve the problem with Spotlight.

  • Go to Apple menu  > Restart.

Check Spotlight Search Categories

If your searches are not turning up results from certain search categories, you should check that you have those categories selected for search.

  1. Go to System Preferences: Apple menu  > System Preferences.
  2. Select Spotlight.

How to overhaul macos’ spotlight search using alfred

  1. The categories that are checked are the only ones that will be included in your searches.

Rebuild Spotlight Index

You will remove either your entire disk (Macintosh HD) or selected folders, then add them back. This will force Spotlight to reindex.

Using System Preferences

  1. Go to System Preferences: Apple menu  > System Preferences.
  2. Select Spotlight.
  3. Select Privacy, then click the plus (+) button.

How to overhaul macos’ spotlight search using alfred

  1. Select Macintosh HD from the side pane on the left, under locations. If you don’t want to reindex the entire disk, choose folders to add instead of choosing Macintosh HD. Click Choose.
  2. Click Ok to prevent Spotlight from searching Macintosh HD.

How to overhaul macos’ spotlight search using alfred

  1. Now select Macintosh HD from the list and click the minus (-) button.

Note: Reindexing may take awhile. You may want to give it at least several hours to complete.

Using Terminal

If you prefer, you can initiate a reindex from Terminal.

  • mdutil manages the metadata stores used by Spotlight.
  • The -E flag erases each local store for the volumes indicated. The stores will be rebuilt.
  1. Open a Terminal window.
  2. Enter the following command:
  1. Enter your administrator password if prompted.

Restart SystemUIServer Process

You can try killing the SystemUIServer process. It will restart on its own.

  1. Go to Activity Monitor: Open Finder and select Go from the top menu bar. Select Utilities from the dropdown. Double-click on Activity Monitor in the Finder window.
  2. Search for the process: Begin typing SystemUIServer in the search field.
  3. Click on it to select it. Click the Stop sign with an X in it to stop the process.

Restart All Spotlight Processes

  1. Go to Activity Monitor: Open Finder and select Go from the top menu bar. Select Utilities from the dropdown. Double-click on Activity Monitor in the Finder window.
  2. Type Spotlight in the search field.
  3. Select all spotlight related processes and click Stop (Stop sign with an X in it).

Other Options

If the above steps have failed to solve the problem for you, you might, first of all, consider contacting Apple Support for further help. Other ideas include running a disk check or reinstalling Big Sur.

Run a Disk Check

To use First Aid, you will boot into macOS Recovery.

  1. Shutdown your Mac: Apple menu  > Shutdown.
  2. Turn on your Mac. Immediately press and hold down two keys: Command (⌘) and R. Release the keys when the Apple logo appears.
  3. If prompted, enter your password (for a user with admin status).

Run First Aid

  1. After startup is complete, the macOS Utilities menu should appear.
  2. Select Disk Utility and click Continue.
  3. Click on View and select Show All Devices.
  4. Run First Aid on each volume:
    • Select a volume, such as Macintosh HD from the sidebar, then click the First Aid button . Repeat with each volume (Macintosh HD – Data, etc).
  5. Run First Aid on each container.
  6. Run First Aid on the storage device. It should be the top level in the sidebar.
  • If an error is found and repaired, run First Aid again until there are no reported errors.
  • If Disk Utility is unable to repair the disk, or First Aid fails, try once again.
  • If you still have trouble with Disk Utility, see Repair a storage device in Disk Utility on Mac.

When you are finished with running First Aid in Recovery Mode, you may restart your Mac (in regular mode) to see if your problem persists.

Reinstall Big Sur

Backup your Mac using Time Machine. Then you can use that backup to reinstall macOS Big Sur.

  1. Connect your external drive to your Mac.
  2. Restart your Mac in Recovery Mode:
    1. Power on your Mac. Immediately hold down 2 keys: Command (⌘) and R.
    2. Release when the Apple logo appears.
  3. Choose Restore from Time Machine. Then click Continue.

How to overhaul macos’ spotlight search using alfred

  1. Click Continue. You should see a screen showing your Time Machine backups. Choose your most recent backup.

Recent Articles:

Comments

I found that when I went to the “Privacy” Tab I found my entire Hard Drive was checked. Once I deleted it, I was able to search again. I don’t know why it was in the Privacy tab as I didn’t purposely put it in that list? Anyhoo, I would never have found the problem if not for this article. Many thanks

Kill all processes that come up in a search for spotlight fixed Mail search for me. There were 5.

Spotlight makes it easier for you to find things on your Mac. This tool can walk you through your Mac’s data and show the shortest path to the items you need.

Disabling Spotlight would be a solution if you noticed that it started using too much CPU. It’s more complicated to do it on the latest macOS version, but it’s still possible.

You will need to disable System Integrity Protection (SIP) in order to turn off Spotlight. Before you do this, check whether SIP is enabled on your Mac. Go to Applications > Utilities. Open Terminal and enter the following command:

If it’s enabled, here’s how to turn it off and fully disable Spotlight:

Reboot your Mac. Click the Apple menu and choose Restart.

Get into Recovery Mode. On your Mac’s restart, hold down Command+R to enter Recovery Mode.

Run Terminal. In the Utilities menu on the top-left, choose Terminal.

Disable SIP. In Terminal, enter the following command:

It will disable SIP.

Restart your Mac.

Disable Spotlight. Open Terminal (Applications > Utilities) and copy this command:

sudo launchctl load -w /System/Library/LaunchDaemons/com.apple.metadata.mds.plist

It will turn off Spotlight on your Mac. If you want to get it back to work, get into Recovery Mode once again and enter csrutil enable command in the Terminal app. Don’t forget to restart your MacBook.

If you don’t want to be distracted by Siri Suggestions in Spotlight, there’s also a way to turn them off. It will not turn off Spotlight completely.

Go to the Apple menu and choose System Preferences.

Select Spotlight.

In Search Results, uncheck Siri Suggestions.

From now on, Spotlight will look for things only on your Mac.

If you’re experiencing problems with Spotlight but don’t want to disable it completely, there’s a way to improve its performance and accuracy. CleanMyMac X has a Maintenance module, which helps reindex Spotlight and fix possible issues. It also has many other cool features for optimizing your Mac’s speed — download CleanMyMac X here and try out all its features for free!

Hope you managed to fix what was wrong with Spotlight on your Mac.

Spotlight can help you quickly find apps, documents, and other files on your Mac. With Siri Suggestions, you can also get the latest news, sports scores, weather conditions, and more. Spotlight can even perform calculations and conversions for you.

How to overhaul macos’ spotlight search using alfred

Ask Siri. Say something like: “How many centimeters in an inch?” or “What does parboil mean?” Learn how to ask Siri.

Search for something

On your Mac, click the Spotlight icon (if shown) in the menu bar, or press Command-Space bar or press (if available in the row of function keys on the keyboard).

You can drag the Spotlight window anywhere on the desktop.

Tip: If the Spotlight icon isn’t in the menu bar, add it using Dock & Menu Bar preferences.

In the search field, type what you’re looking for—results appear as you type.

Spotlight lists top hits first; click a top hit to preview or open it. Spotlight also suggests variations of your search; you can view those results in Spotlight or on the web.

How to overhaul macos’ spotlight search using alfred

In the results, do any of the following:

Show a preview: Press the Tab key. Depending on the type of item selected in the results, you can interact with it. For example, select an app to see a list of recently opened files, then click a file to open it. Or click the Play button to hear a song.

See results of a suggested search in Spotlight: Click an item preceded by the Spotlight icon .

See results of a suggested search on the web: Click an item preceded by the Safari icon .

Open an item: Double-click it. Or select the item, then press the Return key.

Show the location of a file on your Mac: Select the file, then press and hold the Command key. The file’s location appears at the bottom of the preview.

Copy an item: Drag a file to the desktop or a Finder window.

See all results from your Mac in the Finder: Scroll to the bottom of the results, then click Search in Finder. To refine the results in the Finder, see Narrow your search results.

During downtime, or if you reach the time limit set for apps in Screen Time preferences, app icons in results are dimmed and an hourglass icon

Get calculations and conversions in Spotlight

You can enter a mathematical expression, currency amount, temperature, or measurement in the Spotlight search field, and get a conversion or calculation right in the search field.

How to overhaul macos’ spotlight search using alfred

Calculations: Enter a mathematical expression, such as 956*23.94 or 2020/15.

Currency conversions: Enter a currency amount, such as $100, 100 yen, or “300 krone in euros.”

Temperature conversions: Enter a temperature, such as 98.8F, 32C, or “340K in F.”

Measurement conversions: Enter a measurement, such as 25 lbs, 54 yards, 23 stone, or “32 ft to meters.”

Tip: Press the Tab key to show additional conversions in the preview area.

You can exclude specific folders, disks, or types of information (such as email or messages) from Spotlight searches. See Change Spotlight preferences.

If you want Spotlight to search content only on your Mac and not include results from the web, you can turn off Siri Suggestions for Spotlight.

Paul Solt

I love food, 3rd-wave coffee, plant-based whole food, cooking, baking bread, trail running, iOS, frisbee, and Australian Shepherds @SuperEasyApps @BrewCoffeeApp

Paul Solt

How to overhaul macos’ spotlight search using alfred

Is Spotlight broken? Can’t find the app, document, or photo you want using Spotlight on your Mac? You can fix it in 5 seconds using Terminal.

If you’re using Spotlight on Mac ( Command + Spacebar ) to quickly open an app, document, or photo—and it doesn’t work—you may need to re-index Spotlight. Use this guide to fix Spotlight using Terminal on your Mac (plus a pro Spotlight tip). The solution works on any macOS version (tested on macOS High Sierra).

How to overhaul macos’ spotlight search using alfred

How to Fix Spotlight Search on macOS High Sierra with Terminal

Terminal is another way to control your Mac, and if you’ve never used it before, don’t worry, this is a safe command to run (even if you have no idea what you’re doing).

How to overhaul macos’ spotlight search using alfred

Open the Terminal app from your “Applications” folder

How to overhaul macos’ spotlight search using alfred

Open the “Utilities” folder and launch “Terminal”

How to overhaul macos’ spotlight search using alfred

Copy and paste this command and press enter:

The -E command will “Erase and rebuild index”—which is exactly what you want to do to fix the problem. / means to start at your hard drives root directory, which will make it re-index everything on your hard drive.

Other guides might have you try to delete the Spotlight files, which I think is unnecessary, and a huge risk if you’re new to the command line tools (i.e.: Terminal).

Warning: Do not type any command with the rm keyword (remove) and -rf options (recursive force: i.e.: no confirmation . . . goodbye files!), unless you know what you’re doing. You can accidentally delete your entire hard drive, as this command is not safe!

Type your password, and let it run. Give your Mac 15-30 seconds to start re-indexing all your files, apps, and images.

How to overhaul macos’ spotlight search using alfred

Try searching for “Safari” with Spotlight ( Command + Spacebar ).

How to overhaul macos’ spotlight search using alfred

Note: You may have to wait longer your entire hard drive (and all the files) to be indexed, but apps should be indexed pretty quickly.

Symptoms of a Corrupt Spotlight on Mac

The telltale sign of a corrupt Spotlight is when you try to search for an app you use frequently using Spotlight, and it’s not the first result (it might not even be in the list!).

Numerous times I’ll try to open an app like TextMate, Evernote, or even Terminal, and the search results only show web pages, documents, and no apps.

Since I use my keyboard to launch apps quickly, this is a huge decrease in my productivity. The workaround is to use the Applications folder, or Launchpad to find the app I want to use.

Why Does Spotlight Search Break?

Spotlight will sometimes fail due to bugs in the macOS. On the initial launch of If you’re experiencing this frequently, you should submit a bug to Apple at bugreport.apple.com.

Explain what happened, and they will follow up with you, and the bug will get fixed, rather than never getting fixed!

I submitted a bug #31646293, “Spotlight loses index for apps that are updated from App Store,” on April 15th 2017, and Apple fixed it on July 11th 2017 (duplicate of bug #24109163).

I worked at Apple in the past, and they do read your bug reports, and they do fix issues when they know the problem exists.

Pro Spotlight Tip: Type Less

You can change the default search result if you start typing the first few letters, and then select the option you want with the arrow keys (or the mouse).

The next time you start typing “Terminal” stop with the first three letters: “Ter”. Try it:

  1. Open Spotlight from the top right corner icon ( Command + Spacebar )
  2. Start typing “Ter” (add more letters if you don’t see Terminal in the list)
  3. Select Terminal

How to overhaul macos’ spotlight search using alfred

Now you’ve “re-trained” Spotlight for showing Terminal as the first result for “Ter”.

References

  • How to rebuild the Spotlight index on your Mac – Apple.com
  • How to fix spotlight search on a Mac
  • rm manual page
  • mdutil manual page

Follow Me

Let me know if this was helpful in the comments below, or follow me on Twitter @PaulSolt

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This cheatsheet covers the default hotkeys, keywords and shortcuts for Alfred’s features. Hotkeys in green are part of Powerpack features.

Note that, if you have changed hotkeys and keywords away from defaults, you’ll need to refer to your own Alfred preferences to find out what they are.

Clever Question Mark:In Alfred, type “?hotkeys”, “?keywords” or the question mark followed by the name of a feature, workflow, snippet, custom search, etc to bring up the relevant results.

Basic Hotkeys

⌥ space Show Alfred

↓ Select the next result in the list

↑ Select the previous item in the list

↩ Action the currently selected item

⌘ # Action the # item directly [1-9]

⌘ o Open file or application in default application

⌘ , Show the Preferences Window

⌥ ↩ Search the currently typed query in Spotlight

⌃ ↩ Search the currently typed query in default web search

⌘ ↩ Reveal in Finder (if the result is a local file)

preferences Show Alfred Preferences

Launch applications

app name To launch an application simply start typing its name, then hit Return

Search the web

google, wiki . Use predefined web search keywords

Find files quickly

open Follow keyword by query to open a file

spacebar Follow a space with your query to open a file

find Follow keyword by query to reveal file in Finder

⌘ o Open the file

in Follow by a query to search for files that contain this query

Speed up your Mac productivity

define Follow keyword by a word and get a definition

spell Follow keyword by a word and see results with suggested spelling

13*567 Type a calculation into main window to get the result

= Start an advanced calculation (enable this function in the Calculator Preferences)

screensaver Start Screen Saver

trash Show Trash

emptytrash Empty Trash

sleep Sleep your Mac

sleepdisplays Sleep your Mac’s displays

lock Lock your Mac

restart Restart your Mac

shutdown Shut Down your Mac

eject Eject (removable media or all mounted volumes)

hide Hide the running application

quit Quit the running application

forcequit Force Quit the running application

Work with files and applications

Navigate to your home folder

/ Navigate to your root folder

⌥ ⌘ / Go to last browsed path in the File System Navigation

previous Go to last browsed path in the File System Navigation

→ Show list of available Actions for selected item

fn Show list of available Actions for selected item

⌃ Show list of available Actions for selected item

⌥ ⌘ \ Show list of available Actions for selected Finder item

⌘ ↓ Browse selected folder in File System Navigation

↩ Enter a folder in File System Navigation

backspace Go up a folder

. Show hidden files in File System Navigation

Tip: start typing in name of a folder/file to select it

Save your clips

⌥ ⌘ c Open Clipboard History viewer

⌘ c Copy selected clip to current Clipboard

snip Access snippets from main Alfred window with this keyword

clear Use keyword to clear Clipboard History

⌘ s While in the Clipboard Viewer, save current clip as a snippet

Listen to Music

The iTunes Mini Player is a Powerpack feature.

These keywords must be used while the Mini Player is showing. Set up iTunes workflows to add keywords to your default results or global hotkeys.

⌃ ⌘ ↩ Show the iTunes Mini Player

itunes Use keyword to show the iTunes Mini Player

play/pause Play / Pause keywords

next Next Track

back Back Track

previous Previous Track

⌃ ⌘ ↑ Play Random Album

random Play Random Album

volmax Maximum volume

volmid Half volume

mute Mute volume

⌃ ⌘ [0-5] Rate currently playing song from 0 to 5 stars

backspace Go up a folder in iTunes Mini Player

⌘ r Reindex iTunes library

Email and keep contacts

email Use keyword followed by name or email address to send an email using your default email client

Tip: If you open Address Book entries within Alfred, you can action individual fields (e.g. pressing return on an email Address will launch a new email to this address, etc)

Workflows

Every workflow has its own set of keywords and arguments, so have a look at the workflow’s own documentation for details. You’ll either find the documentation within the content of the workflow or on the creator’s own website.

You can also type your keyword or part of the hotkey into the Workflows search to find them more easily!

Last updated on February 19, 2019 By Serhat Kurt 22 Comments

Spotlight Search on your Mac lets you find apps, contacts, documents and many other things. I use it all the time as it makes easy to find whatever I need. This short article explains how you can troubleshoot If you’re having problems using Spotlight.

Here is what you can do to get Mac Spotlight search working again.

Before doing anything, simply restart your Mac. Restarting may fix your problem.

This article offers two tips: One is to rebuild the Spotlight index. This can be done in two different ways (1) using System Preferences (2) using the Terminal app. And the other tip is to restart the SystemUIServer process.

System Preferences

1. Choose Apple Menu

How to overhaul macos’ spotlight search using alfred

2. Click System Preferences

How to overhaul macos’ spotlight search using alfred

3. Click Spotlight

How to overhaul macos’ spotlight search using alfred

4. Click the Privacy section

How to overhaul macos’ spotlight search using alfred

5. Click the + (add) button

How to overhaul macos’ spotlight search using alfred

6. And add content or folder that you think Spotlight is not finding. It my cases. I added Macintosh HD to the list.

7. A window will appear saying “Are you sure you want to prevent Spotlight from searching in “Macintosh HD”. Click “Ok”.

How to overhaul macos’ spotlight search using alfred

8. Now, click the – Remove button to remove Macintosh from the list

This process will force Spotlight to re-index the contents of Macintosh HD.

Terminal

Note that the whole rebuilding process can also be done via the Terminal app. Here is how:

  • Open the Terminal app (Applications/Utilities/)
  • Enter the following command
  • sudo mdutil -E /
  • This command will “Erase and rebuild index”
  • Press enter
  • You may have to enter your administrator password

If rebuilding does not work, read on: Kill SystemUIServer. The SystemUIServer is a background process. It controls several aspects of macOS. The following process will make the SystemUIServer restart and that may fix your problem. Here is how:

  • Launch “Activity Monitor” (Applications/Utilities/)
  • Find “SystemUIServer” (you can use the search box)How to overhaul macos’ spotlight search using alfred
  • Double click
  • And click Quit
  • Do not worry, macOS will restart the process again, automatically within seconds.
  • Check to see if Spotlight is working now.

If you are not happy about the Spotlight search results, go to Apple menu > System Preferences, click Spotlight, then click the Search Results tab. This is where you can change your Spotlight settings.