The proper way to search for files

Ardmanz

macrumors regular
Original poster
Jul 12, 2013
212
20
This is kind of embarrassing as I've had a Mac for years now but what is the proper way to search for a particular file?

Coming from Windows I would just search within Windows explorer for the file name or *.dll to find all .dll files.

However, searching in spotlight or finder never ever seems to find what I'm after.

Is there a trick to it?
 

vmachiel

macrumors 68000
Feb 15, 2011
1,728
1,260
Holland
Search in the Finder. Add a rule that says "kind is". You can pick from the standards type or define your own file types via other. Don't forget to add a second rule to exclude system files if you want since those are excluded by default.
 

Isamilis

macrumors 6502a
Apr 3, 2012
609
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I bought "Find Any File", and always use that, instead of Spotlight search. Just my experience, I have no relationship with the developer.
 

Weaselboy

Moderator
Staff member
Jan 23, 2005
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8,835
California
This is kind of embarrassing as I've had a Mac for years now but what is the proper way to search for a particular file?

Coming from Windows I would just search within Windows explorer for the file name or *.dll to find all .dll files.

However, searching in spotlight or finder never ever seems to find what I'm after.

Is there a trick to it?
https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT202121

Yes there is. You need to change a setting to allow Finder to show system files. This support doc. shows you how to do that.

Even then, some system files will not show up in the search unless you search from within the /Library folder the files are located. See my posts in this thread for an explanation.

For this reason, I just use the free app iFileX for file searches of system files. I don't have to fuss around with Finder settings or multiple searches to find what I want.
 
Last edited:

CreatorCode

macrumors regular
Apr 15, 2015
139
118
US
For this reason, I just use the free app iFileX for file searches of system files. I don't have to fuss around with Finder settings or multiple searches to find what I want.
I bought "Find Any File", and always use that, instead of Spotlight search. Just my experience, I have no relationship with the developer.
I've used FindAnyFile, and liked it. There's also Devon EasyFind, which is free. I would definitely suggest keeping one of these apps around for specific search types.
 
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ocabj

macrumors 6502a
Jul 2, 2009
545
183
man find

e.g. sudo find / -type f -name "*.dll"

(sudo so you can check for files in directories you don't have rights to as your own user).
 

Ardmanz

macrumors regular
Original poster
Jul 12, 2013
212
20
Can you give some examples of the items that Spotlight is failing to locate?
The most common one is the pro tools plugin folder. I don't know where it is kept by default. I search "plugins" either in spotlight or finder and it doesn't find anything.

Thanks for the suggestions guys.
 

0098386

Suspended
Jan 18, 2005
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2,886
I've been using Find Any File for years, very powerful and useful. It's freeware too.
 

blesscheese

macrumors 6502a
Apr 3, 2010
692
170
Central CA
I guess we are going 'round in circles here recommending the same things, but, I use EasyFind from Devon Technologies (I use their other products, so it was a no-brainer to add this bit of free-ware).

Spotlight is great for ordinary documents or music files, etc., that reside in the usual folders, but when you need something that will look *everywhere*...that is when I use EasyFind.
 

Weaselboy

Moderator
Staff member
Jan 23, 2005
29,196
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California
Terminal:
Code:
mdfind "kMDItemDisplayName == '*.dll'"
These Terminal commands mentioned in the thread will certainly work, but for me anyway the issue is, okay now I see the file, but what can I do with it. This requires more typing of commands (to move copy or delete for example) that I have to remember or lookup. I think for the average user, these free GUI utilities are a much easier to use option.
 

Ardmanz

macrumors regular
Original poster
Jul 12, 2013
212
20
Also can you open the containing folder from spotlight?

Say it finds the file I'm after but I want to open the folder instead of the file. Is there an easy way of doing this?