Try out Smart Folders

Apple introduced Smart Folders years ago, but they’re often ignored compare with to other macOS features. Smart Folders take up essentially no space, and they save time and frustration as you develop searches you want to use frequently. A smart folder is just a Spotlight search with criteria shown as a set of items with the option to save the query. If you start typing a search into the Spotlight field in any Finder window, you see results in that window. Click the + (plus) sign that appears at the upper right, and it’s turned into a smart folder with a Save button to retain your criteria. You can also choose File > New Smart Folder or press Command-Option-spacebar, and macOS brings up an empty Smart Folderin a Finder window.

Using the File menu lets you focus the search: in the top bar after “Search:” you’ll see This Mac and “Name of thing here.” That name in the quotes is whatever drive or folder you had foremost in a Finder window when invoking the smart folder window. Clicking the name in quotes restricts the search to that drive or folder. You can exclude volumes as well as specific folders. You can save a Smart Folder at any time by clicking the Save button. One saved, you can modify the search by choosing action (gear) > Show Search Criteria. The Save dialog lets you check a box to add the search into the Finder sidebar, and it offers to store it by default in the Saved Searches folder.

You can also save or move Smart Folders into any folder, letting you associate them with a specific task or project. When you first open a Smart Folder, only the line beginning with Search appears with a Save and + at the far right. Click + and you can add a criterion. By default, macOS adds Name, which matches file and folder names, as well as names embedded in certain fields (like email subject lines).

The popup field that has Name in it also contains several other items: Last Opened Date, Contents, Created Date, Last Modified Date, File Size, and Kind. Each of those has additional popup menus and fields that correspond to the kind of filter you can apply.

There’s also an Other menu: choose it and macOS displays the Select a Search Attribute list, which includes both system items and Spotlight criteria added by installed apps. Many parameters have a filter pop-up that lets you reduce the query’s scope for text or for numbers. For text, you see Matches, Contains, Begins With, Ends With, Is, and Is Not. You’ll probably most frequently use text filtering against Name and Contents. The Contents field searches against the full text of any document that Spotlight either can index natively (like text, HTML, and so forth), and any installed software that adds the details to Spotlight to allow text indexing.

For numeric values, you choose among Equals, Is Greater Than, Is Less Than, or Is Not, which are self-explanatory. All the normal criteria you set are linked together as a series all of which have to all be true. So if you want files that have the word “Lens” in them modified in the last year that are larger than 10K, you simply set three criteria. These are Boolean ANDs: this AND that AND the other must be true to match.
• Name matches Lens
• Last modified is within last 1 years
• File size is greater than 10 KB
What if you don’t want to AND things, but to OR and NOT them? A simple Option toggle helps. Hold down the Option key while Spotlight criteria show and the + button next to each criterion will change to an ellipsis (…). If you click the …, the Finder adds an “Any of the following are true” grouping below that line. e”><a href=” See this short clip on Youtube “Smart folders showing complicated query”

Thanks to Anton Petre for this article.

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