Spotlight Search in Yosemite got a big update. It went from a small search utility that lived in the corner of the desktop to a floating window smack in the middle of the screen with rich previews. It was clearly inspired from keyboard launchers like Alfred, Quicksilver and Launchbar. But while Spotlight Search looks like a keyboard launcher, it doesn’t behave like one.
Sure, the new spotlight can do math, convert units, or look for movies playing nearby but it can’t do advanced stuff like shutdown your Mac, search within sites or answer questions like Siri.
If you’ve used Spotlight Search in Yosemite, you might be left longing for more. After all, there’s so much potential for that preview area. Thankfully, one developer decided to explore this area and came up with plugins to expand the Spotlight functionality that allows it to do all the things stated above and more.
But before we get to that, let’s answer a very important question, why do you even need Flashlight?
Because productivity. The reason keyboard launchers are so popular (my favorites are Alfred on Mac and Launchy on Windows) is because they let you accomplish small tasks faster using the keyboard instead of using the mouse and GUI.
For example, if you need to search for a product on Amazon, you’d normally go to the website and enter the product’s name in the search field. Or if you’re smart, you have a custom search set up in Chrome for the site. But doing that takes 3-4 steps and a considerable amount of time.
Doing this with a keyboard launcher would mean pressing the keyboard combination to bring up the text field (which for Spotlight is Cmd+Space), entering the operator name (which in this case in amazon) followed by the product name. That’s it. Press enter and the search page will open in your default browser just like that.
How To Install And Set Up Flashlight For Spotlight Search
First things first, download Flashlight. When you click the Download button on the website, you’ll be taken to a Github page. Here, download the latest .zip file. The process for installation is similar to other apps. Unzip the file, Flashlight.app will show up, drag it to the Applications folder and launch it.
Once the app is up and running, you’ll see a bit toggle beside the words “Enable Spotlight plugins“. That’s your cue. Below, you’ll see different categories. The right side lists all the actual plugins.
Each plugin has an operator. Think of it as prefix or a command that you’ll need to write to execute the action. For example, in the case of searching with IMBD, you’ll need to first type in imdb followed by your query. Operators for each action are different, but don’t worry, you’ll find them all listed in the right pane.
Now that we’ve got it all set up, let’s talk about all the cool things Flashlight can make Spotlight Search do.
Shutdown, Restart, Lock Your Mac
Want to quickly shutdown or restart you mac? Just press Cmd+Space, write shutdown or the first letters in that word, press enter and your system is shutting down.
Search Within Websites like Twitter, IMDB, Amazon, DuckDuckGo, and More
Operators like imdb, yt, amazon, netflix, and google let you search within different websites without first going to the said website and hunting for the search bar.
Wolfram Alpha Is Your Text Based Siri
On iOS, you can ask Siri questions like “What’s the capital of Brazil” or “How much is 68 times 34”, and it will tell you. Siri sources this information from Wolfram Alpha. And thanks to Flashlight, it’s integrated in Spotlight Search as well. So just use the Wolfram operator first, type in your query and the answer will show up right in the preview pane of Spotlight.
To create a short link with Spotlight all you need to do is enter Shorten, paste in the original link and in a second or two the shortened link will be copied to the clipboard, ready for you to paste where you want.
Make Your Mac Speak
Too lazy to read a message or want to clear up a pronunciation of a word? Just type say in Spotlight, paste in the text, and your Mac will read it aloud.
Execute Terminal Commands
If you’re the kind of person who dabbles with the Terminal, this will make things a bit easier. Flashlight will let you execute Terminal commands right from the Spotlight window.
What’s Your Favorite Thing About Flashlight?
Can you already sense your productivity skyrocketing? Do you love that one feature in Flashlight that made life so much easier? Let us know in the comments below.