Finder window search

Using the search box that sits in the top right corner of a Finder window defaults to searching everything on a Mac. Sure, you can click the center Search option after the fact to narrow it down to the current folder, but often times you’re using that search feature thinking it will look in the current folder first… but it actually searches every single file and folder on the Mac for matches. That’s because it’s tied to the universal Spotlight search feature, but if you use the Spotlight Command+Spacebar shortcut and menubar for the majority of your Mac file system-wide searches, there’s little reason to have the Finder window search set to the same system-wide search setting, and you can easily change it to instead look only inside the current directory, which makes a bit more sense.

Changing Finder Search Settings to Current Folder

This does not change Spotlight preferences, only the Finder window-based search of OS X:

  • From anywhere in the Finder, pull down the Finder menu and choose “Preference”

  • Click on the “Advanced” tab and pull down the menu under “When performing a search:”, selecting from the pulldown menu “Search the Current Folder” instead

  • Close out of Finder Preferences

Search current folder in Mac OS X

Now go back to the Finder window search box in any specific directory, and you’ll find the search results will be limited to the current directory rather than everywhere. In the subtitle of a Search, you’ll find the the center option now selected by default, rather than “This Mac”, which is the OS X default:

Searching in the current folder set to default

This setting makes finding things and sorting through the often huge repository folders like ~/Pictures, ~/Documents, and ~/Downloads so much easier, and you won’t end up with results from oddball locations found elsewhere on the Mac filesystem.

Switching up the search is so handy we probably should have included it in our recently published list of simple tweaks to greatly improve the Finder of OS X, but it’ll have to wait for our next Finder roundup list.

Thanks to CultOfMac for the idea.