Mobility

Tips and tricks for searching with Spotlight in iOS 8

Spotlight is the search feature built right into iOS. Cory Bohon shows you how to make the most of this feature.

Spotlight

Spotlight is a great way to find items on your iOS device, but with iOS 8, this feature gives you so many new features that you may have missed some of them. Let's take a look at a few search tips and tricks that will help you make the most out of Spotlight when searching.

First, you have to know how to access the Spotlight search field. To open Spotlight in iOS 7 and iOS 8, simply pull downward on the home screen, but start from the middle of the screen instead of the top.

Searching Contacts

One of the basics that Spotlight really gets right is the ability to search for a contact stored on your device or in one of your cloud accounts. To begin, open Spotlight, then start typing the name of a contact. As you type, Spotlight will offer suggestions under the "Contacts" heading (Figure A). Tapping on a contact in this list will cause the Contacts app to display their information.

Figure A

Figure A

Spotlight can easily search through your contacts stored locally on in the cloud accounts that are connected to your device.

Searching apps and App Store

If you stored a lot of apps on your device, then you may find it difficult to locate a specific app in the midst of multiple home screens and a myriad of folders, with nearly unlimited apps stored in each folder. Fortunately, there's a better way: Simply pull up the Spotlight search, then beginning typing the name of the app you want to launch (Figure B). Tap the app from the resulting list to open it; or if your device doesn't yet have the app, you'll see the App Store search result for the app, allowing you to tap and download it right from the App Store.

Figure B

Figure B

If the searched-for app is on your device, you can tap on it to open it; otherwise, you'll see the App Store search results.

Searching Music and YouTube

Got a song stuck in your head, but don't want to peruse your Music app to find and play it? No worries, because with Spotlight, you can get this taken care of in just a few minutes. Simply open Spotlight and begin typing the name of the song or the artist in question. You'll see songs pop up in the search results. Tap the song to begin playing it in the Music app.

As a bonus, you'll also see YouTube search suggestions (Figure C). Tapping in this section will launch either YouTube.com with the video preloaded or the YouTube app to play the video.

Figure C

Figure C

Play a song with ease in the Music or YouTube app by searching for it in Spotlight.

Searching Wikipedia

If you want to settle a bet about a quick search topic or piece of biographical data, easily search the world's largest knowledge base, Wikipedia, right from within Spotlight. To use this feature, simply begin typing in a search term into Spotlight. If a Wiki article is available, you'll see the Wikipedia suggestion rise to the top. Tap on it to see the results (Figure D).

Figure D

Figure D

You can also search Wikipedia results.

If you don't see the Wikipedia suggestion, continue typing the search term, and then use the "Search Wikipedia" button in Spotlight to open Safari and search Wikipedia for the article.

Tweaking the order of search results

Search results rise to the top of Spotlight as you type, based on their relevance; however, you can tweak the default order of Spotlight suggestions in Settings. To do this, follow these steps:

  1. Open the Settings app
  2. Navigate to General | Spotlight Search
  3. Tap on the re-order bars to the right of the items and drag them to a new position (Figure E)

Figure E

Figure E

Spotlight will order search results and suggestions based on this list.

Whenever you get Spotlight search results back, they'll be presented to you in the order that you specify in this list. You can always revisit this Settings view to reorder Spotlight results as necessary.

What other tips and tricks do you have for working with Spotlight? Let us know in the discussion thread below.

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About Cory Bohon

Cory Bohon is an indie developer specializing in iOS and OS X development. He runs a software company called Cocoa App and is also a developer at MartianCraft. He was introduced to technology at an early age and has been writing about his favorite te...

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