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By Dan Moren

Quick Tip: Advanced Finder searches

A friend of mine was looking to find every file on her Mac with a particular file extension (i.e. “.jpg”). Now, there are a few ways to do this: by default, I might just type the file extension in the Finder’s search box. But that can give you false positives if that extension is a string that might occur elsewhere in a filename.

You can also search by Kind, but not every file extension on the Mac is mapped to a Kind. However, the Finder actually has the ability to search by a bunch of advanced criteria that you might not even know about. Here’s how to find them.

Select Find from the Finder’s File menu. On the left is a dropdown menu for search criteria.1 At the bottom of the dropdown you’ll see an option for “Other…”

Search types

When you select that, you’ll get a sheet with a ton of different search attributes. And I’m talking a lot. Files on the Mac have a lot of metadata associated with them—some applications even add their own metadata attributes—but most of those attributes aren’t exposed directly to the user.

Advanced search criteria

You can filter this big sheet of options using its own search box. So, in this example, if we’re looking to eventually search by file extension, type ‘extension’ in the box and you’ll probably see a couple options come up. The one we want is “File extension”, so click the In Menu checkbox that’s next to it, and then click OK.

Now, when we return to the search window and select a criteria from that dropdown menu again, you’ll see the option for File Extension is now in the menu. Select that and type in the extension you want and voilĂ : a list of every file on your Mac with that extension.

Search by extension

The best part is that ‘File extension’ search option (and any other options you add) will now stay in the dropdown menu, which is great if it’s something you end up using frequently—you won’t have to repeat this process every single time you want to make that particular search.

There are other handy search criteria in that advanced search options sheet. A few I find particularly useful are “System files”, which includes those files that are part of OS X and aren’t usually searched, like preferences files, plug-ins, and so on; “File invisible”, which lets you more easily search for files based on their visibility; and even “Pixel height” and “Pixel width” which let you narrow your search by, you guessed it, image dimensions.


  1. If you don’t see those dropdown menus, probably because you started typing in the search box of an ordinary Finder window, click the + button in the search bar; it’s next to Save. ↩

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[Dan Moren is a tech writer, novelist, podcaster, and the Official Dan of Six Colors. You can email him at dan@sixcolors.com or find him on Twitter at @dmoren.]