By Jason Snell
September 17, 2018 11:43 AM PT
iOS 12 adds powerful search to Photos
Warning: This story has not been updated in several years and may contain out-of-date information.
In iOS 12, searching in the Photos takes a big step forward—while leaving macOS Mojave trailing, alas. Search results in Photos on iOS are incredibly rich. When you search for something, you won’t just find the photos that match, but you’ll also see all the Moments and Albums that contain matching photos.
The real power, though—and the place where iOS 12 really has it over macOS—is the ability to combine search terms.
If you want to search for a dog, you can type in
dog and tap on the Dog category (this is important—you must tokenize each query, as Photos is not smart enough to figure out what you mean otherwise), and you’ll see all the photos that Apple’s machine-learning technology has identified as containing dogs. On that search-results screen you’ll also see a bunch of suggestions for related items that are often found with dogs—people, locations, even years or seasons.
If you tap on one of these items, they’ll be added to your search query, so now you’ll see all instances of, for example, a particular person and a dog.
When I searched my photo library for dog, I found 729 items. Adding the category snow dropped the total number of items to just three—and all them were my dog in the snow.
This is incredibly powerful. If you want to find photos with specific combinations of people, places, or actions, you can do it in seconds. I searched for my son by name and then added the second search term swimming and instantly found 57 photos. Ten years of pool parties, found in just moments.
It’s a pretty big upgrade, especially if you have a large library. And it makes Apple’s automatically generated machine-learning categories much more useful by letting you connect them to people, places, or other categories.
Now if only it also worked on the Mac….
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