Master Spotlight search on your iPad

by Ray Aguilera

July 25 2012

If your iPad is filled to the brim with apps, documents, and media, the fastest way to find what you're looking for is Spotlight. Here's how to make the most of Apple's powerful search capabilities in iOS.

Now that we measure desktop drives in terrabytes, keeping track of data on a 64 gigabyte iPad should be simple. But if you've ever tried to find a certain app out of hundreds on a device, or remember which file contained the most recent notes for your upcoming presentation, you know that the iPad is a big enough haystack to lose a needle in.

Apple's built-in Spotlight search can quickly find what you're looking for, however, and you can customize Spotlight to zero in on only the important stuff.

Turning on the Spotlight

Accessing Spotlight is simple. From your iPad's first Home screen, a quick left-to-right swipe will bring up the Spotlight search field. If you're several screens deep on your iPad, you can swipe backward until the search box comes into view, or simply tap the Home button to go to your first Home screen, and then swipe once.

Begin typing your query into the search field, and Spotlight will display items that match your search. Spotlight searches as you type, so often even just a few letters will help you jump quickly to what you need. When you find what you're looking for, tap that result, and the appropriate app will open.

Customize your search

If you frequently search for certain types of items, such as apps or Mail messages, you can customize the way Spotlight displays search results.

Head to Settings > General > Spotlight Search , and use the grab handles on the right side of the list to change the sort order of search results. You can also tap the check marks to the left to toggle certain searches on or off. Turning off options will speed up your searches, and make the results easier to manage. For example, if you keep music on your iPad, but rarely search for songs in Spotlight, removing Music from Spotlight searches can keep lots of extraneous results out of your searches.

Search the web

Spotlight can also search the web. Type in what you're looking for, and hit Search. In addition to results from your device, Spotlight offers one-click access to web searches or Wikipedia. Using the Search Web option takes you to a results page using your default search engine (which you can set in Settings > Safari > Search Engine).

Ray Aguilera is the Technology Editor of TabTimes, and is based in San Francisco.

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