[GUIDE] Using Spotlight on Your iOS Device (iOS 6 & earlier)
Using Spotlight on Your iOS Device
On the current versions of iOS, there’s a handy search tool called Spotlight. It’s very similar both in function and features to the OS X search tool of the same name. To use Spotlight on your iPhone, iPad or iPod, simply go to the first page of your home screen and swipe from left to right.
Here you will be greeted with a blank page, save for a text entry box and iOS’ ubiquitous pop up keyboard. From here, just start typing. The large blank space between the keyboard and the text entry box will immediately begin to fill with information that matches whatever you have typed in the text entry box. The more characters that you type, the more restrictive the search becomes, as Spotlight continues to narrow the results to provide you with the item that you are searching. If the list of items is longer than the space allowed to display it (and it probably will be), the list is scrollable with the flick of a finger up or down.
By default, all content of your iOS device is within the scope of the search. This includes items from the following categories: Contacts, Applications, Music, Podcasts, Videos, Audiobooks, Notes, Events, Mail, Reminders and Messages. At the very bottom of the list are two additional options: Search Web and Search Wikipedia.
Search text can be anything: names, words, numbers - as in street addresses or phone numbers or any combination. I often use it to search for partial phone numbers - the data string can be anywhere in the entry and Spotlight will include it in the search results list.
As with most things in iOS, the Spotlight function is configurable - meaning you can include or exclude categories of items that are searched. To customize your Spotlight search options, simply go to your device’s Settings icon, select General and then scroll about half way down the list to find Spotlight Search. Here you can check the items that you wish to be included in your searches by type (as listed above). Removing the checkmark next to Podcasts, for example, will exclude any podcasts on your device from the search. You can also rearrange the order of the items in the list by simply grabbing the "handle" on the right side of the item name and dragging the item up or down in the list. So to make search "hits" in your Mail app appear first on the list, simply grab the handle and drag Mail to the top. To make the results in your Music appear last in the search results list, grab the handle and drag Music to the bottom. It’s that simple.
In addition to the home screen instance of Spotlight, it is also available in some of Apple’s native apps. There is a Spotlight search box at the top of the list of items in each of the following Apps: Contacts, iPod, Mail and Notes. In most apps, it’s pretty straight-forward - simply enter a text string to search the content of each type of data. Spotlight behaves a bit differently in the Mail app. The text entry box is located at the top of each Inbox. However in Mail, Spotlight only searches that specific mailbox for content. So if you’re viewing your inbox for your firstname.lastname@example.org email address, Spotlight will not find things in the inbox of your email@example.com. The lone exception to this behavior is when you are in the All Inboxes view. In that case, it searches all inboxes. Spotlight is also available to search Sent, Trash and any other mailbox that you have created, but again, the search is limited to that particular mailbox.
There are several reasons for using Spotlight on your iOS device, including the most obvious - looking for that evasive bit of data that you know is on your device, but that you just can’t seem to find. On more than one occasion I have used Spotlight to find an app that I have tucked away in a folder somewhere... and rather than spending the time to view each folder to find the app, I simply go to Spotlight on the home screen, type the app name and then launch it from the Spotlight search results list.
It can be a real time saver.