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Spotlight, the iPhone Search Tool

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spotlight search on iphone

Spotlight in iOS 7

With the introduction of iPhone OS 3.0, Apple has made it much easier to find content on your iPhone thanks to Spotlight, its search tool. Spotlight allows you to easily find and use the contents on your iPhone that match your search sorted by the apps they belong to. Here's how to start using Spotlight.

Accessing Spotlight

In iOS 7, the way to access Spotlight has changed substantially. To reveal the Spotlight search bar, go to any home screen (i.e., Spotlight doesn't work if you're already within app) and simply tap around the middle of the screen and swipe down. The Spotlight bar will be pulled down and appear at the top of the screen.

On iPhones running iOS 3-6, you'll see a tiny magnifying glass on above the dock and next to the buttons that indicate the number of screens in use on the phone. You can bring up the Spotlight search window by tapping that magnifying glass, but it's pretty tiny, so tapping it accurately can be tough. An easier way to access Spotlight is by swiping across the screen from left to right (just as you'd do to move between pages, though that's normally right to left). Doing so will reveal a box at the top of the screen that reads "Search iPhone" and the keyboard below it.

Spotlight Search Results

Search results in Spotlight are sorted by the application the result belongs to (as you can see in the screenshot accompanying this article). Simply scroll through the results to find the items you're looking for. Tap the result to be taken to it.

Spotlight Settings

You can also control the types of data that Spotlight will search on your phone and what order those data types are displayed in. Here's how to do that in iOS 7:

  1. From the home screen, go to Settings.
  2. Choose General
  3. Tap Spotlight Search.

In the Spotlight Search screen, you'll see a list of all the items that Spotlight searches with a check next to them. If you don't want a particular kind of data searched, simply tap it to uncheck it.

This screen also shows the order by which search results will be displayed. If you want to change this (for instance, if you're more likely to search for music than contacts), tap and hold the three bars next to the item you want to re-arrange. It will quickly highlight and become moveable. Just drag it to the position you want it to have and let it go.

Where Else to Find Spotlight

Spotlight can be used from the home screen as described above, but it appears in other apps, too.

  • Mail - it's at the top of the screen in each mailbox (hidden in iOS 3-6, available at all times in iOS 7). Simply drag the mailbox window down to reveal it. This, of course, only searches mail in that inbox.
  • Music/iPod - also hidden at the top of lists of songs, artists, etc. Pull the screen down to reveal it and search that view of your music library.
  • Contacts - hidden at the top of the contacts list in iOS 3-6, always present in iOS 7.
  • Notes - you'll never guess where the search bar lives (hint: at the top).
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