Tips for using Spotlight

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Spotlight search isn’t just for Mac anymore. This powerful web and on-device search is just a quick swipe away from your iPhone home screen.  It is a convenient way to launch apps, search the web, or even perform calculations.  Though Spotlight has been around, it just became more powerful in the iOS 9 update.  This update allows for searching for content from all apps on your device, not just Apple’s own apps, and provides suggestions before you even search.  Here are four tips for using Spotlight!

Accessing Spotlight

To begin, you need to know how to access the Spotlight search interface.  This is very simple; all you need to do is go on your iPhone’s home screen and swipe to the right. You can now find the Spotlight search interface to the left of the primary home screen.

Teaming with Siri

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Spotlight provides suggestions for recent content and apps you might want to use. This is part of Apple’s plan to transform Siri into a Google Now or Cortana-style assistant that provides information before you even have to ask.  For example, on the Spotlight screen, you will see recommendations for contacts you might want to connect with or apps you might want to use. Siri uses factors like the time of day and your location to guess what you might want to open.

You will also see quick links to finding potentially useful locations nearby.  The system that finds the locations nearby uses Yelp’s location database, and then takes you into Apple Maps. These locations will also vary depending on the time of day, and the suggestions provide links to recent news stories, which will open in Apple’s News app.

Searching Spotlight

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The fun part begins when you search with your voice.  To do this, simply tap the search field at the top of the screen or the microphone icon and start talking.  This feature comes in handy when you need to use Spotlight, but you are driving and need a hands free option.

Spotlight searches will use a variety of sources.  For instance, Spotlight uses Bing (Microsoft’s own search engine for those not familiar), and it will also provide links to web pages or map locations.

Use Spotlight to search your email, messages, or even music. It will search the apps installed on your device, so you will not have to struggle with your cluttered home-screen.

Spotlight can also help by plugging in a calculation to get a quick answer without opening the Calculator app.  Another great feature is that you can start typing one of your contact’s names to get options for quickly calling or texting them.

Customizing your Spotlight

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You can also customize your Spotlight interface.  For example, if you don’t like the Siri suggestions feature, you can disable those suggestions. You can also control which apps Spotlight searches, preventing search results from certain apps from appearing.

To customize this, open the Settings app, tap General, and tap “Spotlight Search.” Toggle “Siri Suggestions” on or off, and select which apps you want to see search results for under “Search Results.”  You’ll see two “special” types of results buried in the list here. These are “Bing Web Search” and “Spotlight Suggestions.” These control the web search results that aren’t provided by individual apps. You can choose to enable them or not.


What do you think of Spotlight?  Is it a useful feature or do you even actually use it?  Feel free to leave any comments below, we would absolutely love to hear from you!


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