I’d argue that a good portion of working, especially with digital media, involves searching, finding, browsing (to), and opening files.

Search – and knowing how to search efficiently – is very powerful.

Here are some simple ideas about how to become a master at search.


Getting familiar with search has a high ROI in terms of productivity. Here’s my tip: Avoid searching with your eyes, scanning the document or website. Search using search functionality (type your search).

Use Spotlight or Alfred to search on macOS. Or, inside apps and the browser, use the Find command ⌘ F, found in the Edit menu in just about all applications I am aware of.

If you are using a PC running Microsoft Windows, take a look at Microsoft’s documentation "How to search".

Make it a habit to always use these tools and type your search. Don’t strain yourself scanning with your eyes.

Now, when it comes to files and documents, naming is the foundation to find what you are searching for, especially if you consider the need to identify the specific file. Even while Spotlight and Alfred are able to search inside documents, you still might have a lot of files that contain the name of this client’s project, so you better do a good job at naming files in the first place.

Browsing / Navigating the File System

In order to get to or open the file your search has brought up, you have two options:

  • opening the file, ⌘ O
  • opening the folder that contains the file, called “Reveal in Finder”, ⌘ R


Instead of opening files that might need to launch an associated app, like iTunes to listen to music, use the feature called Quick Look if you are working on macOS 1 .

Here’s what you need to know:

  1. Select a file in Finder.
  2. Press space to enter Quick Look.
  3. Hit space again to close the Quick Look view.

Pro-Tip: Use the arrow keys and to quick look / browse through a list of files.

You can open any file right from this view with ⌘ O, the regular keyboard command to open any selected file(s).

This works with most common file types: text, images, audio, video. There are also addtional QuickLook plugins available at QuickLook Plugins.

That’s about it for now. Learn more about how to use your Mac efficiently with the Shortcut Principle.

  1. Sorry to even mention this if you’re already familiar with it, but for those who aren’t yet, this is huge