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Spotlight Search Tips for the iPhone

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Use Spotlight to launch apps on the iPhone

Spotlight Search is one of the most useful iPhone features. With Spotlight, you can launch apps and search for just about everything on the iPhone and web.

Spotlight Search first appeared on Mac OS X 10.4 back in 2005. The feature allows for system-wide searching of content. Spotlight is very fast, as it uses a virtual index of all content on the system. It can even search the New Oxford American Dictionary and perform calculations. Spotlight for iOS brings many of these features to Apple’s mobile platform, making the iPhone, iPad and iPod touch even easier to use. Let’s take a look Spotlight in depth.

Use Spotlight to Launch Apps

Let’s face it, there are a lot of iOS apps. If you’re like me, you have too many apps to keep them organized. You can place apps in folders and arrange your home screens. You can also arrange your home screens in iTunes. Even if your home screens are well-organized, the actual process of launching an app can be difficult when you have hundreds of apps. I recommend not organizing your iPhone home screens at all. You may wish to place frequently used apps on the dock and first home screen. I prefer to keep my first home screen clear of all icons. There is an easier way to launch apps — Spotlight.

Before launching an app with Spotlight, make sure that apps will appear at the top of Spotlight search results. Tap on Settings > General > Spotlight Search. Make sure that Applications is checked and is at the top of the list. If not, tap Applications to select it and use the “handle” on the right to slide it to the top of the list. This will ensure that Applications will be at the top of Spotlight Search results.

If you plan on using Spotlight to launch apps, you may want to uncheck other items in the list. Spotlight is a little faster if it is only searching for apps. You can search for contacts, music, or other content using their corresponding apps. That said, the performance difference is surprisingly small, because Spotlight is so efficient. Everything is indexed, so it produces results surprisingly fast. Scaling results back to one item will provide a noticeable performance boost on an older device, such as an iPhone 4. Spotlight also seems to work faster with an empty home screen.

Launching an app with Spotlight is very easy. In fact, I launch most apps this way, even if they are on my dock or home screen. It becomes a reflex. Simply swipe your finger down on any home screen. Don’t begin the swipe from the top of the screen, as that will pull down Notification Center. Once you see the search field, type in the first few letters of the app. Spotlight learns based on usage. If you use an app frequently, simply typing in the first letter will display the app as the top result. Finally, launch the app by tapping it in the search results. This is much faster and easier than fiddling with home screens and folders.

Swipe down to display Spotlight search

I don’t even bother with arranging my home screens anymore. If you don’t like a messy look, simply drag your icons off the first home screen. You will have a nice, clean home screen. You might want to put frequently used apps on the first home screen. I personally prefer a clean, unobstructed view of my background wallpaper. I launch every app using Spotlight. I also use Spotlight to launch apps on my Mac.

If you go for an icon-free home screen, you might want to turn off the parallax effect in iOS 7. Without icons on the screen, the visual effect is useless. It will just slow down your device. You can turn off the parallax effect by tapping Settings > General > Accessibility > Reduce Motion. Then turn Reduce Motion on. This will also remove the zooming effect when apps are launched and closed, which will also speed up your device.

Prioritize Search Results

Using Spotlight to launch apps might not be ideal for everyone. If you are a salesperson, your priority may be to find contacts. If you work with email a lot, it may be helpful to search through your emails. You could be a DJ and need to find music. It all depends on your priorities. You can search content with the corresponding app. Configuring Spotlight to find these items may increase productivity, as it is readily accessible. (continue…)

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UPDATE: iOS 8 introduces new features to Spotlight search. Spotlight Suggestions uses your location to provide predictive search results. This new feature displays information from Wikipedia, the App Store, iTunes, and even suggests locations near you.

iOS 8 Spotlight Suggestions

Spotlight now offers Bing integration. Users can now view search results from Bing directly within Spotlight, making it even easier to search the web.

new Spotlight features in iOS 8

Unfortunately, Google is not integrated directly into Spotlight, due to the rivalry between the two corporations. You can still use Spotlight to search with Google. If Google is your default search engine, simply type a search query into Spotlight and then tap Search Web. Google search results will appear in Safari.


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