Though probably used by a very small minority of the population, most search systems accept operators that provide more control over search output. For example, most web search engines accept operators like

  • filetype:pdf
  • python -snake

Spotlight in OS X also accepts a staggering array of operators that make it easier to drill through bulging file systems with years of data and multiple file types. Even the search fields in content management systems like Evernote accept advanced search operators.

It’s great that all these search operators exist, but I have a hard time remembering them because each system usually has its own syntax. And even when I do remember the correct syntax, it can be cumbersome to type it out.

After struggling with this problem for way too long, it finally occurred to me that TextExpander’s popup fill-in snippets are an ideal way to build advanced search forms that are customized to each search field.

Now, when I want to search for a piece of text only in a file’s name, I don’t have to remember to type intitle:fragment in Evernote but name:fragment in Spotlight.

Here’s what my Evernote snippet looks like:


By invoking this snippet once or several times in succession, I can do advanced searches far more quickly than relying on memory and fingers alone.

In Spotlight, I’m almost always looking for things by file name. Being able to quickly specify the kind of file makes for really accurate results: