How to Search for a Word on Mac

Find what you're looking for right away

What to Know

  • In most Mac apps, click Command+F on the keyboard and then type the word or phrase you want to find.
  • Search every document and app using Spotlight: Command+space bar or click the magnifying glass and type the word or phrase.
  • Control your Spotlight preferences for what apps get searched in System Preferences > Spotlight.

This article explains how to find words in virtually any program on a Mac. It also covers how to use Spotlight to search all programs and files from a single search tool.

How Do You Ctrl F on a Mac?

We've all been there: You need to find a word or phrase in a word processing document or web page. You don't want to read the entire page; you want to find the word right away. If you're on a Mac, here's what to do.

These instructions work in common apps like web browsers (Safari, Chrome, etc.), word processors (Microsoft Word, Pages), business apps (Excel), and similar programs. Not every program supports search—for example, most games don't—but many do.

  1. On a PC, you can search for words and phrases using Ctrl F. On a Mac, the equivalent is hitting Command+F on the keyboard. When you do this, a search bar opens in the program you're using.

    Safari web browser with Find menu open and Find command highlighted

    You might prefer to search using a menu instead of the keyboard. Most apps that support search let you open the search bar by clicking the Edit menu > Find > Find.

  2. In the search bar, type the word or phrase you need to find. The number of matches appears in the top right corner. The tool also highlights all instances of the word or phrase.

    Safari with search bar and the word "playoff" highlighted and page instance of word highlighted
  3. Move through the results by hitting the Return button on the keyboard or clicking the arrow keys next to the search bar.

    When you're done with the search, close the searcher by hitting the Escape key, clicking the Done button, or clicking the X in the search bar to clear your search.

How Do You Do a Search on a Mac?

The instructions from the last section are great if you're searching within just one program at a time. But what if you want to scan all programs and files on your Mac from a single search tool? Enter Spotlight.

Spotlight is built into the macOS. It's a powerful, system-wide search tool. Here's how to use it.

  1. Open Spotlight by clicking Command+Space Bar on the keyboard. The Spotlight bar will appear.

    Spotlight search bar highlighted on a Mac

    You can also click the magnifying glass icon in the top right corner of the screen.

  2. In the Spotlight bar, type the word or phrase you're looking for.

  3. Results will begin to populate in the drop-down beneath the search bar. Click the one you want to open (or use arrows keys and the Return button).

    Spotlight search results box highlighted
  4. You can also browse a list of all results that match your search on your computer. To do so, scroll to the bottom of the list. Click Show all in Finder to open a Finder window. Double click the result to open it.

    All Spotlight results in the Finder box
FAQ
  • How do I search for a word in Pages on a Mac?

    To find a specific term when you're in a Pages document, click View in the toolbar, then select Show Find and Replace. When the search field appears, type in your word or phrase. It will highlight matches. Optionally, use the Command + F tool described above.

  • How do you search for a word on a web page on a Mac?

    To find a word on a web page on a Mac, press Command + F, then type in your word or phrase. You'll see words or phrases that match highlighted. Some websites have built-in search functionality, as well. Look for a magnifying glass or search field, usually at the top of a page. Type in your search term, then select it from the search results. In Chrome, another option is to choose More (three dots) > Find.

  • How do you search for a word on a web page in Safari?

    On a website in Safari, you can also use the Command + F command to search for a word or phrase. Optionally, select Edit > Find from the browser's menu bar to start a search.

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