How to Search Your iPad for Apps, Music, Movies and More

Don't waste your time scrolling through screens

iPad Spotlight search


When your iPad starts to fill with apps, it can start to get harder to find things. But iOS has some workarounds you can use to save some scrolling. For example, you can launch an app even if you don't know where it's located using Spotlight Search. You can also ask iOS' digital assistant Siri to open it.

These instructions apply to devices running iOS 9 and later.

How to Use Spotlight Search to Open Apps

Sometimes, searching for an app using iOS is faster than trying to remember which folder or screen you stashed it in. Spotlight Search can pull up any app you're storing on your iPad. And if you don't already have the program installed, it will send you to the App Store to download it. Here's how.

  1. Swipe down from anywhere on the Home screen.

    Don't swipe from the top edge of the screen, or you'll open the Notification Center or Control Center.

    Spotlight Search on iPad
  2. Spotlight Search contains a search bar and a keyboard. It also shows the last five apps you had open.

    App suggestions in Spotlight Search
  3. Start typing a search term, and suggestions will start to appear.

    Application located in Spotlight Search
  4. You can also dictate a search by tapping the Microphone icon in the search bar.

    Using voice search in Spotlight
  5. Tap the icon of the app you want to open.

How to Open Apps with Siri

To open apps with Apple's digital assistant, hold the Home button until it activates, and then say "Open [name of app]." The iPad will open the app automatically.

Siri can't open apps that you've offloaded to save space. You'll need to reinstall them first.

Search for More Than Apps with Spotlight Search

The Spotlight Search feature doesn't only launch apps. It searches your entire iPad for content. You can search for a song name, an album, or a movie you have stored. Your search results will also include text messages you've sent and received, Settings options, files, emails, and other apps.

Spotlight Search also searches outside your iPad. If you type an app's name that isn't on your iPad, it searches the App Store for that app and presents a link for you to download it. If you search for "pizza," for example, it checks the Maps app for nearby pizza places. You can also do web searches without opening the Safari browser.

You can also activate a version of Spotlight Search by swiping from left to right from the Home screen. This version has the same search field at the top of the screen but also includes widgets that you can customize to quickly see your calendar, check the weather, monitor Screen Time, and more.