MacOS comes with a powerful search tool, Spotlight, that helps us find any file in our computer at a glance. It’s would be great if we can integrate it with Emacs and use it as a replacement for the default Emacs’ find-file command so that we can jump to any file we want to edit without remembering the location. Luckily, there is an useful program called mdfind, a command line interface for Spotlight. We will use it in combination with the locate (or helm-locate if you’re using helm) command.

# 1. Emacs built-in “locate” command

The step to use Spotlight with locate command is really simple. You just need to set the variable locate-command to mdfind to let Emacs use mdfind instead of locate for searching file.

When you want to use it, type in M-x locate and enter the keyword to search. The result will be displayed in a new buffer. Simply press Return on the file to open it for editing. If you follow the instruction in this post Dired as Default File Manager - More Advanced Tips on how to open file using MacOS default program, you can use that function/keystroke to open the file in search result with that default program.

This method is super fast since Spotlight has already indexed your Mac while you use it. Usually, it takes me just 1-2 seconds to display all the result and it’s can be faster on a Mac running an SSD.

Demo Image:

# 2. Using “helm-locate” command

helm-locate is a similar command to the Emacs’ built-in locate command. However, helm-locate allow for live updating result as you type. To use it, you need to install helm first. Activate it using M-x, helm-locate and type in what you need to search for.